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September 4, 2017

From the person who lets you into the parkade, to the person who wrote the headline above this article, to the students who are working to pay for their schooling, workers in this province depend on the Labour and Employment laws to set the bar for fair treatment in the workplace. Those laws are outdated.

This summer the government presented Bill 148, a bill that aims to refresh the Labour Relations Act and the Employment Standards Act. This is an important time for workers across the province. These changes will affect all of us.

This Labour Day is a time to celebrate and reflect on the gains the labour movement has made for workers, and the labour movement has won significant gains in Bill 148, but amendments are still needed, and we will not stop advocating until work is fair in this province.

This update is long overdue. It’s been more than two decades since these laws were renewed; in those two decades, the world of work has undergone big changes that have led to more and more insecure, precarious work.

The growth of precarious work in Ontario over the last 20 years mirrors the rest of the country.  Many workers need more than one job to make ends meet and those jobs are often part-time, low waged, offer no benefits, provide uncertain schedules, and have no protection through a union. These kinds of jobs don’t provide the stability that workers need, leaving them scrambling to pay the bills at the end of the month.

Bill 148 can change that, but will it? As it is written now Bill 148 leaves many workers out, unprotected, without coverage and provides loopholes where employers can take advantage of workers.

Without amendments, the bill will leave many workers unable to find decent jobs. It will also leave Ontario with laws that perpetuate precarious, low-paying work. Right now, 1.7 million Ontarians earn at or near the minimum wage.

The positive step of moving to a $15 minimum wage by 2019 is one step on a long journey to decent work. But in fact, there are still exemptions to that wage – students and liquor servers. This is clearly unfair.

Higher minimum wage is not the only thing that makes decent work. Workers must be able to expect fair treatment in many areas including scheduling, personal emergency leave, and banning replacement workers when there is a labour dispute.

If workers in our province are to receive fair treatment in the workplace, amendments to the Employment Standards Act must raise the floor for every worker, and changes to the Labour Relations Act must make it easier to join and keep a union.

Studies show that unionized workers do better. They have better working conditions, pay, and benefits. Where there is no union, workers are more likely to earn poverty wages, and less likely to have a workplace pension.

Our province’s outdated laws create the conditions for precarity, and the upcoming changes must provide a remedy that situation.

Our government must ensure that all workers, whether they are in a union or not, are well-protected by our laws. Right now, our government has a chance to get it right, and create the conditions for fairness across the province.

We can move forward toward the Ontario we want, by pushing the government to support its commitment to decent work.

The labour movement in Ontario has been clear about the amendments that are needed in Bill 148 to ensure that workers are treated fairly in the workplace.

This summer, when the government held hearings about Bill 148 across the province, workers packed the hearings and told their stories. They called for changes. It’s time the government listened to what workers are telling them, not to the big business owners who say that the sky is falling, at the same time that they post record profits on the backs of low-wage and part-time workers

Bill 148 must provide for card-check certification for all workers across all sectors, remove exemptions to the minimum wage, and change weak language in our laws that unscrupulous employers can use to pay part-time and temporary workers less than full-time workers for similar work.

Ontario workers need decent work now.

It’s time for Ontario to amend Bill 148, and change the lives of millions of workers for the better.

COPE 343

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