“Your Rights at Work 101” aims to educate service sector workers

19554295_1583465605037110_1058040505624461408_nBy Daniel Tseghay

Last week, Rankandfile.ca published a write-up of the BC Employment Standard Coalition’s  Summary Report, Workers’ Stories of Exploitation & Abuse: Why BC Employment Standards Need to Change. The report detailed the many hurdles and gaps in protection workers who rely on no more the Employment Standards Act, from wage theft and erratic scheduling to poorly regulated child labour and conditions for migrant workers.

The report ended each overview of these issues with a series of recommendations. But, before getting to the recommendations, the report noted that greater public education about the rights that currently exist is in dire need. Many workers simply don’t know the, admittedly, weak and sporadically-enforced rights they do have.

That’s where the Retail Action Network (RAN) comes in. On July 12th, in Victoria, BC, they’ll be hosting their second “Your Rights at Work 101” workshop, happening the second Wednesday of every month at the same time and location, 5:30-7:00 at the Victoria Event Centre (1415 Broad Street). Kaitlyn Matulewicz, and organizer with RAN, says that informing people of their rights is more important than ever. Matulewicz notes that in the early 2000s, section 6 of the Employment Standards Act (ESA) was changed so that employers were no longer required to post in the workplace the rights workers had. This contrasts notably with, for instance, Ontario, where employers are required to do just that.

Many of the workers RAN coordinate with come from the retail and restaurant industry where some issues come up consistently. “There are people going into work and perhaps too many people are scheduled,” says Matulewicz. “The employer or manager says ‘We don’t need you anymore. Thanks for coming in.’ They’re not paying the basic mandatory pay of 2 hours for people who aren’t scheduled more than 8 hours of work.”

The workshops, Matulewicz says, will be interactive, avoiding powerpoint presentations, drawing from popular education, and building on the existing knowledge of workers in a variety of industries. Legal advocates from the Employment Standards Legal Advocacy Project and the Vancouver Island Human Rights Coalition will be there too but the goal, says Matulewicz, “is actually to have workers train up the volunteers and have workers lead and facilitate the workshops. I was reading about some work of a few different worker centres in the U.S., they’ve done that. Teaching each other and sharing common struggles and talking about ways to fight against that.”

Hopefully, Matulewicz says, these workshops can serve as the realization of the BC Employment Standards Coalition’s recommendations for changes to the ESA. “We want to bring workers together from various workplaces that might be experiencing the same problems and injustices at work to brainstorm about possible solutions,” says Matulewicz.

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