Contract food services and custodial workers at Canada’s colleges and universities have less access to pensions and paid leave than their in-house colleagues, according to a new report by the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

The report, which analyzed employment data from publicly funded post-secondary institutions, found only 23 per cent of contract food services employers offer pensions. A third of these employers offer a union-sponsored pension, while another third offer a registered retirement savings plan contribution or a group RRSP and just 10 per cent offer a defined benefit pension plan. By comparison, all in-house food services workplaces offer access to a pension, with 82 per cent offering a DB plan.

While nearly all in-house custodial services provide access to a pension plan — with 68 per cent offering a DB plan — only 43 per cent of contract custodial employers offer a pension and just 10 per cent offer a DB plan.

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In addition, the report found in-house food services employees receive an average of 16.3 paid sick days per year, while contract workers receive only 5.4 days. Among custodial workers, in-house employees have an average of 19.5 paid sick days, while contract employees only have 3.3 days. The report noted in-house employees are both far more likely to be allowed to bank sick leave and to have higher maximum limits on accumulated sick leave than contracted workers.

The report also found 85 per cent of post-secondary institutions top-up maternity or parental leave benefits to in-house food services workers, with an average number of 26 weeks. By comparison, only two contract food services employers top-up these benefits, by 14 weeks and 15 weeks, respectively. And while 91 per cent of institutions top-up maternity or parental leave benefits — to an average of 24 weeks — for in-house custodial workers, no contract custodial employer provides top-ups.

“A majority of these [contract] workers are women, Black or racialized or immigrants — workers who already face a wage gap and other employment disadvantages,” said Mark Hancock, CUPE national president, in a press release.

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