A $15 Minimum Wage

Our demands:

  • $15 minimum wage
  • No exemptions

What our movement won in Bill 148: Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act:
Ontario’s general minimum wage will increase to $14 on January 1, 2018, and $15 on January 1, 2019. Annual cost of living adjustments will resume thereafter.

Ontario workers have been struggling to get by on low wages and precarious unstable jobs for far too long. As the cost of living increases and corporate profits continue to break records, workers have seen their wages stagnate.

In 2013, after four years of the minimum wage being frozen at $10.25, workers came together to launch the Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage. This organizing pressured the Ontario government to increase the minimum wage from $10.25 to $11.00 an hour in 2014, and to index it to annual cost of living increases. But the minimum wage, currently at $11.60 an hour, still leaves workers 17% below the poverty line.That’s why we launched the Fight for $15 & Fairness, and as a result of our organizing we won $15 minimum wage legislation.

But we cannot stop there. 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 rate. This makes Ontario one of the few provinces in the country that has sub-minimum wage rates for certain groups of workers, and that is unacceptable. Basic minimum standards should protect everyone equally, we must bring an end to sub-minimum wage rates.


Paid Sick Days

Our demands:

  • 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

What our movement won in Bill 148: Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act
10 days of personal emergency leave days will be extended to all workers and 2 of those days will be paid, as of January 1, 2018 - a first in Canada. No doctor’s note will be required to access any of these days. The new labour laws also provide access to 10 days leave for workers facing domestic or sexual violence, 5 of which will be paid.

When we started the $15 & Fairness Campaign, almost one in three Ontario workers were without sick leave protection. Businesses with less than 50 employees were exempt from the requirement of providing 10 days of job-protected, unpaid personal emergency leave. Many employers required medical notes from doctors in order for workers to be able to take a day off. All of this meant that most workers could simply not afford to get sick.

The new leave protections that will come into effect January 1, 2018, represent an important step forward. But we will keep mobilizing to win 7 paid sick days for all so that workers are better able to take care of their health and that of their families.


Rules that Protect Everyone

Our demands:

  • Equal pay for equal work – Part-time, temporary, casual or contract workers should not be paid less than full-time workers who do the same job
  • No exemptions - All workers should be protected by minimum standards
  • Employers should be fully responsible for wages and working conditions, even if they use temp agencies and sub-contractors
  • Proactive enforcement of the law

What our movement won in Bill 148: Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act:
Equal pay for part-time, casual, contract, and temporary agency workers doing the same work as full-time and permanent workers will come into effect as of April 1, 2018. Misclassification of employees as independent contractors, which robs these workers of labour law protections, has now become illegal. The government has begun the process of reviewing the 85 exemptions and special rules that leave 76% of workers without full protection under the ESA. We also won some improvements in enforcement, including the ability for workers to be awarded interest on unpaid wages; measures to make it easier to go after employers who shut down and start up as new businesses in order to avoid paying wages they owe; and the doubling of the number of Ministry of Labour staff doing enforcement.

For too many years in Ontario, workers in part-time or temporary jobs made as much as 40% less than full-time or permanent workers doing the exact same job. Our victory on equal pay will help eliminate the financial incentives for employers to turn decent full-time permanent jobs into precarious part-time and unstable jobs. But there is more work to be done to make sure employers cannot continue to use temp agencies and sub-contractors to evade their responsibilities to workers, especially when it comes to workplace injuries.

The government has launched a review of exemptions, focusing on several large categories of workers that are currently not covered by many essential labour standards. We must continue to push for all exemptions to be eliminated so that labour standards in this province are truly universal. The current system of enforcing the law leaves workers waiting sometimes years to recover stolen wages, and allows employers to make violating the law just a part of doing business. We need to ensure that the government does more to enforce the labour standards in workplaces, by protecting workers who stand up for their rights and making employers pay stiffer fines for breaking the law.


Decent Hours

Our demands:

  • Fair scheduling – Hours that we can depend on and plan our lives around
  • Full-time, permanent work – Hours that we can live on
  • At least 3 weeks paid vacation
  • Further regulation of temp agencies

What our movement won in Bill 148: Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act:
As of January 1, 2019, workers will get 3 hours of pay for shifts cancelled with less than 2 days (48 hours) notice, and on-call workers will get 3 hours of pay if they are not called in or work less than 3 hours. Workers will also have the job-protected right to refuse shifts if the employer gives them less than 4 days (96 hours) notice. After 3 months with the same employer, workers will have the right to ask for schedule and location changes. Workers also won access to 3 weeks paid vacation after 5 years with the same employer.

Over the years, more and more employers have been moving to “just-in-time” scheduling that leaves workers scrambling at the last minute to organize their work, family and other responsibilities. That is why we organized for fairer scheduling, and will continue to organize until the law requires that employers give workers their schedules 2 weeks in advance. Temp agency work used to just fill temporary needs; now, temp agency workers can be working in the same job for the same company for months or even years on end. The most dangerous work often gets left for temp agency workers so that client companies can evade their responsibilities under health and safety regulations. We will continue to take on the temp agency industry to make these jobs more fair and safer for workers.


Right to Organize and Unionize

Our demands:

  • Measures to make it easier for workers to join and keep unions
  • Stronger protections for workers who stand up for their rights
  • End contract flipping – workers should have job security and wage protection when business ownership or contracts change


What our movement won in Bill 148: Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act:
As of January 1, 2018, workers in temporary agency, building services, homecare and community services sectors have access to card-based certification, eliminating the additional second step vote and therefore making it easier to unionize. Workers in building services (e.g. security, cleaning, food services, etc.) won protections against contract flipping.


Workers are stronger when they can act collectively to defend their rights and demand better wages and working conditions. After decades of attacks on unions and the right to organize, the majority of workers have been left without access to union protection. We know that when unionized and non-unionized workers come together, we can raise the floor of minimum standards and raise the bar for decent working conditions for all. The extension of card-based certification to some of the most precarious sectors is a major step forward in the struggle to win easier access to unionization for all workers. We will continue to organize with our allies in the union movement to ensure that all workers are protected when they stand up for their rights.


Respect at work

Our demands:

  • 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

What our movement won in Bill 148: Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act:
As of January 1, 2018, unionized workers will have stronger protections against unjust dismissal after organizing a union or a strike or lockout. All workers filing a complaint under the Employment Standards Act will have their claim investigated and will no longer have to try to resolve disputes with their employer first. It is now illegal for employers to require employees to wear high heels on the job.


The erosion of labour standards that has occurred over the years has left workers, especially those in precarious and low wage jobs, with little ability to actually exercise their rights in the workplaces without facing dire consequences. This is especially true for migrant workers, whose precarious immigration status - often tied to the employer for whom they work - makes it dangerous and costly to assert their rights. We must continue to organize in our workplaces and communities to put more power into the hands of workers to defend themselves.