Canadian Manufacturing

Laid-off auto workers facing financial, emotional challenges: CAW

Long-term study shows laid-off auto sector workers facing wage cuts, health deterioration



Toronto—A study tracking a group of laid-off workers in Ontario shows they continue to struggle to find decent jobs amidst the turmoil of the current labour market.

The final phase of the Canadian Auto Workers’ Worker Adjustment Tracking Study shows many laid off workers are forced into “lower-quality” and more precarious jobs (including temp agency work), with a significant reduction in pay following the loss of full-time employment in the auto sector.

“This study provides pretty clear evidence to contradict the notion that all jobs are created equal,” CAW president Ken Lewenza said.

The study, which the CAW claims is the first of its kind in Ontario, tracks the long-term experiences of 260 workers laid-off from three manufacturing plants in southwestern Ontario.

Laid-off workers from Collins & Aikman in Scarborough (closed October, 2007), Kitchener Frame in Kitchener (closed April 2009) and the the third shift of Chrysler’s Brampton assembly plant (eliminated March 2008) began participating in the first phase of the study in March 2009.

According to CAW, while the majority of workers from Collins & Aikman and Kitchener Frame are currently working, most are earning significantly lower wages, and fewer or no benefits with greater income and employment instability.

A majority of workers from these locations have experienced wage reductions of 20 per cent or more, the study found.

Although most study participants from the Chrysler plant have returned to their jobs, more than half expressed concern over their long-term job security.

The study also found workplace action centres—support centres established with financial assistance from the provincial government—continue to be a useful point of contact and support for laid off workers.

The Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities-sponsored action centers deliver services and interventions that both enhance re-employment prospects and support laid-off workers and their families during a difficult period of transition.

Workers reporting high use of action centre services are overall the most likely to report a more positive adjustment to the impact of job loss, according to CAW.

“What’s clear from these study results is that hands-on transitional supports like workplace actions centres increase the chances of job market success,” Lewenza said.

The study also found 31 per cent of participants reported their general health has deteriorated as a result of layoff, over 20 per cent reported being without income for longer than one year and nearly 60 per cent of those who completed job retraining programs found related employment.

The initial phase of the study was released June 7, 2010.

The second phase of the study, Finding Their Way: Second Round Report of the CAW Workers Adjustment Tracking Report, was written by Sam Vrankulj of the McMaster University School of Labour Studies.

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