Data Shows $9M Taken from Ontario Workers in Unpaid Wages

Labour advocates say about $9 million in workers’ wages have pocketed by employers in the 2021-22 fiscal year, according to data from the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Finance.

CBC News reports that data was obtained through freedom of information (FOI) requests by two Toronto-based organizations — Downtown Legal Services and Parkdale Community Legal Services.

The article reports on workers who work for transportation companies who claim they are owed thousands in unpaid wages from their employers.

Those affected by wage theft – as well as industry groups like the Ontario Trucking Association – are concerned that the exploitative practice of not paying employees has become the norm and it’s getting worse.

As CBC reports, Ontario’s Ministry of Finance says it acknowledges that unpaid wages are an issue and is introducing measures to help counter the problem.

Naujawan Support Network, an Ontario-based group of immigrants fighting wage theft, pushes for stricter enforcement of rules compelling employers to pay workers the wages they’re owed. In the just over two years NSN has been in operation, the migrant collective says it has recovered $323,209 in stolen wages for 74 members.

NSN says the data obtained through FOI requests shows there has been a steep decline in the number prosecutions for non-compliance with the Ontario Ministry of Finance’s orders to pay — down from 79 prosecutions in 2017-18 to 12 prosecutions in 2021-22. In 2020-21, prosecutions dipped to a low of two.

The Ministry of Labour said in an email to CBC News that it has recovered more than $110 million in wages and other money owed to employees over the last five fiscal years.

“Employees are entitled to be paid for the work that they do and we investigate any and every claim for unpaid wages,” the email said.

In an emailed statement, the Labour Program said it is “taking action against non-compliant employers who are short changing their employees through tactics like wage theft,” the email said.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance has been trying to shed light on these and other related labour issues in trucking. Carriers who operate the scheme known as Driver Inc – where they improperly misclassify employee drivers as independent operators to avoid paying taxes and benefits and provide protections to workers – also often tend to disregard many labour rules and responsibilities, including withholding wages and payments under the guise that their employees are ‘independent contractors.’

Full CBC story here.

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