For our purposes, working conditions included things such as paid nonmandatory benefits (medical, dental, etc), payment for overtime hours, the work environment, job responsibilities and access to professional development.
Many people working in the community-based sector are working on short-term contracts. As a direct result of this, most literacy workers in this sector have few or no benefits. In Ontario’s community-based sector, for example, 41% of agencies do not provide any health, dental or pension plan benefits to their staff;13 in Alberta, 71% of staff who are responsible for coordinating the activities of volunteers receive no benefits package.14
We found that full-time, permanent (or in some cases, term) instructors in colleges and school boards are mostly unionized and as such, receive the full range of benefits including paid educational leave. However, not all of these literacy instructors are full time or permanent.
We also found that literacy workers work a great deal of over time for which they are not paid. Volunteer coordinators in Alberta work, on average, an extra 20 unpaid hours a month.15
Our scan tell us that the environment in which people work can range widely from being excellent in terms of working space, resources, and equipment, to being very poor. For the most part, however, practitioners feel isolated and lonely with few opportunities to meet with colleagues. Workers in remote, northern communities may feel especially isolated because of a lack of colleagues, lack of support, lack of resources, and the experience of a cultural divide. They tend to get their support from a distance by phone or e-mail.
Both the research on the sector and findings from interviews with key informants reveal that literacy workers are expected to have an array of skills and abilities to deal with the many different facets of their jobs. There is an increasing sense that literacy workers are expected to do more paperwork, be more accountable to funders, and provide more coordination while pay remains static.
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