New book examines the plight of precarious employment

In a contemporary labour market that includes growing levels of precarious employment, the regulation of minimum employment standards is intricately connected to conditions of economic security.

With a focus on the role of neo-liberal labour market policies in promoting "flexible" employment standards legislation – particularly in the areas of minimum wages and working time – York sociology Professor Mark Thomas argues in his new book, Regulating Flexibility: The Political Economy of Employment Standards, that shifts toward "flexible" legislation have played a central role in producing patterns of labour market inequality.

Right: Mark Thomas

Using an analytic framework that situates employment standards within the context of the broader social relations that shape processes of labour market regulation, Thomas constructs a case study of employment standards legislation in Ontario from 1884 to 2004. Drawing from political economy scholarship and using a qualitative research methodology, he analyzes class, race and gender dimensions of legislative developments, highlighting the ways in which shifts towards "flexible" employment standards have exacerbated long-standing racialized and gendered inequities. Regulating Flexibility: The Political Economy of Employment Standards asserts that in order to counter current trends towards increased insecurity, employment standards should not be treated as a secondary form of labour protection but as a cornerstone in a progressive project of labour market re-regulation.

Thomas will discuss the findings contained in his book at its official launch tonight at 7pm at the Toronto Women’s Bookstore, 73 Harbord St.(southwest corner at Spadina Avenue) in downtown Toronto. The event includes a question-and-answer session with the author and a panel discussion on the book’s key theme. Featured panellists include Deena Ladd, coordinator of the Workers’ Action Centre, an organization that works with low-waged immigrant workers, women, racialized communities and low-wage workers in precarious jobs, who face discrimination and violations of rights, with little or no benefits. Also participating in the panel is York Professor Leah Vosko, Canada Research Chair in Feminist Political Economy, and Pura Velasco of the Caregivers Action Centre, a well-known advocate for the rights of nannies employed in Canada.

The launch is co-sponsored by McGill-Queen’s University Press and York University’s Department of Sociology, Graduate Program in Sociology, Graduate Program in Social & Political Thought and  Centre for Research on Work & Society.

For more information, contact Thomas at ext. 77992 or phone the Toronto Women’s Bookstore at 416-922-8744.