The fear of losing work is a barrier to those that may otherwise stand up for their rights when they experience injustice.
Even prior to COVID-related shutdowns, workers in B.C. have been forced to contend with a system that offers them little defence against unjust termination. Under the Employment Standards Act, employees can legally be fired without just cause at any time. When worker complaints finally reach a formal investigation after waiting upwards of a year to be heard, by then it’s simply too late. When you’ve been fired and are left vulnerable, your focus turns to scrambling to find another job, not to seeking legal support or filing a complaint for an uncertain and delayed outcome.
Employees in B.C. earning below the living wage are acutely aware of how replaceable they are in the eyes of their employer, forcing them to accept mistreatment as the norm, and preventing them from speaking up about issues at work.
In many cases, workers simply can’t afford to risk employer retaliation. With ‘reno-viction’ now a commonplace term in an expensive rental market, in a very literal sense workers simply cannot afford to stand up for their rights at work if it means risking their financial security and ability to afford rent.
The WSN has heard countless fears from workers about not wishing to ‘cause problems’ by standing up against matters such as discrimination, harassment or unpaid wages. We’ve even heard from workers who have been fired out of the blue by text message, for reasons including not “fitting the vibe” and “appearing tired”. When we amplify each other’s stories, it paints a fuller picture about the state of employee rights in B.C.
But through collective action, and worker-led advocacy, the WSN will continue to ensure that the rights of workers across B.C. are safeguarded. Stay tuned for more as our campaign develops and join our fight as we take a stand against unjust dismissals and employment precarity!