In a rare move, Brantford city council has voted to end its use of temporary staffing agencies — businesses local councillors blame for trapping workers in a cycle of poverty and insecurity.

The ban, unanimously approved on Tuesday evening, is believed to be the first of its kind in Ontario and will prohibit the city council from hiring through such organizations. Councillor Brian Van Tilborg, who introduced the motion, called the decision “groundbreaking.”

“There cannot be any role for the kind of exploitation that’s going on,” he told the Star.

Most Brantford city employees are already directly hired, but according to councillor John Sless, the motion sends an important signal to local employers and the provincial government about the risks of temp agency employment.

“We have a disproportionate amount of temp agencies in our city, and it’s really eroding the quality of life because people get caught in that cycle,” he said.

“It’s (a message) to the broader community but more importantly it’s going to Queen’s Park. There has got to be some kind of control.”
“You can’t ask other people to do what you’re not prepared to. If you’re not leading, you’re following,” he added. “And we intend to lead on this.”

Ontario is currently reviewing its employment laws, a process that includes examining the regulation of temp agencies. The Star has previously highlighted the rise of temp agency employment, and its impact on vulnerable workers.

In a statement to the Star, Minister of Labour spokesperson Michael Speers said the government “wants to ensure (temp workers’) rights are protected and that they remain safe on the job.”

“No person in Ontario should ever feel under-appreciated or undervalued; no person should ever feel like they can't get ahead. We are committed to ensuring everyone in Ontario has the opportunity to reach their full potential,” he said, adding that measures passed in 2014 introduced stronger safeguards against wage theft for temp agency workers.

“Because of the lack of regulation and protection, temp agencies — and client companies who use them — have had free rein … and the fact that the city of Brantford has said we are not going to condone these types of labour practices, I think, is a huge message,” said Deena Ladd of the Toronto-based Workers Action Centre.

In its submission (external - login to view) to the government’s review, whose final recommendations are expected to be made public this spring, the lobby group representing temp agencies said they ;