By A.Greer, V.Bungay, B.Pauly, J.Buxton
In this study, we examine the qualitative accounts of people who use drugs engaged in ‘peer’ work in harm reduction settings across British Columbia, Canada. We found peer work was precarious, characterized by nonstandard or casual work arrangements, high job instability and insecurity, insufficient wages, and limited social benefits. Participants were reluctant to exercise their rights or negotiate work conditions, such as higher wages or more consistent work, out of fear of job loss. However, the flexibility of peer work was beneficial for some in that it worked within their life circumstances and provided a low-barrier entry into the labor market. If inequities in peer work are perpetuated, unrecognized and unaddressed, precarious work conditions may continue to undermine the potential benefits of harm reduction work for organizations, peer workers and the people to whom they engage with and support. This study adds people who use drugs to the many social groups that are impacted by precarious work conditions globally.