Fighting Precarious Work: CAW Local 414

November 18, 2010, 8:54 AM EST

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CAW members in the retail sector examined ways to fight against the rising tide of precarious work that continues to ravage working conditions in what is now Canada's largest employment sector.

Twenty-four CAW Local 414 activists as well as local union and workplace leaders participated in the union's newly designed workshop on precarious work, as part of the local union's annual education conference held in Toronto on November 8-9.

The workshop, considered a key component of the union's ongoing precarious work awareness campaign, examined the increasingly dominate role that temp agency, part-time, contract and other forms of non-standard work has played in Canada over the past decades. It analyzes the impact these new employment relationships have had on workers, draws on the direct experiences of participants and establishes a foundation for fighting back against growing workplace insecurity and instability.

CAW Local 414 represents 13,000 workers in the Ontario supermarket and pharmacy industry as well as the broader retail sector, many of who have felt the impacts of precarious work directly, through chronic low-pay, unstable work hours, and few full-time job opportunities - all of which have become hallmarks of employment in the sector.

Local 414 President Christine Connor said retail workers are among the victims of this new employment model - championed by employers such as Wal-Mart - as large retail corporations continue to put the squeeze on vulnerable workers to drive down costs and increase profits.

"Few understand the impacts of workplace insecurity and instability than retail workers," Connor said. "It's time we start pushing back against these destructive workplace trends that have plagued this sector for decades. We can no longer accept the logic that retail workers should expect to earn poverty-level wages, have no control over their working hours and have no access to basic workplace benefits. Education is an excellent place to start."

Local 414 is the first local union in the CAW to have held the new precarious work workshop, since the union passed its landmark Fighting for Good Jobs paper, during the CAW-TCA Joint Council meetings in August.

Among other resolutions unanimously endorsed by delegates, the paper called for a precarious work workshop to be developed and made accessible to members across the country.

For more information on the CAW's precarious work workshop contact Annie Labaj, CAW International Department Director at


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