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Good Jobs Forum in Canada’s auto capital tackles issue of community health

By Roderick Benns

In 1991, Oshawa, Ontario had the lowest income inequality among all Canadian cities, along with the best community health profile.

But a faculty of social sciences and humanities assistant professor, Toba Bryant, says this has been in freefall for some time, especially because of the deterioration of the auto sector and good quality jobs that have suffered along with it.

Representing University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), Bryant was both a speaker and an organizer for the Oshawa Good Jobs Forum recently held at the Regent Theatre, along with fellow organizer and UOIT faculty lecturer, Scott Aquanno. The forum was organized by UOIT faculties of health sciences and social sciences and humanities, along with Unifor Local 222 and Durham Region United Way.

Making the link between individual and community health and good jobs is nothing new – it has been grounded in decades of research, along with other social determinants of heath. Employment, precarious jobs, and how quality of life is determined by quality of work was a clear connection to make for the audience.

“The purpose of our forum,” says Bryant, “was to launch the Community Quality of Life in Oshawa project” in partnership with Unifor Retirees’ and Workers’ Locals 222 and the United Way of Durham Region.

As they await ethics approval before proceeding, Bryant says the biggest issue in Oshawa is “the significant labour market restructuring on Oshawa, especially in the auto industry.”

“We want to examine community quality of life through the lens of labour market restructuring.”

Oshawa’s long association with the auto industry, says Bryant, has meant that over the last 100 years the city has experienced significant labour market restructuring.

Bryant says a colleague, Ron Svajlenko, President of Unifor Workers’ Local 222, told her that jobs in the auto industry fell from 25,000 workers in the 1970s to less than 4,000 autoworkers today.

“If GM closes operations in Oshawa, it will have a significant impact on the community and its quality of life,” she says.



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