Precariousness on the menu: Restaurant work and labour mobility within the low-wage service industry in Kingston, Ontario

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Denstedt, Mark James
Geography , Labour , Precarious employment , Restaurant , Work , Kingston
Precarious employment refers to forms of work characterized by limited job security, few employment benefits, lack of control over the labour process and low-wages. Restaurant work demonstrates a range of precarious forms of employment and reveals the complexity of issues that such jobs raise in the context of the regulation of the local labour market. This thesis analyses the nature of precarious employment in the restaurant industry in Kingston, Ontario. In particular, it seeks to understand how precarious employment is shaped by the structure and dynamics of the local labour market. The research highlights the role played by labour mobility, in shaping workers’ experiences of precarious work. Labour mobility refers to the movement of workers between different jobs and between different worksites within a structured local labour market as they seek to better their economic situation and generate a sustainable income for themselves. Through a discussion of labour mobility, this thesis seeks to contribute to a new lens through which the impacts of a precarious and flexible labour market can be better understood as they shape the lives of workers themselves. The objective of this study is to better understand the factors which shape the lived realities of precarious restaurant workers in one specific local labour market. The empirical analysis draws on data collected by Statistics Canada and interviews conducted with both employers and employees in local restaurants to analyze the structure of the local labour market and the nature of precarious employment. The research demonstrates that the restaurant industry in Kingston is comprised of three distinct submarkets, each of which appears to operate largely independently of one another. Interviews were conducted with employees and employers in the submarket located in downtown Kingston. Within this submarket the combined processes of labour market segmentation and labour mobility has a significant impact on workers experiences of precarious employment. By understanding the complex interaction of these two features within the labour market, we can begin to conceive of ways to address the issues associated with the precariously employed in the low-wage service industry.
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