A $15 Minimum Wage

  • $15 minimum wage
  • No exemptions

Ontario workers are struggling to get by. More and more decent jobs are being replaced by low-wage work. We need a minimum wage that brings workers above the poverty line.

The minimum wage was frozen at $10.25 an hour for four years. Thanks to more than a year of organizing across the province by the Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage, the government was forced to increase the minimum wage to $11 an hour in 2014 and to peg the minimum wage to the cost of living. In 2015, indexation to inflation raised the minimum wage to $11.25, effective Oct. 1.

But even with indexation at $11.25, workers are left more than 16% below the poverty line – that is almost $4,000 below the poverty line per year. That’s why our fight for $15 is more important than ever!

There are still many groups of workers that are exempted from this minimum wage, and are forced to try to make ends meet on even lower wages. Students, liquor servers, farmworkers, to name just a few, are all allowed to be paid a lower minimum wage. This makes Ontario one of the few provinces in the country that has lower minimum wages for certain groups of workers, and that is unacceptable. Basic minimum standards should protect everyone equally. There should be no exemptions to the minimum wage.

Paid Sick Days

  • At least 7 paid sick days per year
  • No requirement for medical notes
  • No exemption from providing unpaid personal emergency leave for employers with 49 workers or less

Almost one in three Ontario workers is without sick leave protection. Businesses with less than 50 employees are not required to provide 10 days job-protected, unpaid personal emergency leave. Most of these workers are in hotel and food services, health care, social services and construction.

The majority of workers in Ontario do not have access to paid sick leave. But most workers cannot afford to lose a day of pay when they are sick. And many employers require workers to get a medical note from a doctor to prove they are sick. This costs workers time and money, and exposes others to illness. Both the Canadian and Ontario Medical Associations have called on employers to stop requiring medical notes due to the public health risks and cost to the health care system.

All workers should have the right to take care of themselves and their families when they are ill. We need a minimum of 7 paid sick days a year for all workers, with no requirement for medical notes.

Rules that Protect Everyone

  • Universal employment standards coverage – All workers should be protected by minimum standards
  • Part-time, temporary, casual or contract workers should not be paid less than full-time workers who do the same job – Equal pay and benefits for equal work
  • No exemptions or special rules
  • Employers should not download their responsibilities for minimum standards onto temp agencies, sub-contractors, and workers
  • Enforce the law, with more effective detection and stiffer penalties for violations, and enforcement when wages go unpaid

The law in Ontario currently lets employers shift their responsibilities as employers onto contractors, temp agencies, subcontractors, and increasingly, onto workers. By passing the buck like this, employers can drive down wages, make work insecure and make it hard for workers to enforce their rights. Employers should be held responsible for ensuring that minimum standards are provided to workers down the chain of temp agencies, contractors, and subcontractors, and should not be able to misclassify workers as independent to avoid employment standard responsibilities. Exclusions and loopholes, which primarily affect young, low wage, women, racialized, and migrant workers, let employers take advantage of workers. Part-time, casual, and temporary agency workers are often paid lower hourly wages than their full time counterparts for doing the exact same work. That is why all workers should be protected by universal minimum standards.

But expanding and strengthening workers’ rights will do nothing if the laws are not enforced. And yet the current system of enforcement relies on workers whose rights have already been violated to bring these violations to the attention of the government, a process that can be risky, intimidating, complicated, and can take a very long time. Enforcement should be proactive, and the costs to employers found in violation of the law should be real. There are many ways to ensure workers can be protected during the process of making a complaint. Solutions include anonymous and third party complaints, protection from wrongful dismissal, and fines for employers who retaliate against them.

Decent Hours for Decent Incomes

  • Promote full-time, permanent work – hours that we can live on
  • Fair scheduling
  • No exemptions from paid overtime
  • At least 3 weeks paid vacation

A third of workers in part-time jobs want full-time work but can’t get it. Involuntary part-time means workers struggle to make ends meet, and often have to cobble together several jobs to get by. But part-time, casual, and temporary agency jobs can have erratic and unpredictable hours, and employers are increasingly moving to “just-in-time” scheduling that leaves workers scrambling to organize their work, family and other responsibilities. Overtime is also serious issue for a huge number of workers – only 3 out of 5 workers have full access to overtime premium pay. It’s no wonder that part-time work is growing faster than full time work – it pays off for employers, and the law doesn’t stop it. But it could. We need rules that:

  • Make employers offer hours to part-time workers before hiring more part timers. This will help create full time jobs.
  • Convert temp agency workers to permanent workers, and casual and contract workers to full time jobs.
  • Require employers to provide work schedules at least 2 weeks in advance. Workers shouldn’t get penalized for asking to change their schedule. Employers should pay a cancellation fee (e.g. a certain number of hours of lost wages) when they cancel a worker’s shift with less than 24 hours’ notice.
  • Set a minimum shift of 3 hours, for scheduled and casual work. Employers are required to pay workers a minimum of three hours of a longer shift even if they do not work the whole shift (e.g., restaurant workers who are told to clock off work on slow days). But the law still allows employers to schedule shifts shorter than 3 hours.
  • Eliminate all exemptions to overtime premium pay.
  • Increase minimum vacation entitlements to three weeks per year, and four weeks per year after five years of service. Vacations are important for workers to take care of themselves and their families, and only Ontario and the Yukon Territory limit their minimum entitlement to two weeks.

Workers' Right to Organize and Unionize

  • Make it easier for workers to join and keep unions
  • Stronger protections for workers who stand up for their rights
  • Allow anonymous and third party complaints
  • Make it easier to reach a first contract and resolve disputes
  • Ensure job security for workers when business ownership changes or when contracts are flipped
  • Support and enable broader-based bargaining for workers in precarious employment

By organizing together and forming unions, workers have been able to turn bad jobs into better ones. But Ontario’s laws do not adequately protect workers who speak out or who want to form a union.

There should be strong penalties for employers who interfere with workers trying to form unions in their workplaces, or who raise complaints about Employment Standards violations. Investigations of reprisals against workers who stand up for their rights should be fast.

If the law made it fairer to bargain a contract, workers would be subjected to less intimidation and harassment, and would be better able to defend their rights collectively rather than as individuals.

Respect at work

  • End workplace harassment and bullying
  • Protect workers from unjust dismissal
  • Protect workers during the process of making a complaint and penalize employers who retaliate
  • Ensure migrant workers receive special protection under the ESA to prohibit reprisals from employers

Rights are hollow if workers cannot assert them without being punished or fired. Bullying and harassment is commonplace in Ontario’s workplaces. Because the law in Ontario does not require employers to demonstrate a reason for firing workers, all too often, people who resist or speak out at work are punished or fired. Workers should be better protected from all forms of harassment and bullying in the workplace, such as what is required in Quebec.