The Society of United Professionals is proud to partner with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) to create a first-of-its-kind study on precarious work in professional occupations. The study titled No Safe Harbour: Precarious Work and Economic Insecurity Among Skilled Professionals in Canada shows that a strong education, professional credentials and job experience are no longer a guarantee of stable and secure employment.
Many people don’t understand what is meant by ‘precarious’ work. Precarious does not mean working at heights or in dangerous circumstances. Rather, precarious means not having a stable, full-time employer, not having reliable and predictable hours, and not having benefits or a pension, or some combination of those factors.
Working people in Ontario are increasingly finding themselves precariously employed. It is easy to think that this is a problem that only exists in lower-paying work. This new study, however, shows that precarity exists in professional work, too.
Make no mistake, precarious employment is no longer limited to low-income jobs.
The CCPA report found that 22 percent of professionals are in precarious jobs. When factors such as uncertain scheduling, inconsistent wages, lack of job permanence and pensions were included in the definition more than one quarter of professionals identified themselves as precariously employed.
The report also clearly shows the importance of being part of a union. Unionization does act as a protector against precarity.
“The report reinforces what we hear every day from the professional workers in our membership,” said Scott Travers, President of the Society of United Professionals. “A degree and professional credentials no longer guarantee stable employment. It underlines the importance of the role of unions like ours – to ensure professionals have the stability, wages, pensions and benefits that they expect and deserve.”
As a first-of-its-kind study on precarious work among professionals, the study serves as a benchmark from which we can track trends in professional employment. The report indicates that 58% of all professionals consulted for the study stated that jobs in their professions used to be more secure. With the data from this study we can now begin to monitor changes in these trends over time—something that couldn’t be done before.
What is clear is that our union, and the labour movement as a whole, have a great deal of work to do. Precarious work appears to be trickling upwards and it is up to unions like ours to stop the erosion of good jobs. What can we do about it? Unlike non-unionized workers, we can use our collective power at the bargaining table to win better working conditions for members who are on contract or don’t have a workplace pension.
We will continue to fight for the good quality, safe, reliable jobs with good benefits and pensions that professionals want and deserve.