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Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Reason Exploitative Precarious Work is Growing


Precarious work is not the new normal; it’s the old normal that we fought to end coming back, the self-imposed slavery of fear.  It has been normalized by neoliberal political and economic theory and a lack of Employment Standard moderation and protection, particularly in Alberta. Cut taxes, deregulate, serve the investment interests of business over society, and de-fund public services, institutions, infrastructure, and resources in order to privatize for profit, that’s neoliberalism. They don’t believe in society, so why invest in it?

The following are from the Alberta Labour website.

Employment Standards

To ensure Alberta work sites are fair and equitable, most employers and employees are protected by and must comply with employment standards laws.

Rules and regulations

The minimum standards of employment for employers and employees in Alberta workplaces.

In Alberta, employment standards are contained in the Employment Standards Code and Regulation.

“Hours of work” is the period of time during which an employee works for an employer. It includes time off with pay instead of overtime pay provided by an employer and taken by an employee. An employee may work a maximum of 12 hours in a day unless an unforeseeable or unpreventable emergency occurs, or the Director of Employment Standards issues a permit authorizing extended hours of work beyond 12 hours.
An employee is entitled to at least 30 minutes of rest (break) in each shift longer than five consecutive hours of work. Likewise, employees are entitled to certain minimum days of rest as follows:
  • one day of rest each work week, or
  • two consecutive days of rest in each period of two consecutive work weeks, or
  • three consecutive days of rest in each period of three consecutive work weeks, or
  • four consecutive days of rest in each period of four consecutive work weeks, or
  • at least four consecutive days of rest after 24 consecutive work days.
Created: 2004-07-19
Modified: 2011-03-21
PID: 1031

In case you think these lax rules are there to enable essential or unusual industries requiring long time commitments in camps and on farms:

·        Managers, supervisors and those employed in a confidential capacity;
·        Farm workers;
·        Professionals, including agrologists, architects, certified or chartered accountants, chiropractors, dentists, denturists, engineers, information systems professionals, lawyers, optometrists, podiatrists, psychologists and veterinarians;
·        Salespersons of automobiles, trucks, buses, farm machinery, road construction
·        equipment, heavy duty equipment, manufactured homes or residential homes;
·        Salespersons who solicit orders, principally outside of the employer’s place of business, who are fully or partly paid by commission (this does not apply to route salespersons);
·        Licensed salespersons of real estate and securities;
·        Licensed insurance salespersons who are paid entirely by commission income;
·        Salespersons who are at least 16 years old and are engaged in direct selling for licensed direct sellers;
·        Licensed land agents;
·        Extras in a film or video production;
·        Counselors or instructors at an educational or recreational camp that is operated on a charitable or not-for-profit basis for children, persons with disabilities, or religious purposes;
·        Residential and homecare caregivers (employees are exempt only from section 16 of the Code concerning hours of work, but not from rest periods). Please see the “Caregivers” Fact Sheet at http://work.alberta.ca/esfactsheets;
·        Domestic employees (these employees are exempt only from sections 16 and 17 of the Code concerning hours of work and notice of work times, but not from rest periods).

The Employment Standards make no distinction between full-time and part-time work. They ignore the existence of part-time entirely. Most people think that part-time means 32 hours per week or less but it only means a lack of commitment and repsonib8ility on the part of the employer. A part-time employee may be worked up to 12 hours per day for 24 days straight as long as they get 4 days off at the end before being forced to do so again. This is part-time. Why hire full-time?

This is why precarious jobs are exploding in number.  You get a full-time employee with having to provide full-time benefits, wages, or security, thus enslaving the employee to fear of hour-loss and wage loss due to illness, willing to put up with any abuse or exploitation.  These are standards that offer protection, their rules for exploitation.  Precarious employment isn’t normal, inevitable, or irresistible, just another attempt to make workers disposable for profit. 

Businesses get governments to pay for training and abandoned employees, enabling them to misuse their workers while getting tax breaks and subsidies for it.  They have no incentive to invest in the growth and health of the economy or society, because society and the economy serve their growth. How does business suggest we fix this? More tax cuts, more government investment in training their employees and taking care of their disposed-of employees, and of course, less regulation.  I guess they think 4 days off in 28 is too generous. 

Civilization serves the economy, right? 

It does according to these standards, which haven’t been updated in decades.  They need to be.


A precarious workforce creates a precarious economy, a precarious society, and precarious democracy. Self-imposed slavery through fear creates the inevitable angry defensive backlash resulting in populist revolt.  Fear turns us on ourselves instead of the problem.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

“Fear is the mind-killer.”

The self-slavery of precarious employment must end.

Employment standards need to actually ensure work sites are fair and equitable, most employers and employees are protected by and must comply with employment standards laws.  Equitable, secure employment is the enemy of inequality.

Neoliberal thinking has replaced civil engaged citizens with tax-avoiding consumers sacrificing all for competitive advantage. Bullies inherently exploit any competitive advantage, usual those of size, wealth, and number. The defence has always been for the bullied to unite and fight back, to unionize. Margret Thatcher's war on unions crippled collective bargaining and trampled workers' rights. Governments defeated workers, dissolved defences against foreign exploitation, and then empowered business and the financial industry, putting the forces of inequality on steroids.