Tall buildings, short contracts: mapping precarious construction work in the GTA

BuckleyIntersectionsCANCELLED due to CUPE 3902 Strike – to be rescheduled, Fall 2015

  The construction industry – and particularly the residential construction      trades- have long been crucial employment sectors for non-citizens working  and living in the Greater Toronto Area. As new housing starts and  condominium development have intensified over the last decade across the  GTA, construction has been a major source of both well-paying jobs for  foreign workers, and of poorly-paid, dangerous and exploitative  employment, especially (though not exclusively) among those who are  legally unauthorized to work in Canada. This talk will explore some of the  key forces shaping the GTA’s construction labour market over the last decade through a discussion of new temporary migration schemes catering to foreign tradespeople, the growth of insecure employment conditions in construction, and foreign workers’ own experiences of insecure and exploitative work in the trades. The talk concludes with some questions these findings raise with respect to theories of urbanization within critical urban studies. This case study is part of a larger SSHRC-funded project that compares precarious construction work in the GTA with two other metropolitan areas: London, UK and Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Michelle Buckley is an Assistant Professor of Human Geography at the University of Toronto Scarborough. She is an urban geographer whose research is broadly concerned with the transnational labour geographies of construction work in cities, and the politics of gender, citizenship, and race that sustain contemporary urbanization.

Photo: Emily Reid-Musson

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