Laid-off workers face lower-paying jobs: Study

1 in 5 participants without income for a year

A study tracking a group of laid-off manufacturing workers in Ontario shows they continue to struggle to find “decent jobs” amidst the “turmoil” of the current labour market.

One in five participants reported being without income for more than a year, according to the study by the Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW). Many of the laid-off workers also reported working in lower quality and more unstable jobs (including temporary agency work), with a significant reduction in pay following the loss of full-time employment.

"This study provides pretty clear evidence to contradict the notion that all jobs are created equal," said CAW President Ken Lewenza. "There's a problem in our economy when the jobs being created don't provide stability, when they fuel insecurity and when they make people less healthy."

The first-of-its-kind study tracks the experiences of 260 workers laid off from three Ontario manufacturing plants: Collins and Aikman in Scarborough, Ont., which closed in October, 2007; Kitchener Frame in Kitchener, Ont., which closed in April 2009; and the third shift of Chrysler's Brampton, Ont., assembly plant, which eliminated that shift in March 2008.

While the majority of workers from Collins and Aikman and Kitchener Frame are currently working, most are earning significantly lower wages, fewer or no benefits with greater income and employment instability. A majority of workers from these locations have experienced wage reductions of 20 per cent or more, according to the study.

Most workers from the Chrysler location have returned to their jobs, but a large number are concerned about long-term job security, the study says.

The study also found that workers reporting high use of workplace action centres sponsored by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities are overall the most likely to report a more positive adjustment to the impact of job los. The action centers deliver services and interventions that both enhance re-employment prospects and support laid-off workers and their families during a difficult period of transition.

"When workers have one-on-one job search and retraining supports, they do better. If they're left to fend for themselves, they're worse off,” Lewenza said. "If policy-makers can take something away from these results today, it's that adjustment services are a vital lifeline for workers and have to be kept up."

The study also found the following:

  • 31 per cent reported their general health has deteriorated as a result of layoff;
  • 48 per cent reported they had done without something they needed in order to pay the rent or mortgage;
  • Employment and job characteristics for most workers are poorer than in their previous jobs;
  • Nearly 60 per cent of those who completed job retraining programs found related employment.

The findings are from the second and final phase of the CAW's Worker Adjustment Tracking Study, released on July 12, 2012. The initial phase was released on June 7, 2010.

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