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Statement on precarious work at the Good Jobs Summit

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After cancelling my trip, I sent this statement to be read at the Good Jobs Summit, in the session on new models of organizing.

Sorry for not being able to join you. My son was admitted to hospital on Thursday and it has forced me to cancel my travel plans.

I write this because I think it's the perfect example of the trouble with precarious, especially freelance work. When a child is sick, the world stops.

For folks with a "good job," the world can stop. You don't lose your pay. You don't risk being fired. You can sit in the children's ward of the hospital, respond to emails and know that, whenever he's better, your job will be waiting.

For folks with a "bad job" the opposite is true. For me, because of this, I've had to cancel three events, including this one, and will forego the wages that I would have gotten. The work that I've done to prepare was for nothing. The flight that I booked for, and paid for, has been cancelled. I will have to convince people to cover the cancellation fee of $100.

A sick child, a sick partner, a sick parent, a death, a disaster, an emergency: none of these events should risk job loss. None of these events should result in wage loss. We should be encouraged to care for our loved ones and ensure that emergencies are handled.

I'm sorry to not be at the Summit. I think it's important to talk about what kind of jobs we want to see created and how we can build a just world through better jobs.

But, we also have to call those responsible to account. It's no better time to do that, considering that Kathleen Wynne, the head of the government that has created the greatest crisis in higher education in Ontario's history, is a speaker at this summit. Indeed, what use is it to talk about "good jobs" if you’re responsible for saddling hundreds of thousands of people with a huge student debt and no job prospects?

In justifying inadequate policies, I've often heard Ontario Liberals say that "good" is the enemy of "great." That is to say, when we strive for great, we often see "good" as a failure. Or, when we strive for "good," we miss our opportunity to find what is "great."

Forget good jobs, or great jobs. As a freelancer, my job is a terrible one. I'm exposed. I spend too much time chasing people down to pay me. I pay 10 per cent of my salary in payroll taxes where folks with jobs only pay 5 per cent (I have to cover the employer's contribution). I have no benefits. I have no security. When my child gets sick, trips get cancelled and my work grinds to a halt.

From a freelancer's perspective, perhaps starting with the premise of "good" is the wrong place. Instead, we should create communities within the organizations we have (with, of course, the resources available to us, like through the CFU), and start identifying how to make some of the elements of jobs that are terrible, better.

Many people freelance because their passion exists within an industry that is deeply exploitative. Indeed, how many writers would freelance if they could write with a good salary and benefits? We need to remind our comrades who are in positions of privilege that they have a responsibility to support our struggles, hear our stories and find those solutions to make our jobs less terrible.

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