Brock labour expert researching working conditions in gym and fitness industry

When most people go to a gym or fitness club, the only work that’s on their minds is the lifting, squatting, jogging or other workouts they need to do to get into shape.

But there’s another layer of work happening at these exercise centres, performed by a range of employees whose on-the-job conditions have only recently come under scrutiny.

A 2016 Ministry of Labour inspection blitz found that more than 20 gyms had violations including unpaid wages and failing to pay overtime and minimum wage. Since then, unionization drives and class action lawsuits have kept the industry in the spotlight.

Brock University Professor of Labour Studies Larry Savage has put together a survey he’s asking gym and fitness club employees to fill out to shed more light on their working conditions.

“I’m interested to learn more about the people working in gyms, what concerns them about their jobs and how they perceive their relationships with supervisors, coworkers and clients,” says Savage, who was a co-recipient of the Faculty of Social Science’s Distinguished Researcher award in 2018.

“I’m also interested in learning about their experiences with workplace injury, unpaid labour and, in general, their level of job satisfaction,” he says.

The Ontario-wide, anonymous survey is aimed at anyone 16 years and older employed by a gym or fitness club. Positions can include group fitness instructors, personal trainers, people who clean and maintain the gym and its equipment, front desk staff, supervisors and others.

The Survey on Gym and Fitness Club Work, which can be found online, closes on Sunday, March 17.

Savage says he doesn’t know of any academic studies that specifically focus on gyms and fitness centres as workplaces.

“Once I get a better picture of the landscape of this type of work in Ontario, my goal is to determine if there’s room for improvement or public policy changes that could benefit the industry and those who work in it,” he says.

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