To feed their families, food bank employees must use services offered by their own employer. This is an illustration of the community’s difficulty in guaranteeing decent pay and working conditions for its employees. A survey obtained by The duty and whose publication is scheduled for Thursday highlights the consequences of this reality for the recruitment of labor in this sector.
“I cannot accept seeing employees die of hunger when we are a food bank,” says the general director of Moisson Outaouais, Armand Kayolo.
The organization provides food baskets and ready meals to 70 organizations. It lives mainly from donations and a small portion of subsidies. With the increase in the cost of living, Mr. Kayolo sees demand increasing and his clientele changing, to the point where 11% of beneficiaries are now employed.
I do not accept seeing employees die of hunger while we are a food bank
He knows that some of his own employees are having difficulty making ends meet. Unable to afford to raise wages enough, which sometimes start at $18 an hour, Mr. Kayolo has had the policy in place for about three years. “Those who have difficulties ask for one of our cooked meals for their lunch,” emphasizes the general manager. And when there is a surplus of certain foods, its employees in need can ask to benefit from them.
Moisson Outaouais is also hit hard by the labor shortage, and many employees are leaving to obtain better working conditions. “We have been looking for a person in the warehouse and a second cook for at least two months,” laments Mr. Kayolo.
The situation of Moisson Outaouais well represents the portrait painted by the Sectoral Labor Committee of the Social Economy and Community Action in its investigation 2022 benchmarks. We learn that this sector faces a vacancy rate of 21% and a turnover rate of 31%. The labor shortage affects it more than the average of Quebec employers, since the vacancy rate in the province was 5.8% in 2022 and the staff turnover rate was 9.1% in 2021 Furthermore, 74% of organizations said they had difficulty filling one or more positions.
926 community organizations, 255 social economy businesses and 391 groups from all regions responded to a detailed questionnaire between March and October 2022. They work in dozens of areas as varied as health, social services, early childhood, professional integration and forestry. They are all managed democratically, have management autonomy and aim for social objectives.
Wages and working conditions are singled out to explain recruitment difficulties. The average hourly rate for full-time workers in this sector is $24.32, while the average hourly rate in Quebec was $29 in 2022 for women and $32 for men. Yet the vast majority of full-time employees in these organizations have a post-secondary degree.
More obstacles, fewer resources
At the same time, 45% of organizations reported an increase in the number of people using their services compared to the previous year, according to the same report.
“If we had the financial resources to attract more home help, we would eliminate the waiting lists,” said the general director of the Cooperation Network of Social Economy Enterprises in Home Help, J. Benoit Caron.
The majority of its network’s clientele is made up of single women who are losing their independence and have low income. Those who provide them with services are mainly women, who sometimes work for $20 an hour. Mr. Caron wants to convince the Ministry of Health to grant them assistance to raise salaries without increasing their prices for users.
As for community organizations, we consider that funding from the Quebec government is inadequate. According to Marie-Andrée Painchaud-Mathieu, coordinator of the Intersectoral Regroupment of Community Organizations of Montreal, many organizations face a heartbreaking choice: increase salaries or deprive vulnerable people of services.
The Quebec Autonomous Community Action Network (RQ-ACA) is also asking the provincial government to favor funding for the mission rather than one-off projects which do not make it possible to increase the payroll in a sustainable manner. The lack of staff also weighs on the shoulders of workers. “Our mental health is failing,” says Tristan Ouimet-Savard, responsible for mobilization within the organization.
A delegation from the RQ-ACA will also go to the National Assembly on Wednesday to report on the reality in the area.