Ensuring healthy and safe workplaces for all employees is the most important goal of our Council. Safety is everyone’s business and working diligently towards a safer province is something we take pride in. Workers, employers and governments must make sure that at the end of each workday, our loved ones come home safe and sound. This is not an easy task, and it is one that our Council is constantly working on to help resolve.
One of the biggest challenges facing the construction industry in Ontario is the prevalence of the Underground economy in which some employers hire untrained and often vulnerable workers, paying them cash, while underreporting their earnings. Such employers often style their workers as ‘Independent Operators’ in order to evade their obligation to provide WSIB, CPP, and EI coverage. According to the Ontario Construction Secretariat, “Independent operators are the basis of more than 80% of the underground economy in Ontario’s construction industry. There can be no solution to reining in the underground economy which does not tackle the ‘independent operator’ problem.” (pg. 3, Ontario Construction Secretariat: Underground Economy in Construction – It Costs Us All, July 2010).
Underground economic practices not only endanger workers by exposing them to unsafe conditions; they also undermine legitimate employers who do invest in training, and pay their fair share of WSIB, CPP, and EI contributions. This amounts to presenting an unfair advantage in the industry. That is why employers, the Building Trades, the Ministry of Labour, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), and Canada’s Revenue Agency must work together to tackle this complex problem in the interests of worker safety, consumer protection, and the public good.
Below is our submission to Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer, as part of the public consultation on developing the province’s first Occupational Health and Safety Strategy.