A UWindsor researcher contributed to a publication that has received the “best book” prize from the Canadian Association of Work and Labour Studies.
Entitled Closing the Employment Standards Enforcement Gap: Improving Protections for People in Precarious Jobs, the book is the product of a collaborative research initiative on employment standards and their enforcement in Ontario directed by Leah F. Vosko and funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Canada under its Partnership Grants Program.
Taking shape over a seven-year period, the project involved a network of partners, including the University of Windsor’s Urvashi Soni-Sinha, who oversaw the Windsor-based qualitative research and interviews with low wage workers and community advocates. She was assisted by three research assistants at different times over the grant period: Melissa Sharpe-Harrigan, Ayesha Mian Akram, and Lacy Carty.
“This study looks at Ontario’s Employment Standards Legislation, which is the basic floor level of rights given to workers by the province,” Dr. Soni-Sinha explains. “These are workers not represented by unions.”
Soni-Sinha teaches in women’s and gender studies and is adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminology. Her research interests are in the areas of gender, race, and employment; women and globalization; and feminist methodologies.
Using the lens of critical feminist political economy, the central argument of Closing the Enforcement Gap is that while employment standards are a key source of formal protection for many workers, they are not living up to their founding promise of providing a floor of minimum terms and conditions of employment.
Soni-Sinha Notes that many workers in low-paying jobs face challenges in terms of citizenship or residency, and they are reluctant to make a formal complaint. The inherent power differential, the processes of gendering and racialization, and the fear of reprisal leaves several loopholes in the complaint-driven system of employment standards enforcement.
“Employment rights are supposed to be universally available to workers,” she says. “However, there has been a reluctance on part of the governments to enforce these rights in an environment of neoliberalism, globalization, and competition.”
The prize was awarded in a June 3 ceremony at the annual general meeting of the Canadian Association of Work and Labour Studies on Zoom.