Community groups and trade unions are hopeful that the Ontario government’s promise to review employment standards and labour law will result in meaningful improvements to work and wages across the province.
“It’s clear that current minimum employment standards are insufficient to provide workers with a pathway out of poverty,” said Alastair Woods, Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario. “We need to ensure that a $15 minimum wage applies to all workers in the province, regardless of the sector in which they work or the age or educational status of the workers.”
Despite the province’s minimum wage increase from $10.25 to $11.00 an hour in June 2014, students under the age of 18 earn only $10.30 and liquor servers earn only $9.55. Even with $11.00 an hour, the Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage says that full-time minimum wage earners continue to fall more than 16% below the poverty line.
Nicole Beaulieu is the Executive Director of the Sudbury Workers Education and Advocacy Centre. According to Beaulieu: “At present, temp agency workers and part-time workers often receive lower pay than their directly-hired or full-time counterparts. The vision for decent wages must mean equal pay for equal work, otherwise employers will be tempted to displace full-time workers with part-time, temporary and casual ones.”
“Paid sick leave is another basic necessity that should be included in Ontario’s minimum employment standards,” said Patti Dalton, a London teacher and President of the London and District Labour Council. “Too many minimum wage earners are forced to work while they are sick, or when their children are unwell, because they cannot afford to lose pay due to illness. The evidence shows that providing a modest number of paid sick days would actually save money. That’s why we want the Ontario government to follow the lead of a number of US states by implementing at least five days of paid sick leave for all workers.”