CAW initiates study
Most laid off manufacturing workers still unemployed
Roughly three-quarters of laid off manufacturing workers in three of the sector’s hardest-hit cities have still not found work, according to a new report. The study, commissioned by the Canadian Auto Workers union, tracks the progress of laid off employees in the manufacturing hubs of Toronto, Brampton and Kitchener in southern Ontario.
Stefania Moretti, QMI Agency
Even as the economic recovery takes hold, re-employment among participants has been poor, with only 24% of workers given the pink slip finding new jobs, said study author and McMaster University’s Sam Vrankulj.
Of those, fewer than one-third are working in permanent full-time positions with 30 hours or more per week. The rest, 70%, are part-time or in even more precarious situations such as contract, freelance or self employed.
Most are earning lower hourly wages and working without benefits.
“This has to be one of the worst times to be unemployed since the Great Depression,” CAW President Ken Lewenza told reporters on a conference call Monday.
Just less than 40% have found work in their field while the rest have transitioned to other sectors.
“Effective adjustment is not rocket science,” Lewenza said.
When there are jobs to go to and the supports to get there, laid off workers are pretty good about making the transition, he said, pointing to cases of auto workers becoming chefs, warehouse workers becoming truck drivers and so on.
Of those who signed up for upgrading or retraining at a CAW Action Centre, 90% identified adequate income and tuition support as the most important factors enabling enrolment, aside from the emotional support of friends and family.
But in some cases the obstacles are too big to overcome without additional assistance and the administrative burden on unions and employers is getting too heavy, Lewenza said.
“When people are laid off, it’s the most devastating time in their lives and the reality is that is when you need government … to step up to the plate and provide the support to workers during that transition period.”
More targeted supports are needed to address the challenges faced by laid off workers who are older, women, immigrants or who lack strong literacy skills, the report found.
More than 550,000 full-time manufacturing jobs have been lost since 2002. Despite rosier overall Canadian employment projections, the unemployment rate in some communities, including Kitchener, notched upward last month in what some are calling the “jobless recovery.”
Workers are exhausting their EI and there have been too many cases of inadequate severance pay and forfeited pensions, Lewenza said.
The study was initiated by the CAW with funding coming in part from Chrysler Canada and the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities.