Delay in updating Ontario employment and labour laws must end, say Ontario Federation of Labour and Fight for $15 and Fairness

 

In a pre-budget press conference at Queen’s Park, the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Fight for $15 and Fairness laid out what the Ontario government can do to stop the rise of precarious work and ensure all jobs in Ontario are decent jobs.

They called for action this year to create an economy built on decent work through legislation that will help raise the bar for all Ontario workers, with the Special Advisors making their recommendations for the Changing Workplaces Review public in May.

“With the budget coming up this week, it’s time for Ontario to take updating its employment and labour laws off the backburner,” said OFL President Chris Buckley. “A strong economy must be built on decent jobs.  The government has been examining the problem of precarious work for years and the results are clear.  There is no reason for Ontario to leave workers suffering under outdated employment laws.”

“We are expecting the Special Advisors to make comprehensive recommendations that address the root causes of precarious work” said Pam Frache, the Provincial Coordinator of the Fight for $15 & Fairness campaign. “Communities across the province participated in the consultations, and called for sweeping reforms. If the advisors are not willing to bring that message forward, despite the overwhelming evidence outlining the problems, they will have failed to meet their mandate.”

Flanking the press conference speakers were piles of reports and studies detailing the decline of the quality of work and the case for comprehensive change.

Ontario’s health providers are also anxiously awaiting the final recommendations of the Changing Workplaces Review.

“The rise in part-time, low-wage jobs with no benefits is a crisis” said Emergency Room Physician Dr. Kate Hayman, member of the Decent Work and Health Network. “An increasing number of patients today struggle to manage their chronic illness while not being able to take time off to receive care, afford the medications prescribed to them or deal with the detrimental effects of stress.” Dr. Hayman stated, “raising the minimum wage, providing at least 7 paid sick days, and providing schedules in advance, decent hours and equal pay for part-time, temporary and casual workers will go a long way to improving health outcomes for all Ontarians. ”

“The barriers to joining a union are much higher than they should be,” said Tim Hum, member of UFCW Local 175. “The current system is outdated and creates so much fear and pressure on workers – it’s clearly unbalanced to prevent people from getting the representation they need.” Hum works in a food processing facility and he and his co-workers were out on strike for 22 months to reach a first contract and secure union representation.

Employment laws in Ontario are in desperate need of an overhaul, said today’s speakers. Precarious work is growing across this province, harming families, workers, and the Ontario economy. The government must use the Changing Workplaces Review to improve working conditions for workers across Ontario by ensuring:

• The ability to meaningfully exercise the freedom of association – including card-check certification; early disclosure of workplace information (neutral, online or telephone voting); remedial certification; and expedited and extended power to reinstate workers before the first agreement.
• Access to first contract arbitration.
• Extend successor rights to protect workers in the case of contract flipping.
• Consolidating bargaining units in the case of the same certified bargaining agent.
• Broader-based bargaining.
• The right to strike – including prohibiting the use of replacement workers, safeguarding the rights of workers who have been involved in a labour dispute (including reinstatement after six months and prohibiting employers from unilaterally deciding to “clean house” after a strike).

To raise the floor for all workers, the Ontario government must ensure:

• No exemptions or exceptions in the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and Labour Relations Act (LRA) – the rules apply to everyone and protect everyone.
• An expansion of the definition of employer in both the ESA and LRA, including joint and several liabilities as well as related and joint employers.
• Equal pay and benefits for equal work (including temporary agency, part-time, casual and contract workers).
• Expand the definition of employee to stop misclassification of workers.
• Stronger enforcement for the ESA and LRA.
• Extend just cause protection within the ESA and LRA.
• Enshrine the right to free association through protection for concerted activity.
• Paid sick days and adequate vacation.
• Advanced scheduling notice.
• Paid leave for domestic and sexual violence survivors.

The OFL 2016 submission to the Changing Workplaces Review can be found here
The Worker’s Action Center submissions to the Changing Workplaces Review can be found here and here.

The OFL’s http://www.makeitfair.ca/campaign takes on issues of inequality in the workforce, and coincides with the province’s “Changing Workplaces Review.” The campaign gives voice to unions’ demands for across-the-board changes to the Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act that would improve standards for every worker and make it easier for them to join a union.

The OFL represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow @oflabour on Facebook and @OFLabour.

The Fight for $15 & Fairness is a campaign supported by community, labour, student and faith groups across Ontario. It is calling for sweeping reforms, including decent hours of work; rules that protect all workers; equal pay for equal work including temporary agencies, part time and contract workers; investing in pro-active, public enforcement of employment laws; imposing meaningful fines for labour law infractions; legislating seven paid sick days; an end to contract flipping; easier access to unions and more. Central in the campaign is the demand for a $15 minimum wage for all workers, regardless of age, student status, job or area of work. For more information, visit 15andfairness.org and @fairwagesnow.

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For further information contact:
Shannon Devine, Assistant to the OFL Officers
Email: sdevine@ofl.ca
Phone: 416-302-1699

Nil Sendil, Communications Coordinator, Fight for $15 & Fairness
Email: nil@workersactioncentre.org
Phone: 647-710-5795

 

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