By David Bush
A full year of big changes to labour law in Ontario has just passed. Newly released jobs numbers let us measure the impact of these changes, and gauge whether the nightmarish predictions of job losses and economic upheaval have come true.
Bill 148’s changes
Last January, Bill 148 ushered in a sweeping set of labour law reforms in the province. The legislation increased the minimum wage from $11.60 to $14 an hour, a 21% jump. This was the first phase of a two-phase increase to $15 an hour, which would have come into effect on January 1, 2019.
The legislation also gave every worker in the province access to ten job-protected Personal Emergency Leave (PEL) days, allowing an additional 1.6 million workers to use these days for emergencies such as sickness, family illness or bereavement. It mandated that the first two PEL days be paid while also barring employers from requiring a doctor’s’ note.
Ontario became the first Canadian province where all workers had access to paid sick days.
In April, Bill 148 implemented an equal-pay-for-equal-work provision, mandating that part-time, contract, casual, seasonal and temporary workers who do substantially the same work as their full-time coworkers be paid the same.
The legislation also brought in a number of rule changes that improved workers’ holiday pay and vacations, and made it easier to join and keep a union.
Big business predictions
In the lead up to Bill 148 being passed, many in the big business community were warning that the changes it contained would lead to economic disaster and major job losses.
A study done in 2017 by the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis (commissioned by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce) claimed that 185,000 jobs would be lost over two years. A 2017 TD Bank study predicted that Bill 148 would result in 80,000 to 90,000 jobs lost. Even Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office predicted 50,000 jobs would be lost due to Bill 148.
In January 2018, Ontario lost 54,000 jobs and it seemed that the critics of Bill 148 were right. The media quickly picked up on this narrative in January and again in August, when Statistics Canada’s monthly labour force survey showed that Ontario lost 80,000 jobs. But StatsCan’s monthly survey is merely a snapshot of the economy, which is apt to fluctuate dramatically from month to month. Looking at the change in jobs numbers from year to year is a much clearer way to measure the impacts of labour law reforms.
Bill 148’s impact
So after 12 months of Bill 148, what happened to Ontario’s job market?
The province added roughly 78,000 jobs in the last year, a 1.1% increase. This exceeded the national average of employment growth, which increased by only 0.9%. Overall, Ontario’s unemployment rate finished the year at 5.4%, below last year’s unemployment rate of 5.5% and also below the national unemployment rate of 5.6%. Ontario now has the second lowest unemployment rate in the country.
While it’s true that Ontario’s job growth in 2018 slowed when compared to 2017 (1.1% compared to 2.5%) this slowdown was a trend across the country. Job growth across Canada decelerated from a 2.3% increase in 2017 to a 0.9% increase in 2018. Job growth in 2018 looked more like job growth trends in 2015 and 2016, rather than the outlier year of 2017, meaning that there is no merit to the argument that reforms in Bill 148 caused job loss or even less job creation.
All of the jobs added in Ontario were due to an increase in full-time work, meaning the total amount of wages going to Ontario’s workers increased this year.
And what kind of jobs are they? The service sector saw an increase in employment by 1.4%, led by increases in transportation and warehousing, business, building and other services and educational services. This means that the jobs that are being created are not simply in the public sector or in sectors unaffected by labour law changes, as some may assume. Instead, job growth has occurred in many of the very sectors that were directly impacted by Bill 148.
It is noteworthy that employment in the food service and accommodation sector rose by 0.8%, while total hours worked in that sector rose by 1.7% over the last year. This means that wages and conditions for workers in fast food restaurants, hotels and retail – which are often among the lowest – improved in 2018. The big business lobby argued vociferously that this sector in particular would be hard hit by the new labour law changes and see big job losses.
The real story
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce stated this fall that “Bill 148 was too much, too fast. The compounding labour reforms and unintended consequences came at too high a cost to Ontario’s economy.”
But the reality is over the last 12 months in Ontario, employment, wages, and the total hours of work increased, while unemployment decreased. The big business predictions about Bill 148 turned out to be nothing more than baseless scaremongering.
Sadly, the reforms in Bill 148 were largely rolled back by the new government’s Bill 47, which came into effect on January 1, 2019. The province gutted the much needed reforms in Bill 148, despite the evidence that increasing the minimum wage and introducing paid sick days, equal-pay-for-equal work and rules that made it easier to join and keep and union actually led to increased employment.
We can take heart that making these reforms not only improved the lives of workers, but they did not have the disastrous consequences for Ontario’s economy that some predicted. Now we have to continue fighting to improve working conditions for all Ontario workers.
Read the full Rank and File story.
By Dina Al-Shibeeb
The organizer said the ‘biggest struggle’ when advocating for workers’ rights is that ‘generally people are unaware of their own rights’
Some of Premier Doug Ford's supporters were “shocked” by the Progressive Conservative Party’s bill to freeze the minimum wage at $14 and eliminate Ontarians’ two paid sick leaves, says the organizer of York Region’s Fight for $15 & Fairness.
“I have spoken with people who voted for Doug Ford, and earn a minimum wage and find out they are not getting raise in January,” said Jessa McLean during a town-hall meeting she organized at Newmarket’s CUPE 905 on Nov. 15. “Not only they were losing their raise they were counting on, but it was happening by somebody who didn’t say anything about it at the campaign trail.”
McLean made the statement before the Ontario government passed Bill 47 on Wednesday Nov. 21.
Fight for 15 & Fairness movement started on April 15, 2015 in the province, and now it's escalating its activism after the Ontario government introduced Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018 or Bill 47 in late October to repeal reforms in the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act or Bill 148 enacted by the former Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Click Here on the changes that will be made if Bill 47 is passed.
The town hall meeting was held in reaction to deputations made to the province's finance and economic affairs committee session, also held in the same day on Nov. 15 to help the government make a decision on the bill, which Fight for $15 & Fairness criticized for having “only a handful of people selected from a compiled list.”
At the town hall meeting, McLean read a letter by a single woman in her 40s named Christine, who works three part-time, minimum wage jobs. The letter was supposed to be heard by the finance committee, however Christine couldn't find a substitute to cover one of her shifts, showing how the deputations are lacking in real representations.
The organizer said the “biggest struggle” when advocating for workers’ rights is that “generally people are unaware of their own rights, when they gain them or when they lose them, so education is 90 per cent of the battle.”
“The Conservative government holds a majority on the committee just like they do in the legislature, and so they pick — predominantly — who will speak, and we know that they already don't support workers' rights.”
Inaccessibility' to politicians
McLean also criticized local politicians' “inaccessibility to us but always listening to the corporate,” explaining how it took two months to arrange “a meeting with my own MPP Caroline Mulroney [for York-Simcoe], and even then, I was limited to 15 minutes.”
The activist said she had to “ambush” Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care and MPP for Newmarket-Aurora, to speak with her at her Aurora office on Nov. 6.
At the meeting, McLean was accompanied by Dr. Jesse McLaren, an ER doctor and a delegate from the Decent Work and Health Network as well as Katherine Grzejszczak, the newly elected CUPE local 905 president and also an organizer for Fight for $15 and Fairness.
“We had to ambush her outside of a luncheon in order to get her to a promised meeting,” she said.
After a face-to-face meeting, McLean said Elliott acknowledged she and her ministry might have not gotten “everything right” on Bill 47.
McLean said she questioned Elliott about the cutbacks on sick leaves and if there is any “evidence” in “taking them away.” The activist recalled the minister saying: “Maybe we didn’t get everything right.”
“Christine Elliott said that she wasn’t even consulted on sick days,” nor its "impact" on the health-care system, she added. However, “four days later, she (Elliott) bragged about her involvement in Bill 47, so she is lying to somebody.”
When asked about this by York RegionMedia Group, Elliott rejected McLean’s claim, saying she was “consulted on all legislation” as “as a senior member of cabinet.”
“We make decisions as a team. I look forward to working with members of our government and with partners as we continue to ensure that Ontario is open for business.”
Elliott's office also provided the following statement when asked about McLean’s frustration.
“As Deputy Premier, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, and MPP, I am proud to have worked with our government to bring forward Bill 47 and repeal most parts of the Liberals’ job-killing Bill 148,” the statement read.
At the Town Hall meeting, Carolina Jimenez, a nurse and co-ordinator for Decent Work and Health Network, also spoke out saying, “We can think of Bill 47 as a prescription for poor health.”
While supporters of Bill 47 say “workers abuse the paid sick days and revoking them will be good for business,” Jimenez cited studies from New York and San Francisco, where “basic days have been legislated, about five to nine days, most workers took three days, and a quarter of the workers took no days off.”
The nurse also said, on average, when people get “severely sick” such as with the flu, it usually lasts at least three days, and the Centre for Disease Control recommends people stay home for one to two days.
By Paige Petrovsky
If passed Bill 47 would repeal most of the workplace protections that were put into place about a year ago. These workplace protections aimed to ensure safety and well-being on the job.
Now, the passing of Bill 47 may be a reality.
It was recently announced that Bill 47 passed the third reading today, Nov. 21.
Bill 47 would eliminate two paid sick days and limit access to personal emergency leave and have lower penalties assigned to employers for violating workplace laws.
Critics also worry that it will make it easier to deny workers any employment standards protections — including EI, CPP and WSIB — by misclassifying them as self-employed contractors instead of employees, make it easier for employers to fire workers who decline last-minute shifts.
Critics have also spoken out against the province’s plan to freeze minimum wage at $14 per hour and delay a $15 minimum wage in Ontario to 2025. They also say the bill would allow employers to pay part-time and temporary agency workers a lower wage than their full-time or directly-hired counterparts, which will lead to an increase in precarious jobs with no benefits.
“Premier Ford broke his promise to Ontarians today, he’s not for the people,” Pam Frache, Coordinator of the Ontario-wide Fight for $15 & Fairness Campaign, said in a recent press release.
“Let’s be clear, rich corporations are the only ones who stand to benefit from Bill 47, while the lowest wage earners will be forced back into poverty.”
In the press release, Franche added:
“The Ford government had absolutely no mandate to pass Bill 47, they ignored the majority opposition coming from the public and shut the people out from giving input every step of the way."
According to a recent press release, a recent campaign research poll showed that 77 per cent of Ontarians - including 64 per cent of PC voters - opposed the elimination of paid sick days.
Regardless, the Ford government voted to cancel them.
"Bill 47 is replacing the previous leave reforms with a straightforward package of defined annual job-protected leave days for every worker in Ontario: 3 days of sick leave; 3 days of family responsibility leave; and 2 bereavement days," Christine Bujold, Senior Communications Advisor and Press Secretary, Office of the Honourable Laurie Scott, Minister of Labour, said via email.
"Workers would be eligible for these leaves after two weeks of work for the employer. In addition to these job-protected leave days, every worker in Ontario will be eligible to receive three weeks of paid vacation after five years."
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce, on the other hand, is happy with the passage. The following statement was released by Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the OCC.
“On behalf of our 60,000 members in 135 communities across the province, we are pleased the Government of Ontario is holding strong in its commitment to make Ontario open for business. Bill 47 restores balance to both employers and workers as well as reduces significant financial and administrative burden felt by businesses of all sizes throughout the province. With the competitiveness of our province at a critical point, the labour reforms introduced by Bill 47 are fundamental to the long-term prosperity of our people, our businesses, and our economy.”
What do you think of Bill 47?
By Emma Paling
A meeting with Ross Romano was unproductive, his Sault Ste. Marie constituents say.
Constituents say a Progressive Conservative MPP — who told the legislature he's gotten "nothing but compliments" on the provincial government's new labour bill — has ignored their concerns.
Sault Ste. Marie MPP Ross Romano spoke about Bill 47 only once in the legislature. Called the Making Ontario Open For Business Act, it repeals many of the labour reforms introduced by former premier Kathleen Wynne. It passed its final reading on Wednesday.
"I have been getting nothing but compliments from everybody back home — constant compliments," Romano said on Oct. 31. "All I hear is: Thank you, thank you, thank you to our government for getting rid of this horrible [Liberal] Bill 148."
One week earlier, constituent Mike McCleary emailed Romano a detailed list of his concerns about the law. He didn't get a response.
"The fact that he says we're just complimenting it blindly, it's insulting," McCleary told HuffPost Canada. "It shows what he really thinks of the working class community here."
The father-of-two followed up with messages to Romano on Facebook and Twitter, and another email. This time he copied NDP leader Andrea Horwath and a CBC News reporter. He heard back in an hour.
"It didn't really seem like a coincidence that when I copied the Opposition leader and a couple media sources, I got a response back so quickly."
Eventually, Romano agreed to meet with McCleary and some others who were worried about the bill on Nov. 6.
"I'd say it was overall pretty unproductive," McCleary said of the meeting. "I had asked him for specific answers on things, but [got] mostly political answers dancing around."
In the meeting, Romano said again that he has heard no complaints about Bill 47, according to Tara Maszczakiewicz, regional vice president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, who was there. Her union has been unequivocally critical of the bill.
"I don't know where he is, if he hides from social media, or what," Maszczakiewicz told HuffPost Canada. "But there were people outside his office protesting on the Tuesday, in the pouring rain, before we met with him on Friday."
Approached at Queen's Park on Wednesday, Romano told HuffPost Canada he couldn't take questions because he had a meeting. His staff has also not replied to a request for comment.
McCleary is concerned about how the bill's changes to leave and doctor's notes will affect workers.
The bill scraps a rule that employees have to give workers two paid sick days a year, and lowers the total number of days off from 10 to eight. It also rescinds a rule forbidding employers from requesting a doctor's note after an employee takes a sick day.
"I don't want to go sit in the doctor's office for four or five hours to get a doctor's note because I had to take a little bit of time to take care of myself," McCleary, who works evenings at a call centre, said.
He said that the transit system in the Sault isn't very good, so people who need a doctor's note may have to choose between sitting on the bus for hours or paying for a cab. A cab across town costs about $20, he said, and doctor's offices usually charge at least $10 for a note.
"When you're talking about a low-income family, that could be the difference between a couple of meals," he said.
Law freezes minimum wage at $14 an hour until 2020, cuts 2 paid personal leave days for workers
The Ontario government passed sweeping labour reform legislation Wednesday, effectively rolling back many changes brought in by the previous Liberal regime.
The law freezes the province's minimum wage at $14 an hour until 2020 and cuts two paid personal leave days for workers, among other things.
The governing Progressive Conservatives said the legislation would encourage job growth in the province. They have said the changes made by their predecessors imposed significant costs on businesses and argued the new legislation would ease that burden.
"It's going to be good for employers, it's going to be good for employees," Tory House Leader Todd Smith said.
The measures were applauded by some in the business community but condemned by anti-poverty activists, union leaders and opposition parties, who say the changes will make life harder for average people.
"We just saw workers' rights be torn out from under them, we just saw the lowest income workers lose $2,000 in increased pay because of the decisions that the government made today in passing legislation," NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said.
Liberal legislator Nathalie Des Rosiers said the fact that Ontarians lost two paid sick days as a result of the legislation was "a real shame."
"You need to ensure that your minimum standards of employment respond to the reality of work today," she said, adding that was the purpose of the former Liberal government's reforms.
The Tory government has said Premier Doug Ford received death threats and the labour minister had her constituency office vandalized after the legislation was introduced last month — incidents that were denounced by all parties.
Labour and advocacy groups have raised the alarm at the short time frame allotted for consultation on the Tory legislation, with many saying they were denied the chance to weigh in.
Fight for $15 and Fairness, a group advocating for the minimum wage increase to be reinstated, said the five-hour limit placed on public input was in "stark contrast" with the 14 days of province-wide hearings the Liberals held on their labour changes.
"Let's be clear, rich corporations are the only ones who stand to benefit from Bill 47, while the lowest wage earners will be forced back into poverty," spokeswoman Pam Frache said of the law that passed Wednesday.
Ontario's minimum wage increased from $11.60 to $14 an hour on Jan. 1, and was set to rise to $15 an hour next year as a result of the Liberals' labour laws.
Future minimum wage hikes to be tied to inflation
Under the government's new legislation, it will remain at $14 until October 2020, with future increases tied to the rate of
To offset the move, the Tories have exempted those earning under $30,000 from provincial income tax and given a tax cut to those earning up to $38,000. But critics maintain the plan will save workers less money than they would gain through a wage hike.
The law will also bring the total of personal leave days down to eight from 10 — three for personal illness, two for bereavement leave and three for family responsibilities.
The legislation keeps provisions brought in by the Liberals that granted workers up to 10 days of leave if they or their child experiences domestic or sexual violence. It will also maintain regulations that grant Ontario workers three weeks of paid vacation after five years of service.
A number of scheduling provisions will be eliminated, however, including a minimum of three hours pay in the event a shift is cancelled 48 hours or less before it was scheduled to begin.
Toronto Star: Amid protests, Tories pass bill that scales back workers’ rights and freezes minimum wage
By Sara Mojtehedzadeh
Legislation rolling back significant labour protections introduced under the previous government has passed at Queen’s Park, meaning workers will no longer have the right to two paid sick days and will not receive a scheduled minimum wage bump to $15 this January.
Protests disrupted the legislature’s gallery late Tuesday, pushing the vote by a day. Under fire from NDP leader Andrea Horwath Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford said the “most needy people in society” told him they had been laid off because of the previous’ government’s “job-killing” labour legislation.
“It discouraged companies from all over the world to come to Ontario and open a business because of Bill 148. It was the worst job-killing bill. It was the worst bill for people, the most vulnerable people in society to get a hand up,” he said.
According to the latest Statistics Canada data, employment in Ontario has increased by 1.2 per cent since last October due to a growth in full-time jobs. At 5.6 per cent, Ontario’s unemployment rate is lower than the Canadian rate of 5.8 per cent.
Bill 47 will repeal the bulk of recent updates to Ontario’s workplace standards, including temporary and part-time workers’ right to be paid the same as a full-time, permanent employee for doing the same job.
Workers will no longer be entitled to two paid sick days and eight unpaid emergency leave days. Instead, they will get three sick days, three personal days and two bereavement days — all of which will be unpaid.
The minimum wage will also be frozen at $14 until 2020, when increases will become tied to inflation.
Debating the bill Tuesday evening, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Todd Smith said the previous government’s workplace legislation, Bill 148, “didn’t understand the hopes and dreams that go into building a small business.”
“We have no choice but to be competitive. You don’t get to opt out of the global economy,” he said.
NDP Labour critic Jamie West (Sudbury) blasted the Tories’ new labour bill as an attack on workers’ fundamental rights.
“The government wants you to work sick. The government wants you to struggle with two or three precarious jobs. The government wants you to spend less time with your family,” he said.
“This is a government that wants to make it harder for good businesses to compete with bottom feeder businesses” he added. “Legislation is written for the worst employers.”
Labour minister Laurie Scott lauded MPPs who had “listened to the needs of businesses” in their ridings and said Bill 148 had created “staggering job losses.”
“In a prosperous society, people are free to choose their work arrangements,” she added.
Green Party leader Mike Schreiner said the province needed “a more balanced approach to wage and labour laws, an approach that puts people first.”
“But instead of conducting consultations across the province, the government held one day of public hearings for people to come in and talk about this issue,” he added.
The now-repealed Bill 148 was the product of two years of public consultations and research led by two independent experts.
Protesters chanting in favour of a $15 minimum wage were handcuffed and escorted out of the Queen’s Park gallery on Tuesday.
Ontario Federation of Labour president Chris Buckley said the government’s bill “ignores the voices of the people who will be most affected by these laws — women workers, racialized workers, Indigenous workers and workers with a disability.”
“Now, it will be much easier for unscrupulous employers to take advantage of their employees. I say shame on this government for the damage it has done to Ontario workers.”
“To cut wages, to cut sick days, and to make it easier to fire workers who are already in precarious situations is cruel and callous in the extreme,” added Pam Frache of the Fight for $15 and Fairness movement.
On Tuesday, the Star reported that a group of advocates, including an emergency room physician, were told by Health Minister Christine Elliott that she had not been consulted on the health impacts of cutting paid sick days.
“I think it was some confusion when I had the meeting … there’s a difference between being consulted and drafting the bill,” said Elliott at Queen’s Park.
“I don’t think anyone would be surprised to hear that I didn’t draft the bill because it’s a labour bill, not a health bill. But was I consulted about the bill? Of course I was. We make decisions as a team. Of course I was consulted on all provisions of the bill and I’m very supportive of all of the provisions of the bill.”
She said the province’s decision to give workers unpaid days off — losing the current two paid sick days — “is the most fair balance” between making sure that employees get the time that they need, as well as for employers to be able to conduct their business.
Advocates worry the loss of paid sick days will result in more people coming to work sick if it means losing a day’s pay. A 2010 World Health Organization report found that “gaps in paid sick leave result in severe impacts on public health and the economy” and a study from the American Journal of Public Health found that the absence of paid sick days in the U.S. resulted in 5 million more flu cases among the general population.
Smith said number of people who took a sick day after the Superbowl “exploded” as a result of Bill 148.
By Luke Zurcher
On November 10 at 4 pm, the 5 Days for Survivors: March for Work Rights for Survivors of Sexual Violence gathered in front of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to march for the retention of Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act.
Bill 148 establishes various workplace rights and protections, including an increased minimum wage, easier access to a greater number of personal emergency leave days regardless of workplace size, ten days of leave in cases of exposure to sexual or domestic violence, and equal pay for workers performing equal work.
In October of this year, Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government began consideration of Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act. This legislation will repeal significant sections of Bill 148, including a halt to the rising minimum wage, which will be subjected to annual inflation adjustments, and reductions on personal emergency leave days.
Currently, workers employed for a minimum of 13 weeks have access to two categories of leave: domestic or sexual violence leave, and personal emergency leave. For each, employees are granted up to ten individual days of leave annually, with five days paid under domestic or sexual violence leave, and two paid under personal emergency leave.
According to Bill 47, personal emergency leave days will be repealed in order to “establish separate entitlements to sick leave, family responsibility leave and bereavement leave.” Employees under the considered Bill 47 will receive three days of sick leave, three days of family responsibility leave, and two days of bereavement leave annually, all unpaid.
Bill 47 does not address domestic sexual violence leave days. However, the 5 Days event page claims if Bill 47 is passed, “many of the other rights in the workplace that survivors need such as higher wages, equal pay and control over work schedules are at risk.” Event organizers argue, “We need to link and connect all forms of violence [to] build a strong movement that protects us in all aspects of our lives.”
Katie Bishop, a first-time organizer, created the 5 Days march to draw awareness to the current features of Bill 148 as well as the projected changes of Bill 47. Driven by personal experience, Bishop organized the march when she was unable to access five days of paid leave in her workplace as a victim of sexual violence.
The 5 Days Facebook page says: “We need to push for changes on how Survivors can use the 5 days of paid leave and expand access to personal emergency leave.” The page points to the current inaccessibility of personal emergency leave days in spite of Bill 148’s implementation.
The march began in front of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and travelled south along University Avenue, stopping at the Ontario Immigration building at University and Dundas. Four speakers spoke outside this building: Katie Bishop, a representative for Fight for $15 & Fairness, one working in Trauma Support, and a Consent Educator.
Bishop spoke about the urgency of the issues, discussing her personal experience as a survivor of sexual violence, and the difficulties she faced in accessing the five days of paid leave provisioned by Bill 148.
Fight for 15 and Fairness spoke about the necessity of the rising minimum wage, which in its current state keeps a significant number of minimum wage workers living at the poverty line. The speaker discussed the negations planned by Bill 47, which will revert progressions made by the Fight for 15 and Fairness in favour of the employer over the employee.
Speakers for Trauma Support and Consent Education spoke together about sexual and domestic violence. They discussed the time it takes both for personal recovery from violent trauma, as well as for seeking professional help, an option which is not always easily accessible. Further, domestic violence usually involves moving, which can be complicated by family and conflict. All of this can take significant time, resources, and energy, beyond what is provided by five days of paid leave.
Each speaker discussed the difficulties that those who work minimum wage jobs with unsafe conditions still face, despite the enactment of Bill 148 one year ago. The speakers argued that the negations proposed by Bill 47 will only worsen already difficult conditions and will significantly lessen Ontario workplace safety and equality.
The march concluded at 6 pm with a candlelight vigil for four people who died while employed at Fiera Foods–affiliated factories, one of whom died just this October at a factory in North York, due to unsafe work conditions.
Bill 47 was carried to a second reading as of November 12 and has been referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. A November 5 CBC news article stated the bill “is likely to be approved due to the [current] government’s majority.”
The 5 Days march has been one in a string of protests across Ontario that have taken place in the past two months regarding Bill 47.
Toronto Star: Ministry of Health not consulted about health impacts of removing paid sick days, advocates told
By Sarah Mojtehedzadeh
The Ministry of Health was not consulted about the health impacts of proposed new legislation to remove Ontario workers’ right to two paid sick days despite extensive literature showing the policy’s public health implications, according to three individuals who met with health minister and deputy premier Christine Elliott earlier this month.
The Nov. 6 meeting with Elliott about Bill 47, which proposes significant changes to workplace standards, was attended by emergency room physician Jesse McLaren, Fight for $15 organizer Jessa McLean, and Katherine Grzejszczak, president of CUPE Local 905, which represents York Region municipal employees, including front-line health-care professionals.
All three separately told the Star that when presented with evidence about the public health benefits of paid sick days, Elliott responded by saying she had not been consulted about the Conservative government’s new legislation. Organizer McLean said when pressed on the health implications of the bill, Elliott said neither she nor her ministry were involved in its drafting.
“That surprised us because we knew the impact it would have on the Ministry of Health,” said McLean.
“She said I wasn’t involved in this, you should check with the labour ministry — they’re the ones who drafted this legislation,” said McLaren, who works at Toronto General Hospital and is involved with the Decent Work and Health Network, which seeks to address health equity issues.
“That was kind of a shocking statement from the health minister and the deputy premier.”
When asked whether the health ministry and minister had been consulted about Bill 47, spokesperson David Jensen said the Star should “contact the Ministry of Labour since they are the lead ministry for Bill 47 and would have any information on what consultations took place.”
Asked what consultations took place on the health impacts of the legislation, labour minister spokesperson Christine Bujold said Elliott has “publicly indicated that she worked with other members of Cabinet on Bill 47,” and pointed to a Nov. 10 tweet from the minister where she said she was “proud to have worked with our government to bring forward Bill 47 and repeal most parts of the Liberals’ job-killing Bill 148.”
Bujold did not respond to followup questions about whether the health ministry or minister were specifically consulted about the sick day policy.
Advocates worry the loss of paid sick days will result in more people coming to work sick if it means losing a day’s pay.
Ontario workers are currently entitled to two paid sick days and eight unpaid leave days after measures brought in last year under the Liberals through Bill 148. The Ford government wants to give workers eight unpaid leave days instead — three for illness, three for family responsibilities, and two for bereavement leave.
A recent Campaign Research survey found 77 per cent of Ontarians oppose the move to scrap two paid sick leave days.
McLaren said the Decent Work and Health network had sought a meeting with the Ministry of Health about paid sick leave since October, initially pressing through the Ontario Medical Association. When nothing materialized, he joined the Nov. 6 meeting, which took place during Elliott’s constituency week.
McLaren said he provided Elliott with 15 research studies on the benefits of paid sick days, including a 2010 World Health Organization report that found that “gaps in paid sick leave result in severe impacts on public health and the economy.”
Another article from the American Journal of Public Health found that the absence of paid sick days in the U.S. resulted in 5 million more flu cases amongst the general population.
“She did take the studies that I brought,” McLaren added of Elliott. “She said she would read them and said she would speak with the labour minister.”
Last week, McLaren testified before the Finance and Economic Affairs committee that removing paid sick days and reinstating employers’ right to ask for sick notes through Bill 47 “goes against public health evidence” and will contribute to hospital overcrowding.
“As an emergency room physician, I depend on my patients not to come to the emergency room for unnecessary reasons like a sick note,” he told the committee.
Conservative MPP for Thornhill Gila Martow told the committee the new proposals for unpaid leave were “more progressive.”
“We are offering a very progressive package of leave,” she said, adding most other Canadians provinces do not offer paid sick days.
CUPE Local 905 president Grzejszczak, who is also a paramedic, and attended the Nov. 6 meeting, said there was “one line that consistently comes out of this government about Bill 47 and that’s the impact on business. That’s the only thing I’ve heard them say the entire time.”
“So her inability to engage on the health issues I actually didn’t find surprising,” she added of Elliott.
Grzejszczak said she told Elliott that some of her members, including paramedics and nursing staff in long-term-care facilities in York Region, will lose their right to paid sick days if Bill 47 passes.
“They will be coming into work sick and caring for immunocompromised patients,” she said
McLaren, who said the Decent Work and Health Network met with previous health minister Eric Hoskins in the lead-up to Bill 148, said he asked Elliott what health evidence the government used to draft the new legislation.
“She went back to the economic arguments,” he said, adding that research from San Francisco and New York shows employer support for paid sick leave policies implemented in those jurisdictions.
“It’s a bit of a myth that it will destroy small businesses,” said McLaren.
Bill 47 is expected to go to its third reading at Queen’s Park Tuesday.
By Emma Paling
The Progressive Conservative government was supposed to pass its landmark labour law.
TORONTO — Ontario lawmakers delayed their final vote on a key labour bill because the public gallery was packed with protesters on Tuesday evening.
The Progressive Conservative government was scheduled to pass Bill 47, which will roll back labour reforms introduced by the previous Liberal government. The law will freeze the minimum wage at $14 an hour for about a year, and end two guaranteed paid sick days per year for workers.
After PC and NDP members spoke about the law, demonstrators got to their feet and chanted.
"Ford, you broke your promise. You're not for the people," they shouted, referencing Premier Doug Ford's slogan "for the people."
The protesters were organized by advocacy campaign Fight For $15 and Fairness, who accuse the government of shutting down public debate on the bill.
"This government has made no attempt to listen to any people in Ontario about this law," said Deena Ladd from Fight For $15 and Fairness.
She said the government only heard from the public for one day at a committee meeting.
"We had so many workers who put their names forward who wanted to speak, but they found out on Wednesday afternoon to speak the next day. You tell me: who can change their shift at the last minute?"
The PCs have said in the legislature that they consulted with stakeholders for months.
On Tuesday, Minister of Economic Development Todd Smith said that Liberal reforms were "a cinder block around the ankles of small businesses."
The government says that reducing the burden on businesses will help them create more jobs and strengthen the economy.
Minister of Labour Laurie Scott noted that Ontario's $14 minimum wage is one of the highest in Canada.
"The previous government had imposed a massive 21 per cent increase in employment costs on Ontario business just this year," she said during question period on Tuesday. "Instead of helping, this rapid increase led to a reduction in hours for many workers, and for our younger workers; it led to a reduction in their job opportunities."
Alberta is the only province with a higher minimum wage than Ontario, at $15 an hour.
Staff for Scott and Smith did not respond to HuffPost Canada's requests for comment Tuesday evening.
One owner of a small business, who was at Queen's Park Tuesday to protest the PC changes, said that Liberal reforms actually helped her business.
Gilleen Pearce, owner of Walk My Dog Toronto, said she has very low staff turnover because of high wages. She is also the spokesperson for a network of business owners called Better Way Alliance.
It costs thousands of dollars to train a new employee, and takes a long time for clients to trust new dog-walkers to come into their house while they're at work, she said in an interview with HuffPost Canada. Employees stay in their jobs because they make $14 an hour and have guaranteed time off.
Pearce said she plans to raise her employees' pay to $15 an hour on Jan. 1, 2019, even though the hike won't be required.
"There's no way I would take that raise away from them after it was promised to them by the government."
By Katherine DeClerq
The Progressive Conservative government is set to pass theMaking Ontario Open for Business Act, which repeals a labour reform bill that, among other measures, raised the minimum wage and offered employees extended medical leave.
The labour reforms passed by the former Liberal government would have seen minimum wage increased to $15 an hour and emergency medical leave extended to 10 days, including two guaranteed paid sick days.
The new bill, which is expected to pass on Wednesday, freezes the minimum wage at $14 an hour and reduces the number of medical leave to eight days. Those eight days are further divided into specific entitlements.
There is no longer guaranteed paid leave.
Ford said that it is up to the employer to give their workers more time off if they require it.
“Someone is under the weather, they are a great employee, they (employers) usually give them a break. But that’s up to the employee and the employer to make those deals.”
The new bill also allows an employer to require a worker to provide “evidence” when they ask for days off due to medical or family reasons. This decision has been criticized by the Canadian Medical Association, who has said that asking for a doctor’s note poses a “public health risk” and will encourage employees to come in to work when they are ill.
The Ontario Liberal Party, who passed the original reform bill, called the Making Ontario Open for Business Act an “unfortunate development” that was not fair to workers.
“There’s no room for negotiation in these things. People have to know when they take their job, what their rights are,” said Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser.
The legislature gallery was packed with demonstrators who were unhappy with the employment standard rollbacks.
Deena Ladd, coordinator for Ontario’s $15 & Fairness, said the organization will continue to fight for a $15 minimum wage and more employee benefits.
“Well, I say it’s open for sickness, open for poverty wages and open for poor working conditions,” Ladd said. “We’re going to make sure that every single person knows what the record is on protecting people’s rights.”
The bill was meant to pass Tuesday evening, but debate was pushed to Wednesday.
With files from CTV News Toronto’s Colin D’Mello and the Canadian Press