Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Slow-Leak of the Middle Class


How long can you drive your car when a tire has a slow leak?  My daddy warned my sisters and I about slow leaks.  They're not such a big deal in a tire until you hit a bump or a dreaded pot-hole on a back road.  Then the gravity laden pressure of that mass of metal and steel comes down on the rubber tire and then poof ... air comes out leaving the tire less resilient.

This is also happening to the middle class.  Millions of employees across Canada are having money leaked out of their paychecks, illegally of course, by their employers.  It might only be $4 this pay, or $9 next pay.  Not enough to leave you short for anything, and just little enough for many to say, "meh it's only a little, not a big deal."  That's to say we the employee even notice the deduction, or if we even question it.  Some employees live their whole working lives never correctly reading their pay stub.

What's even more choking, and what I'm currently being faced with, is the fact that too many working middle class people are simply complacent to their rights.  They believe what will be; will be and there's not much they can do about it.  Too many say nothing because they fear they'll lose hours or fall out of good graces with the boss.  While others simply have no idea that deductions from your pay check are not at the discretion of any employer, for there are laws surrounding this action and every other action an employer takes.

Canada is comprised of ten provinces and each province has a Ministry of Labour guiding the daily employment practices therein.  This makes me a very proud Canadian.  Unfortunately though for Canadians, the Ministries still operate within a "complaint-basis" process.  Meaning there is no oversight given to any business~ large or small.  There is no one to check to ensure that Stat holiday pays, vacation pay, even proper pay is being attained.  I've worked at and been screwed over in businesses where I was unionized too!  Unions run on this same archaic and ineffective system of acting only when a complaint is made.  Don't get me wrong, if you have a complaint, the proper channels for which to find restitution are close at hand.  But what happens when no one knows what is right and what is wrong, what is legal and what is against employment law?

Employment standards takes a community to make it work.  This is a more factually relevant statement than any I may ever make.  For every time you accept an illegal deduction, you're telling that employer that they can do it again to you and to others.  Every shift that is cut before the three-hour mark, is setting precedent for your little sister, brother, son or daughter to be treated the same unethical way.  Every break you don't take, every payroll mistake you brush off, is giving some employer the idea that if he can do it to you, he can do it to everyone else.

One of the first blog posts I ever wrote was written to the parents of working youth.  The gist of it was that your kids are likely getting taken advantage of in one way or another by their employer. Heavy words eh?  Words that will make me no friends.  But what if it's true?  In that post I stated that perhaps this is why so many businesses have uber youthful managers and supervisors running things. Do they like to get them young, fresh, and uneducated on employment standards?  Two of my co-workers right now went to Queens University and they both allowed our boss to deduct cash shortages from their pay.  Good job Queens.

Speaking of that boss, he went to McGill University and graduated in Economics.  Is this what higher education is about?  Learning the sneaky ins and outs of increasing your monthly income via illegal deductions from unknowing employees?

Now back to how to rectify this ongoing atrocity.  Change in Parliament resembles an evolutionary process from the middle ages right now, so I say we must take matters into our own hands.  I'm on a mission and I'm asking YOU to join me.  If the school curriculum refuses to teach the importance of employment standards then we'll teach it.  Tell every cashier, every barista that payroll deductions are illegal.  Tell all the bartenders and all servers that that dine & dash is not for them to pay.  Ask every employee you know if they get their daily breaks, pay for stat holiday, option to stay for the three hour shift when business wanes.  Give them the website for Employment Standards in their province linking out to The Employment Standards Act so they can refer to it when needed.  And finally, give them the greatest tool you could give any working person in Ontario, the toll-free number to the employment standards information centre which is 1-800-531-5551.  Any one of us can call this line to ask anonymous questions about our rights as an employee.

In my uneducated opinion, this slow leak of the middle class is a side effect of putting the importance of the sacred economy over the importance of the employee.  It's like they haven't realized that for every person who's shift gets cut early, there is a product that they won't be able to afford.  Cause and effect.  Too many of us don't see the number of hours on our pay, that were on the schedule.  My hours are less than the schedule forecast therefore I can't buy lunch today, or a new phone tomorrow, or a new car down the road.  It all adds up ... or doesn't in this case.  And what's adding up more and more for me, is that if we don't get a handle on this adversarial relationship many employee-employers find themselves in, we're gonna lose the whole farm.

Use your voice for good :)