This has been a challenging week for legal protection of workers’ conditions of employment and safety on the job. On Tuesday the Ford government introduced Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018 to roll-back labour laws changes enacted in the previous government’s Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017. Those reforms sought to reflect the needs of today’s workplace and workers, particularly the growing share of the population in precarious jobs in a labour market transformed by globalization and technological change. Following extensive public consultation across the province with all stakeholders by the Changing Workplaces Review, Bill 148 addressed decent working conditions, equal pay for equal work, better worker protections and unionization rights.
In the Ministry of Labour’s recent backgrounder to Bill 47, the government proposes to repeal Bill 148 amendments “that are causing employers the most concern and unnecessary burden.” Included among these is the raise in minimum wage to $15 due to come into force in 2019, and now frozen until October 2020 – despite there being no sign it was a wage killer that business organizations such as Ontario Chamber of Commerce predicted.
- Read Goldblatt Partners’ detailed summary of the many employment and labour protections wiped out by Bill 47, and listen to Goldblatt lawyer Dan Sheppard answer questions on the bill on CBC Radio’s Oct. 25 Ontario Today noon-hour program.
“It’s time to listen to the people”
removing equal pay for equal work provisions will increase the gender pay gap in this province where women make 30 per cent less than men on average. That gap is increased for women workers, Workers of Colour, Indigenous workers, and workers with a disability. This is a slap in the face for millions of workers in this province.” (Pam Frache, Workers’ Action Centre)
Province-wide resistance has been swift as the labour movement , the $15 and Fairness Campaign, anti-poverty advocates and other community groups mobilize to continue speaking out. The Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups is among those pushing for workers’ rights, as are some business groups such as the Ontario Living Wage Network and the Better Way Alliance whose members champion decent work laws and employee well-being as a smart investment [read their full statement].
Red flags have also been raised by Ontario medical professionals on the additional health and economic burden shifted back onto the public purse by Bill 47 provisions increasing worker poverty and reinstating medical note requirements.
An occupational fatality on Thursday sadly underscored the need to strengthen Ontario’s workplace safety and employment conditions, especially for its most vulnerable workers. Friday night a vigil was held outside Queen’s Park for the temporary agency worker who died on the job at a company affiliated with Fiera Foods, subject of a 2017 undercover Toronto Star investigation into why those relying on temp agency work are more likely to get hurt on the job.
- Mojtehedzadeh, Sara. 2018 Oct. 26. “How Your Rights on the Job Will Change if Bill 47 is Passed.” Toronto Star
- Rockarts, Chloe & Gerard Di Trolio. 2018 Oct. 25. “Ford Takes on Bill 148 But There is Resistance.” Rank and File.ca
- Bouw, Brenda. 2018 Oct. 25. “Red Flags Raised as Ontario Reinstates Doctor’s Note Requirement For Sick Workers.” Globe and Mail
- Ontario Living Wage Network & Better Way Alliance. 2018 Oct. 24. Shun Move to Roll Back Workers’ Rights, Opting for The High Road
- Rushowy, Kristin & Sara Mojtehedzadeh. 2018 Oct. 23. “Ontario Moves to Hold Minimum Wage at $14 and End Paid Sick Days.” Toronto Star