More employment standards inspectors, fines needed:<br> Advocacy group

Ontario workers still waiting for more than $15 million in unpaid wages from 2005-06 claims

Ontario needs to beef up the number of employment standards inspectors and the number of workplace inspections, according to a group that advocates for workers in low-wage and unstable employment.

In 2005-2006, there were 11,358 claims for $37 million in unpaid wages but $15.7 million has yet to be paid out, according to government data. Of those claims, 332 fines were issued and only four companies and two directors were prosecuted, paying fines of $55,900.

The Workers' Action Centre, a Toronto-based advocacy group, is calling on the provincial government to hire 100 new employment standards enforcement officers and increase inspections to cover 10 per cent of all workplaces to match the number of health and safety inspections the ministry conducts every year.

Currently, there is a less than one-per-cent chance of an employer facing an inspection around employment standards issues, said a spokesperson for the group.

The group also wants all employers that break the law to be fined. About 75 per cent of complaint investigations determine the employer is in violation of the Employment Standards Act, yet very few of them are fined, said the group.

The Workers' Action Centre also wants to see automatic prosecution for repeat offenders or those who don't comply with orders to pay unpaid wages.

NDP MPP Cheri DiNova has tabled a resolution calling for a 25-per-cent inspection rate and Labour Minister Brad Duguid said he is working to improve employment standards inspections.

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