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Civic Impact

The Urban Worker Project gives "a floor" to GTA's freelance and contract workers

Andrew Cash, a longtime freelancer and former MP, is helping spearhead The Urban Worker Project.

“This isn’t a niche group of people, this is the fastest growing source of employment in the country, and probably in most of the developed economies of the world.” Andrew Cash, founding member of the Urban Worker Project, is talking about the GTA’s freelance and contract workers. Cash, a longtime freelancer himself and a Member of Parliament for Davenport riding from 2011 to 2015, is part of a new coalition devoted promoting the workplace rights of workers not covered under Canada’s current employment standards.

“Allowing for parental support, employment insurance between gigs, support when contract workers get sick or need to take care of a sick relative. These are the issues that the project will be advocating around,” explains Cash. “This is the reality for young workers.” The Urban Worker Project’s first order of business is a petition asking the government to broaden employment standards to include self-employed, contract, and freelance workers—groups that are currently unable to access benefits routinely offered to permanent employees, such as vacation time or extended benefits. “If someone on contract is doing the same work as someone as an employee, they need to be receiving those kinds of benefits and protections. Our first campaign is calling on the provincial government to tighten to those rules.”

Cash is a part of a larger coalition that includes a number of GTA activists, students, media workers, and non-profit workers. “For us in the GTA, this is the epicentre of the arts and culture, and for the knowledge economy in general. The workers in these sectors are largely freelance, contract, or self-employed. I’d like to build a stronger floor for these workers,” says Cash. He encourages those who are interested in learning more to visit their website, where they can sign a petition to the Ontario government to strengthen protections for urban workers. The project officially launches May 6 with a party at Propeller Coffee in Toronto, before rolling out to Vancouver, Montreal, and other cities.
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