News / Toronto

New urban tools designed to help precarious workers

The Urban Worker Project partnered with students from Centennial College to develop a set of tools for freelance and contract workers.

Andrew Cash is the cofounder of the Urban Worker Project.

Torstar News Service / Torstar News Service

Andrew Cash is the cofounder of the Urban Worker Project.

As a freelancer in her early 20s, Kelly McConvey faced a maze of confusing regulations on things like taxes and pension contributions without knowing where to turn for clarity.

“I sort of had to navigate everything by myself,” she said.

McConvey is now 31 and program co-ordinator of communications and professional writing at Centennial College. To help others navigate the maze, she led a team of students who worked with the non-profit Urban Worker Project to develop a toolkit for precarious workers.

“I tried to develop the tools that I wish I had when I was freelancing,” said McConvey.

The tools include a yearly-salary-to-freelance-rate calculator, so freelancers know how much to ask of clients, as well as a handy guide to taxes. The free tools will be available on the Urban Worker Project’s website on Tuesday.

It’s an essential suite of resources, said Andrew Cash, co-founder of the Urban Worker Project and a former New Democrat MP.

Nearly half of GTA workers are in temporary, contract or part-time jobs, a United Way McMaster University report found in 2015.

“That number should shock us,” said Cash. “But it should also force us to confront the issues and build new policies that support independent workers.”

The Urban Worker Project wants to “build a stronger voice for independent workers,” he added, but also make sure there are practical measures in place to help them now.

“Thirty years ago, it was this tiny corner of the labour market where people worked like that,” said Cash. “But that’s not the case anymore.”

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