Low wages, sparse benefits and meagre pensions may become the new norm for Canada's young workers, union leaders are warning this Labour Day.

Employers increasingly offer new hires thinner contracts as baby boomers across the nation retire, Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan said in a statement issued Sunday.

"The kids today cannot look forward to full-time, decent paying jobs where you can afford a mortgage, a car," he told The Canadian Press.

As Generation Y workers -- those aged 18 to 30 -- begin to enter the workforce, Ryan said bosses will look to cut costs by offering new employees lower wages and less comprehensive pension plans.

With the spectre of fewer jobs and two tier wages looming overhead, Ryan said the new generation of workers may find themselves less well off than their parents.

"We are fearful for young workers getting in right now. The future does look very bleak," he told CP.

Adding to the grim outlook, a shift towards fewer benefits for new hires may cause labour turmoil.

Pensions and pay were at the heart of recent strikes at Canada Post, Vale Inc. in Sudbury and US Steel in Hamilton. Wages are also a factor in a current strike at Ontario's 24 colleges.

Amid the tumult, Canada's Parliamentary Budget Officer has said he expects about 6,000 public service jobs to disappear across the country.

Ken Georgetti, Canadian Labour Congress head, attributes the losses to the federal government's plan to balance the budget by 2014. Other union leaders, however, say the growing trend of employers creating casual positions without benefits should shoulder some of the blame as well.

The part-time shift

But not all new workers want to be locked into a full-time salaried job anyway, argues Dan Kelly with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

"A lot of younger workers want to earn an income, but sell their services to a variety of companies especially in creative fields," Kelly told The Canadian Press.

Ryan said more young people are becoming entrepreneurs.

It's unclear, however, whether young workers are actively choosing entrepreneurship or turning to it as a last resort.

A Harris-Decima Labour Day poll of 1,000 Gen Y and baby boomers for Monster.ca found 40 per cent of Gen Y workers surveyed weren't working in their preferred field, and 16 per cent had changed jobs five or more times.

More than one in three twenty-somethings polled also said they felt companies didn't mentor young employees properly or use them to their full potential.

Robert Waghorn of the online career resources portal Monster.ca said bosses would be wise to mentor and listen to their employees.

"If they don't take notice what the Gen Y-ers and the boomers are saying about job security, work-life balance, then these guys are going to be walking out the door themselves," he told CP.

With files from The Canadian Press