According to Terry Power, president of one of Canada’s largest temporary staffing agencies, the provincial government got it 80 per cent right. But the 20 per cent it got wrong could be devastating for temporary IT workers in Ontario.
“It” is Bill 139, the Ontario government’s effort to extend benefits and protection to temporary workers placed by agencies.
“The intention of the bill is quite good,” said Power, who runs Randstad Canada Group. Bill 139 protects vulnerable workers from predatory agencies. Especially vulnerable are new Canadians unfamiliar with business culture and practices in Canada; some agencies will charge workers a fee to help them find work, even if work can’t be found. From those who do, these agencies might take a cut of the worker’s salary.
That’s unethical, Power said, and Bill 139 makes the practice illegal. “We’re fully in support of that,” Power said.
But two key provisions of the legislation, which is approaching final reading in the provincial Parliament, will make it more expensive for staffing agencies to do business in Ontario, and could drive temporary jobs out of the province, or even entirely offshore, Power said. And Power said he’s onside with a number of business groups, including the Information Technology Association of Canada, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
The first, Power said, is outlawing the practice of collecting a conversion fee when a temp placed with an agency client is hired full-time, if the placement has been longer than six months.
Power said organizations including the Workers’ Action Centre, a Toronto-based workers’ rights organization, have complained that the fee is a barrier to full-time employment.
(WAC did not return phone requests for an interview. However, in its December newsletter, WAC calls Bill 139 “an incredible victory for all of our members and allies who have worked long and hard to bring the concerns of temp workers to the attention of the Ontario government.”)
Power vehemently disagrees the fee is a barrier.
“That’s crazy,” he said. Temp workers are often hired on full-time in IT, and while there are a number of criteria on which a client might base a decision – business growth, seasonal fluctuation, excessive layoffs – the fee isn’t one of them, Power said.
“The fee has nothing to do with them moving into a full-time job,” Power said.
Meghan Ferguson, an associate with labour law firm Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP in Toronto, said conversion fees paid to agencies when an employee is hired on full-time are often intended to cover the agency's training and recruiting costs. The ban on fees after six months of placement means “the agency has lost all its recruiting costs.”