New VIPIRG report – Part-time, Poorly paid, Unprotected: Experiences of precarious work in Retail, Food Service, & Hospitality
VIPIRG has been working with the Retail Action Network on a community-based action research project, which will officially launch tonight (May 11, 2016) at 6pm at the Victoria Event Centre (1415 Broad St), during the Retail Action Network’s monthly Working Class Wednesday event.
In this research, our goal was to hear directly from workers in the retail, food service, and hospitality industries about the types of workplace conditions and issues they face.
Until now, little work had been done to illuminate these struggles of retail, food service, and hospitality workers in Victoria, where the issues take on a heightened importance: the low-wage work of retail, food service, and hospitality industries employ nearly one-fifth of the workforce in Victoria, a city where the cost of living is high and constantly increasing.
We talked to over fifty workers whose experience collectively spanned various roles at different workplaces in diverse sectors of the retail, food service, and hospitality industries, and found they faced common issues and themes. This research process allowed for different and individualized experiences of injustice in the workplace to be connected to each other and to the broader systems of power that have fostered that injustice.
Summary of our findings
- Retail, food service, and hospitality workers face precarious working conditions:
- They face job instability and insecurity; earn low wages; often don’t receive benefits like paid sick days, vacation, or health benefits; are typically not unionized; have minimal control over their work conditions; and face poor treatment by their employers.
- Low wages, combined with unstable and part-time hours, make it difficult for workers to afford basic living expenses in Victoria.
- Employers demand flexibility and availability from workers, while offering them little in return in terms of livable wages and job security.
- Existing Employment Standards are inadequate to care for the needs and interests of workers in retail, food service, and hospitality in Victoria.
- Workers commonly feel exploited, disrespected, and taken advantage of by their employers in retail, food service, and hospitality in Victoria.
- There is often little opportunity for workers in retail, food service, or hospitality in Victoria to leverage workplace or legislative power in their favour, even when employers are blatantly disregarding existing employment standards.
- Many workers enjoy aspects of their jobs, but would like to see some changes to working conditions in order for them to do their jobs well, with higher wages ranking as the foremost priority.
Workers in retail, food service, and hospitality are structurally rendered vulnerable by legislative and workplace practices. The precarious working conditions faced by these workers have been produced – and they can, and must be, changed in order to work towards greater workplace justice.