LETTER:Tying housing to employment is labour abuse

To address the housing crisis in the County one of Council’s resolutions is to examine permitting bunk houses for staff accommodation.

In other words, their approach to a situation that is exacerbating inequality and all the community degradation that goes with it, is to dig in and make things permanently worse—not for themselves and the business community of course, just for everyone else.

Bunk houses for workers don’t actually provide anyone with adequate secure housing, but they provide great advantages for business owners. They relieve business owners of the responsibility of paying a living wage for the community they are operating in. They guarantee business owners a basically captive workforce. Tying housing to employment is a time-honoured tradition for getting people to endure lousy pay, crappy working conditions and general labour abuse.

If leaving a job will leave you homeless, you have a strong overriding incentive to stay. Besides forcing workers to accept labour abuse, work-tied housing also denies workers the freedom to get a better job. Bunk houses for workers create a tax break for business owners and rich-people-dominated communities by offloading the social costs of seasonal unemployment. Access to bunk houses ends for workers when their jobs end. But since workers can’t afford to actually live here, when they become unemployed they have to move away—generally to poorer communities where they can afford to live, or in with relatives, etc.

Either way, the people they move in with bear the costs associated with these workers’ unemployment, while those who reaped the benefits of these workers’ productivity are off the hook. Bunk houses for workers don’t build community. They degrade and disempower workers, while they make the rich richer.

The whole concept here is about lowering the living standard of Canadian workers to the deplorable one in place for migrant workers. At a time when much of the world is waking up to the injustice of the migrant worker system and working for full labour- and basic human rights for migrant workers, County Council in collusion with business owners are trying to extend this system over the lives of an even bigger portion of the working class. No one’s surprised to see this, coming from a group that gunned for the destruction of a wind energy project in a fossil-fueled climate crisis.

But it’s still appalling.

Rosalind Adams