By Sara Mojtehedzadeh
As the passage of Bill 148 nears completion, workers worry that a loophole in new protections will leave them vulnerable to unpredictable schedules.
Ina Labuschagne describes her working life as akin to a juggling act: three part-time jobs plus an assortment of gigs on the side to make ends meet: loading trucks, gardening, snow shovelling. It’s a common state of being, she says, in her Regent Park community.
Now, she’s worried the solution is just out of reach.
As lawmakers at Queen’s Park prepare to finalize updates to the province’s employment laws, advocates say new scheduling protections contained in Bill 148 — while laudable — do not go far enough.
“Fair scheduling is so important for your mental health,” says Labuschagne. “To know what hours you’re going to work, that would be good.”
Currently, the bill would give workers the right to refuse a shift if it is assigned with less than four days’ notice. It would also require employers to pay workers for three hours of work if their shift is cancelled within 48 hours of its start time. Exceptions would be limited to emergencies beyond the employer’s control — like fires, power outages or storms.
But a recent amendment, inserted after its first reading, could pave the way for other exemptions to be set out through government regulation for employers to avoid paying cancellation wages.
That makes the provision ripe for abuse, according to Yogendra Shakya, senior research scientist at Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services, who is also calling for the new legislation to mandate two weeks’ scheduling notice for all workers.
“Strong evidence shows (scheduling) is the second most stressful thing for workers — after not having a stable contract.”
“It leads to higher rates of work-life conflict and that factor is in turn associated with a range of social and health impacts including depression, anxiety, loss of appetite, bad eating habits and low quality of family relationships,” he adds.
Research conducted by United Way and McMaster University shows, for example, that even high earners with less secure jobs are twice as likely as those in secure employment to report that an unpredictable work schedule has a negative impact on family life.
Michael Speers, a spokesperson for Ontario’s Minister of Labour, said the amendment to Bill 148’s cancellation pay provisions will “give the government the ability to monitor the scheduling provisions and rebalance it, if needed, through future regulation.”
As previously reported by the Star, erratic scheduling is a growing problem for precarious workers. According to a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives based on 2014 Statistics Canada data, almost one in three workers in Ontario now work in jobs where their hours vary from week to week.
Some employer associations such as the Ontario Chamber of Commerce have pointed to the need for flexible scheduling to maintain competitiveness. In its submissions to the government’s so called Changing Workplaces Review the Retail Council of Canada said a cancellation wage for workers would help ensure employees have “sufficient certainty about the hours of work expected from them and the income that they may expect in turn,” but added that the mandatory two weeks’ notice period shouldn’t be “a hard and fast rule.”
The latter measure has been implemented in some jurisdictions south of the border — for example in San Francisco, where large employers must provide two weeks notice to workers. Speers said Ontario has charted a different course — opting for provisions that benefit “the entire province, and the solution has been tailored to be workable in more sectors.”
Shakya believes broad and robust scheduling protections are good for everyone.
“There’s actually strong evidence that fair and stable scheduling is not just good for workers’ health and well being, it’s also good for workplace productivity,” said Shakya, citing research conducted by institutions like the University of Chicago and Harvard Business School.
“These investments are actually beneficial to workplace productivity and employee morale and quality of service. It’s good for workers’ health and it’s good for business as well.”
Labuschagne, who volunteers on top of her three jobs as an organizer for the Fight for $15 movement that lobbies for a living wage, says she’s thrilled that Bill 148 would raise the minimum hourly rate to $15 by 2019. But she says if working hours are unpredictable, financial planning will remain a source of anxiety in her community.
“When you’re trying to juggle part-time jobs you’re constantly worried about scheduling — am I going to be able to be on this shift? Do I have enough time to make it from here to there?”
“It’s just stressful. I get headaches, I don’t sleep well, I’m anxious,” she adds. “Having a stable job would just be so great.”
By Megan Gillis
A Centretown restaurant is boosting base wages for its kitchen crew to $16 an hour, a move that will affect half-a-dozen staff while making a “negligible” difference in prices for customers, its co-owner says.
Ivan Gedz of Union Local 613 tweeted the news Thursday of the raise for staff including dishwashers ahead of provincewide increases that will boost the minimum wage to $14 this January and $15 in 2019.
He contended that restaurateurs who say paying “a fair living wage couldn’t be done” are “full of s—.”
In an interview, Gedz said restaurants need to price their offerings competitively and margins are slim, but their analysis showed price hikes required to give a raise to kitchen staff – who take home less than other workers – is small enough that customers likely “won’t notice.”
“We’ve wanted to do it for quite some time – since inception,” Gedz said. “The difficulty in implementing systemic change is that you have to position yourself with the competition. It’s fine and dandy to say you’re going to do this but then suddenly our steak or our french fries are substantially more expensive.
But when the minimum wage hike was announced, Gedz and his team drilled down into the numbers of what it would take to do better.
“That is ostensibly forcing everybody to increase prices along the same sort of percentages,” he said. “When we took a look at it, it was negligible. We made a few tweaks and if you looked at our menu previously and our menu now, a customer wouldn’t have any sort of sticker shock.”
He concedes margins in an independent restaurant are “horrible.”
“I’m making the same amount of money as I did when I was a manager in 2006 in the Market,” Gedz said. “But you make choices. I don’t have a Sea-Doo. I’d rather give my cooks a raise.”
Dave Mangano of the Métropolitain Brasserie and The Grand Pizzeria & Bar believes it’s not so simple.
He argued that for his two restaurants, which have larger staffs, the minimum wage hike has far-reaching implications because higher wages come along with increased payroll taxes and the “chain-reaction” of higher-paid staff wanting a raise, too.
“It’s more than a couple of dollars here and there,” he said. “Your margins are really tight as it is. Labour is your biggest expense in the restaurant business, it’s the hardest one to control.
“It’s not like restaurateurs are making tons of money.”
Options being explored include labour-saving technology and cuts to the front-of-house.
“What’s happening now is we’re meeting regularly now to try and figure out how we’re going to adjust to the minimum wage hike,” Mangano said. “The bottom line is there will be some job loss.”
The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario estimates that increased payroll costs for Ontario businesses will lead to the loss of about 50,000 jobs, most of them held by teens and young adults. Higher labour income and household spending will boost economic activity leading to some job gains, the agency concluded, but the size and speed of the wage hike will provide businesses with “a greater incentive to reduce costs more aggressively.”
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says more than half of workers in retail, food and accommodations, who are more likely to work for a big company than a small business, will get a raise under a $15 minimum wage. Women, recent immigrants, and part-time workers stand to gain and baby boomers are as likely to take home more pay as teenagers, the think tank concluded.
By Rob Ferguson
Party’s amendments to Bill 148 would force employers to make temporary workers permanent after 90 days, and companies could have no more than 20 per cent of their workforce composed of temps.
The New Democrats will try to bolster the Ontario Liberal government’s proposed workplace reforms with new protections for temporary workers when the Legislature returns next week from its fall break.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Wednesday that her party’s amendments to Bill 148 would force employers to make temporary workers “permanent employees” after 90 days on the job.
In a related measure, companies could have no more than 20 per cent of their workforce composed of temporary workers.
Workers need “more hope” than they have been given under the Liberal bill, added Horwath, whose party will resurrect other amendments previously rejected by a legislative committee studying the reforms, which include a $15-minimum-wage in 2019.
The NDP proposals include three weeks paid vacation after the first year of employment, up from two weeks now and reaching the three-week threshold faster than the Liberal bill, which provides for three weeks after five years.
There would also be a “universal” minimum wage, without a lower rate for students under 18 and liquor servers.
Replacement workers would be banned during strikes and lockouts.
“It is clear they don’t get what workers are dealing with,” Horwath told a news conference, referring to the Liberal government and taking shots at the Progressive Conservatives for saying the $15-minimum wage is being phased in too quickly.
While it is likely the NDP amendments will be defeated when the committee of MPPs, dominated by Liberals and Conservatives, examines the bill clause by clause next week, Horwath said she wants to make it clear New Democrats are “fighting like hell” for workers.
All parties are staking out their turf with the next provincial election looming on June 7.
Some business groups have warned the higher minimum wage, slated to rise to $14 on January 1 and to $15 a year later, will lead to job cuts as employers cope with higher labour costs.
By Andrew Jackson
Many economists and central bankers in both the United States and Canada say they are puzzled by the current co-existence of very low inflation and low unemployment. But this phenomenon is, in fact, not very surprising when one takes into account the major structural changes in the job market that have weakened the bargaining power of labour.
The dominant macro economic model, the so-called Phillips curve, shows a tradeoff between unemployment and inflation. It holds that a low unemployment rate will drive up inflation due to wage pressures. Karl Marx similarly argued that a "reserve army of the unemployed" is necessary to discipline workers.
Before the 1980s, wage pressures indeed increased in times of low unemployment and helped to drive up inflation. But globalization, technological change and the decline of unions have since kept wage growth very muted even at times of low unemployment, such as the early 2000s.
That said, it is noteworthy that inflation has recently fallen to very low levels even as the job market has gradually recovered from the 2008 recession.
In the case of Canada, the unemployment rate was just 6.4 per cent in October, but the inflation rate, at 1.6 per cent in September, is still well below the official target of 2 per cent. The October monetary policy report from the Bank of Canada states that soft inflation "calls for further analysis" and notes that "labour-cost pressures are below what would be expected at this stage of the cycle."
The best explanation for very soft inflation in Canada is probably continued slack in the job market. The Bank of Canada does note that the low unemployment rate co-exists with softer indicators such as the continuing very low participation rate for young people, suggesting we are still short of a tight job market.
Going a step further, wage pressures and inflation might remain persistently low even with a low unemployment rate due to the seemingly inexorable rise of precarious work. Marx's reserve army of the unemployed has become a reserve army of the precariously employed.
Consider this: Of the 247,000 new jobs created over the past year (October to October), almost one in three (29.7 per cent) were temporary positions. The overall incidence of temporary work is now 13.8 per cent or about one in seven jobs, and it is much higher among young workers, women and recent immigrants.
The rise of temporary work suggests that many employers, particularly in private services, do not need to offer secure employment to attract workers. Nor do they need to offer decent wages to the precariously employed. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, one in four of all workers, one in three temporary workers and the majority of part-time workers in Ontario, earn less than $15 per hour.
To strike a more hopeful note, minimum wages are rising significantly in some provinces and some changes may be made to basic employment standards, such as those governing hours of work. But it is advocacy and politics which are driving positive change, not a tight job market.
Employment has become more and more polarized as middle-class, middle-skill jobs have been lost to globalization and technological change. At the low end of the job market, there is fierce competition for even insecure and badly paid employment. But even those in more secure, high-skilled jobs are affected.
It seems that more secure jobs are being lost throughout the economy as many of the permanent, full-time positions vacated by retiring baby boomers are replaced by the temporary and contract jobs on offer to new entrants to the work force. This is true for many highly educated employees such as nurses, postsecondary instructors and IT professionals.
Consider this: The unionization rate in the private sector is 16.5 per cent, down from 17.8 per cent in 2008. Of the 912,000 new private-sector paid jobs created since 2008, just 8,300 were union jobs. And both private and public-sector union wage settlements have averaged well under 2 per cent over the past year.
Traditionally, unions set the wage standard for more insecurely employed workers. Now, even steadily employed union members are barely making any economic progress.
Average earnings are increasing at a bit above the rate of inflation, but it is hard to find much wage growth for any broadly based occupational group. Only the top of the income distribution is making significant economic progress.
Sure, the national unemployment rate is low. But there is little reason to expect wage growth or inflation to pick up unless and until labour regains some bargaining power.
By Sara Cain
A Hamilton business owner told the final hearing on the Ontario’s Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, Thursday, that a $15 an hour minimum wage is not only manageable but necessary.
Bill 148 has sparked concerns about how small businesses will survive the 32 per cent increase.
But Josie Rudderham of Cake and Loaf Bakery says she has done it and added seven positions along the way.
“To be fair, a healthy business should be able to absorb it, over the timeline given,” she told the standing committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. “Some businesses might fail because of this and I think we all know that is a reality, but that we have a much larger community problem here,” she said.
“We have a serious problem with working poor in Ontario.”
Rudderham says the decision to become a living-wage employer meant a temporary halt to raising her own salary, a 10 to 25 cent increase on products and a re-organizing of shifts and priorities.
“It was a commitment to say if I’m going to go to work and look these people in the eye, I’d like to know they have shelter and accommodation and I’m willing to give up some of my comfort to do that,” she said.
Employees at Cake and Loaf now make a minimum of $15.50 per hour.
The benefits, she told the committee, include fewer sick days taken by employees, less turnover and a sense of loyalty and ownership in the company. Rudderham says it means increased productivity and a reduction in training costs.
As for the concerns about the province’s proposed timeline, Rudderham says the living wage commitment for her business required a $2 to $3 an hour raise for employees within a year.
Bill 148 is expected to be revisited in the legislature later this month.
By Jessica Mustachi
Bill 148 promises change, but loopholes could put part-time, contract and precarious workers' jobs and families at risk.
Ontario's fair workplaces bill needs to do a better job for families, by @Campaign2000As families and children across Ontario get ready for Halloween and trick or treating, parents across the province are also anxiously waiting a treat of a different kind: the passing of Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act.
The bill, introduced by the Ontario government in the summer, entered another round of consultation on October 30. It contains important and necessary changes to the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and Labour Relations Act (LRA), including raising the minimum wage to $15/hour in January 2019, equal pay for part-time workers and temporary workers, increased vacation time, work schedule provisions and the provision of two paid emergency leave days and five non-paid emergency leave days.
These changes are a vital step forward to improve the lives of families across the province and reduce child and family poverty in Ontario. Parents and caregivers depend on good jobs to provide basic necessities for their families. When they have job stability, liveable wages and benefits, they can create a better future for their children and a better future for Ontario.
Unfortunately, recent changes made to the bill (after the first round of committee hearings) might trick families into believing they will be better protected than they actually will be. Amendments made to the work scheduling and equal pay for equal work sections in the bill have created loopholes. These loopholes make escaping precarious work more difficult as advance scheduling notice and equal pay for equal work are central components to quality jobs that reduce poverty.
The work scheduling component of the bill will have a significant impact on families. Predictable and stable work schedules are incredibly important for families who need to arrange daily child care or child-minding if their child falls sick or if a parent has a second job, training or education program they need to attend. Families need stable work schedules so they can predict monthly incomes, particularly when working part-time, flexible hours.
Currently the bill does not require employers to provide workers with schedules. Without knowing their work schedule, workers are unable to refuse shifts or get cancellation pay. Uncertainty in scheduling leaves many parents and caregivers scrambling to find other work on short notice to cover their monthly expenses. Amending the bill to provide two weeks' notice of shifts, the ability to refuse a shift if given less than four days notice and protection if shifts get cancelled would greatly help families in Ontario.
Many low-income families also work in part-time or temporary jobs, specifically families who are immigrants, racialized or are led by women. The current wording in the bill creates loopholes that will result in the reduction of workers' ability to access equal pay protections. This is due to an amendment that would allow pay differences and seniority to be based on the number of hours worked. The province must amend the bill to ensure all workers are paid equally for equal work as this is key to lifting the most marginalized families and children in the province out of poverty.
With many Ontario families engaged in precarious low-wage employment, the importance of passing and amending Bill 148 cannot be overstated. Coupled with the reality of income inequality in Ontario, the issue becomes even more pressing. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) Ontario's report, "Losing Ground," states that the bottom 50 per cent of families in Ontario take home just 19 per cent of the province's earnings, compared to the top half of earners who take home 81 per cent.
Even more worrisome is that between 2000-2002 and 2013-2015, the real average incomes of the bottom half of Ontario families declined, including a shocking 42 per cent decline in earnings for families with the lowest incomes. With a widening income gap between families in Ontario and with 18.8 per cent of children under 18 and 20.4 per cent of children under six living in poverty in the province, there is no better time to close the gap than right now with comprehensive changes to the ESA and LRA.
Increasing the minimum wage to $15/hour and updating the ESA and LRA are critical for low-income families. Bill 148 must be amended and passed to ensure that families across Ontario are not tricked with a bill that promises change but leaves them caught in a web of loopholes. With fair workplaces and better jobs, all workers and their families can share in the wealth of Ontario's economy. Families in Ontario can't afford to be tricked any longer.
By Michal Rozworski
Minimum-wage whack-a-mole is the best way to describe what I’ve been up to the past couple months. It seems like every week or so in August and September, the business lobby in Ontario was serving up a plate of inaccurate yet headline-grabbing predictions for consumption in the public debate.
Going against the grain of the best academic research and recent experience elsewhere, these reports have attempted to scare Ontarians into thinking that the costs of raising the minimum wage outweigh the benefits. As 53 Canadian economists, including myself, outlined in an open letter published earlier in the summer, new research is clear: raising the minimum wage is good for workers and the economy.
Here’s a quick list of pieces I’ve written over the past months countering the inflated, sometimes heavily so, predictions of minimum wage opponents.
- Responding to CANCEA, which wrote a report commissioned by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and has made the wildest claims:
- Responding to TD Bank, which claimed that 90,000 jobs would be lost: Don’t bank on TD’s $15 minimum wage impact forecast
- Responding to the Fraser Institute, which has concentrated on falsely calling the raise to $15 per hour in Ontario unprecedented: Fraser Institute cries wolf over Ontario’s $15 minimum wage (with Sheila Block)
- And finally, responding to the FAO, whose report while still basing claims of disemployment on older research, in fact concluded that the benefits far outweigh the costs: The headline you didn’t see, $15 per hour will have a big net benefit
Finally, today is likely my last crack at the whack-a-mole hammer. I am lucky to have the opportunity to present before the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs at its hearings preceding the third reading of Bill 148. If implemented the Bill will raise the minimum wage in Ontario to $15 an hour and make other improvement to minimum employment standards. Here are my remarks.
Thank you, members of the Committee for the opportunity to speak before you today on this important matter. In my five minutes, I will focus on the economic evidence in favour of raising the minimum wage.
I am here alone today but I am also one of 53 economists who signed an open letter earlier this year in support of the government’s plans to raise the minimum wage. And we in turn are joined by many others, including 600 of our colleagues in the United States, 7 Nobel Prize winners among them, who signed a letter urging their federal government to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, in percentage terms an even larger increase than that currently considered in Ontario.
Historically, the argument against raising the minimum wage had been that it leads to disemployment, that is reductions in hours or jobs among low-wage workers. This view has undergone a tectonic shift since the publication of Alan Kreuger and David Card’s landmark study Myth and Measurement two decades ago. We have more realistic models of the labour market that acknowledge the existence of market frictions and imperfect information. We also have more advanced statistical methods, better able to isolate the impacts of changes in the minimum wage from all the other things happening in the economy at the same time (for example recessions, migration or shifts in industrial structure that can also affect employment).
The empirical evidence from modern studies is clear: normal increases in the minimum wage have negligible to statically insignificant impacts on employment. I’ve included a graph on page 6 of my submission showing this result visually; it comes from a meta-analysis that compiled over 1000 estimates from over 50 studies of the relationship between changes in the minimum wage and employment. Note the concentration of results (especially the more precise ones higher on the y-axis) around zero effect.
What mechanisms could be behind this new, clear evidence? Economists have identified a number of factors, which working in concert explain why we should expect this result. The list would include,
- a shift from a low-wage, high-turnover labour market to a higher-wage, lower-turnover labour market with more stable jobs and thus lower costs to employers;
- some redistribution between wages and profits, not unwelcome after several decades of a consistent downward trend in the labour share of GDP;
- more productive workers, which can result from higher-paid workers putting in greater effort (economists call this efficiency wage theory);
- modest increases in prices at an economy-wide level, outweighed by increases in pay for a large portion of the wage distribution;
- compensating effects on demand from the higher propensity to consume of low-wage, low-income workers; and finally
- a more compressed wage distribution, that is a reduction in inequality.
Many of these mechanisms are beneficial on their own. More productive workers, more long-term employment and greater equality are welcome results. Most importantly, without significant costs in employment, the biggest benefit of this policy is clear: we can expect significant increases in pay for the lowest-paid workers in Ontario. Indeed, over a million workers will see higher incomes directly from this policy, 80% of them not the teenagers of past stereotypes. We should also not be surprised to see a reduction in poverty from raising the minimum wage, another finding of recent economic research.
As I’m sure you are aware, there have been a number of heavily publicized analyses that have made dire predictions, centered on disemployment impacts. These analyses focus on potential economic costs from raising the minimum wage and do so based on evidence from older studies and older theoretical frameworks. It is important to remember that none of these analyses present new evidence; they merely extrapolate results from a selective reading of outdated literature to the Ontario labour force. They, in effect, assume what they seek to prove.
Those making the wildest predictions, like CANCEA, were met with almost unanimous skepticism and criticism by Canadian economists. And even the authors of some of these analyses admit that they expect net employment in Ontario to continue growing after the introduction of a $15 minimum wage.
Opponents of raising the minimum wage are swimming against the tide of economic evidence that shows increases in the minimum wage to be beneficial for workers and the economy. It is a boost sorely needed in Ontario today.
By Sara Mojtehedzadeh
Recent revision to proposed labour legislation undermines intent of equal pay provisions and “preserves systemic inequalities,” advocates say.
Equal pay provisions meant to prevent discrimination against temp agency, casual, and part-time workers have been quietly watered down — raising doubts that proposed legislation will “succeed in meeting its purpose,” workers’ rights advocates say.
In a joint submission being made to the provincial government this week, a coalition of groups including Parkdale Community Legal Services argues that a recent revision to proposed labour legislation “directly undermines the intent of the equal pay provisions” and “preserves systemic inequalities between those in standard employment and those in precarious employment.”
The proposed “Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act” was first unveiled in June and is expected to become law this year. It aims to ensure employers can no longer pay temporary, casual, and part-time workers less for doing the same job as permanent ones. The provincial government has touted the measure as a key way to promote the creation of stable jobs rather than precarious ones.
But after the first round of committee hearings over the summer, an amendment was introduced that would allow employers to maintain pay differentials between temp and permanent employees through hours-based seniority. While other areas of the Employment Standards Act rely on start date to determine seniority, the new amendment would also allow seniority to be based on the number of hours worked.
“It was determined during the first reading consultations that there is ambiguity on how to correctly interpret seniority provisions within the Employment Standards Act,” said Michael Speers, spokesperson for the Minister of Labour.
“Bill 148 makes it clear that a seniority system includes a differentiation of pay based on the accumulated number of hours worked. This is consistent with the general interpretation of seniority, and does not change how the law is currently applied.”
But the amendment will make it “almost impossible” for precarious workers to be able to ever access their right to equal pay, according to Mary Gellatly of Parkdale Community Legal Services, because by definition, temp, casual, and part-timers are unlikely to ever work as many hours as a full-time employee.
“All employers have to do is set up a system of seniority based on hours of work to avoid complying with the equal pay provisions,” Gellatly said.
In committee hearings this summer, some employer groups expressed concern over the original wording on equal pay measures.
Karl Littler of the Retail Council of Canada told MPs that while his organization was supportive of some of the proposed updates to workplace laws, equal pay provisions “could conceivably be intrusive,” according to transcripts from the hearings.
“We want to make sure that there is still reasonable room for employers to recognize seniority, to recognize merit and to recognize volume of production,” he said.
Kim Patel, Employment Services director at St. Stephen’s Community House, said the amendments subsequently introduced effectively mean temp, casual and part-time workers are “never going to make it.”
“It’s very demoralizing for folks,” said Patel, who is part of a coalition of employment service providers now calling on the government to strengthen Bill 148’s provisions on fair scheduling, paid sick days, and access to full-time, stable jobs.
In its current form, Bill 148 also does not make both employers and temp agencies liable when a temporary worker gets injured — a key financial incentive for companies to hire temps.
“Bill 148 should work to limit the use of temporary agencies to exceptional circumstances rather than support the growth of this business practice that creates such precarious work and vulnerability of workers,” the submission from Parkdale Community Legal Services says.
A second round of committee hearings started this week. On Monday, Canadian Union of Public Employees president Fred Hahn said Bill 148’s equal pay provisions needed to be strengthened “to protect the most marginalized workers.”
Currently, the bill would prevent employers from paying temp workers less for doing “substantially the same” work as permanent ones — borrowing from existing language that prohibits pay discrimination on the basis of sex.
Gellatly said the language has not proved robust enough, adding that only 100 gender-based equal pay claims were made to the Ministry of Labour between 2008 and 2015 — and of those, only 22 were successful.
Gellatly said Bill 148 should be changed to make equal pay measures broader, mandating that temps doing “substantially similar” work be paid the same as their permanent counterparts, to prevent job descriptions being fudged to maintain discriminatory wage rates.
“Equal pay for equal work takes away the economic incentive for employers to use precarious forms of work,” she said. “But amendments are needed to ensure that people can actually access equal pay.”
By Bhavkirat Gill
Women, people of colour and immigrants are more likely to work in part-time, temporary, seasonal, and contract jobs. Employers are allowed to pay these workers less than their full-time counterparts even if they are doing the exact same work.
This would help explain why precarious work is growing so rapidly and why vulnerable groups continue to fall behind.
In 2016, over 150,000 jobs added in Canada were temporary while just 60, 400 were full-time. In the GTA, less than half of workers have a permanent, full-time job with benefits.
How are people expected to survive on temporary jobs making subpar wages?
Currently, Bill 148 has the potential to start addressing this issue through its “equal pay for equal work” provision. But this provision falls short of creating real change for workers because of its weak language.
We commend the Liberals for this step but Bill 148 means nothing if workers can’t actually use the laws.
For the millions of workers who need this Bill, we hope the Liberals actually want to help and fix the wording before Third Reading.
By Laurie Monsebraaten
The income gap for these groups barely budged between 2006 and 2016, narrowing by just two percentage points for Indigenous Canadians and recent immigrants and widening by one percentage point for visible minorities.
As the face of Canada grows more diverse, the income gap between residents who identify as visible minorities, Indigenous or recent immigrants and the rest of Canadians remains a yawning chasm, data from the 2016 Census shows.
The income gap for these groups barely budged between 2006 and 2016, narrowing by just two percentage points for Indigenous Canadians and recent immigrants and widening by one percentage point for visible minorities, according to census data released Wednesday.
Total income was 26 per cent lower for visible minorities than non-visible minorities and 25 per cent lower for Indigenous Canadians than non-Indigenous Canadians.
But recent immigrants — many of whom are also visible minorities — face the toughest economic challenge with total incomes that fall 37 per cent below total incomes for Canadians born here, the data shows.
It means for every dollar in the pocket of someone born in Canada, a recent immigrant has just 63 cents.
More than 22 per cent of Canadians — including 51.5 per cent of Torontonians — reported being from a visible minority community in 2016, up from 16.3 per cent nationally in 2006.
In Toronto, more than 55 per cent of visible minority residents were living on less than $30,000 in 2016 compared to fewer than 40 per cent of the rest of the city’s population, according to census data provided to the Star.
While almost 14 per cent of non-visible minorities in Toronto reported total incomes of $100,000 or more, just 4 per cent of people from visible minority communities had access to that amount of cash in 2016.
“The latest census data simply confirms the reality that racialized people, recent immigrants, and Indigenous people continue to face discrimination and that income inequality doesn’t just magically reverse itself,” said Sheila Block senior economist for the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
“That takes political leadership,” added Block who crunched the national income gap from the latest census data on immigration, ethnocultural diversity and aboriginal peoples.
“As these populations increase and continue to lag behind, it becomes a bigger issue for everybody,” she said.
“We know this kind of inequality doesn’t only have a negative impact on the population that’s affected, but it has a negative impact on us overall as a society.”
Increases to income support programs such as social assistance, employment insurance and pensions are part of the solution, she said. But labour reform, including more access to unionization and a higher minimum wage are also key.
Nadira Begum, who has a master’s degree in social work from her native Bangladesh, juggles three part-time jobs and numerous volunteer positions in the non-profit sector but still hasn’t been able to land full-time work.
“I have been looking for a full-time job in my field for more than 10 years,” said the Regent Park mother of three. “I have the skills, the experience and the knowledge, but if they don’t hire me, how can I show them? It is a common story in our community.”
Begum’s part-time jobs have often involved substantially similar work as full-time employees, and yet she has been paid a lower wage. Friends with part-time jobs as grocery store clerks who were hired the same time as full-time clerks are paid less and enjoy fewer benefits, Begum added.
“We are not equally paid, even though we do the same work,” she said. “And we can’t complain because we can’t afford to lose our jobs.”
Deena Ladd of the Workers’ Action Centre says Ontario’s planned $15 minimum wage by 2019 will be a huge boost for visible minorities, recent immigrants and Indigenous workers, who are more likely than the rest of Canadians to be toiling for minimum wage.
But changes to the province’s proposed Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act are needed to ensure these workers, who like Begum are often stuck in temporary, part-time and contract positions, are paid the same as permanent and full-time staff, Ladd said.
Wording in the proposed minimum-wage legislation currently mandates equal pay for equal work if the job is “substantially the same,” Ladd said. But that allows employers to change one aspect of the job and still be allowed to pay temp, contract and part-time workers less.
Instead, the proposed legislation should be reworded to say these workers are entitled to equal pay if the job is “substantially similar” to work performed by a full-time employee, she said.
Another problem with the proposed law is the definition of seniority. Unlike all other provisions of the Employment Standards Act which measure seniority by the date an employee was hired, the equal pay amendments include a definition of seniority as “hours worked.” If this is not changed, workers from economically disadvantaged groups who are more likely to work part-time, will never achieve equal pay for equal work, Ladd said.
“The new legislation has the potential to address the kinds of inequities highlighted by the census,” she said. “But if we don’t strengthen the language so workers can use the equal-pay protections in their workplaces in a strong way, then it will be just words on paper.”
The legislation, which just passed second reading, is expected to become law later this year.
Ryerson University professor Myer Siemiatycki, who teaches immigration and settlement studies, says the census findings are a wake-up call and a reminder of why the census is important.
“These are worrying statistics,” he said. “They reflect the adverse living conditions of huge numbers of Canadians who fall into these three categories of population . . . It’s an alarm bell and we need to respond.”