City News: Temporary worker’s death prompts concerns about Ford government labour bill
The death of a temporary worker last week at a loading dock in North York has some opposition MPPs questioning the Ford government’s commitment to workplace safety.
The Ministry of Labour is investigating the death of the worker — a man in his 40s — who was pinned between a truck and loading dock near Keele Street and Steeles Avenue on Thursday night.
He was working for Upper Crust, a company affiliated with Toronto-based commercial bakery Fiera Foods, which has been investigated for three previous workplace deaths.
At Queen’s Park on Monday, Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser accused Premier Doug Ford of putting workers’ lives in jeopardy by repealing most of the previous Liberal government’s Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act (Bill 148) through the introduction of Bill 47, which decreases fines for companies that break labour laws.
Proactive workplace inspections by the Ministry of Labour have also been scaled back by the Ford government.
For Fraser it adds up to more protections for companies, and less for their employees.
“When somebody goes to work, their family expect them to come home,” Fraser said. “The protections that were put forward in Bill 148 … are key to promoting worker safety, and key to keeping people alive while they’re at work. The government is going backwards …they are not making Ontario’s workplaces safer.
“It’s not every workplace that needs a proactive inspection, but there are certainly some that do,” he added. “So the government shouldn’t be rolling these back, they should be fulfilling these commitments that were made in legislation to ensure that workers are safe.”
Bill 47 would also repeal equal pay for equal work protections for temporary workers. Labour advocates say the legislation leaves employees, especially temporary workers, vulnerable.
“Part of us fighting to try and improve basic protections was Bill 148…now what we are seeing (is) the Ford government introduce Bill 47 to take away all those protections,” said Deena Ladd, executive director of Workers Action Centre.
“Another shocking part of Bill 47 is the government is reducing penalties for companies that break the law and freezing the amount of employment standard officers to do those proactive inspections.
“I think that is going to send a huge message to companies who are routine violators … that it doesn’t really matter if you break the law, the penalties won’t be that much. I just find that absolutely shocking.”
Fiera Foods linked to other workplace deaths
NDP MPP for Spadina-Fort York, Chris Glover, believes the recent workplace death, the fourth linked to Fiera Foods, is a red flag that can’t be ignored.
“Obviously, with what happened — the fourth death at that company — there is a strong indication that we need stronger worker protections at that company,” he said. “We need more inspectors to go in and make sure that that workplace is safe, that this isn’t going to happen again.”
Fiera Foods was fined $300,000 in September 2017 after the death of a temporary worker whose hijab became entangled in a conveyor belt.
In 2011, a 69-year-old man was struck by a car and later dragged by a tractor-trailer in the parking lot of another Fiera affiliated company.
And back in 2002, Fiera was fined $150,000 following in the death of a 17-year-old temporary worker who was crushed while cleaning machinery.
Upper Crust’s President Carmela Serebryany released a statement to CityNews stating they will continue to cooperate with the police, the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Labour as they investigate.
“Last week, the Upper Crust bakery family tragically lost one of our team members in an accident at the outdoor loading dock area of our property in North York. We are deeply and profoundly saddened by this sudden loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim’s family and loved ones. We will continue to work in full cooperation with police, the Ministry of Transportation, and the Ministry of Labour as they investigate the issue and speak with all relevant parties. Upper Crust bakery supports measures to ensure a safe workplace and fairness for workers. While we hope to add our voice to a constructive debate about ways to make workplaces safer in due course, we are at present observing respect for the deceased.”
Glover puts some of the onus on the government to assure workplaces are safe for all employees.
“Right now, there’s a family who is absolutely devastated, who has lost a loved one, and they are going through that grieving process and it’s the fourth time it has happened at that company,” he added. “So the government really needs to step up, get their inspectors in there, find out what’s happening, and make sure something like this never happens again.”
Minister of Labour Laurie Scott said the latest death was being investigated, and acknowledged Fiera Food’s history, but said she couldn’t comment beyond that.
“I know there’s the history there (with Fiera Foods), but the Ministry of Labour is investigating and I can’t comment on investigations.”
Bay Today: Opinion - MPP should 'do what’s right and vote against Doug Ford’s irrational and mean-spirited plan'
Low paid work might be good for the bottom line, but it doesn’t let families invest in the lives of their children and in the economy of our communities
Dear MPP Fedeli
You have an important choice to make. As educators living and working in the Nipissing region, we think it’s wrong that you support Doug Ford’s plan to ignore the immediate needs of precarious workers. We believe that all earners in Nipissing need decent wages and fair working conditions to lead good lives. MPP Fedeli, we urge you to do what’s right and vote against Doug Ford’s irrational and mean-spirited plan.
As educators, we know the importance of decent jobs, especially for the parents of children and our youngest workers, high school and post-secondary students. We see the benefits of a $15 minimum wage, two paid sick days, and equal pay for equal work, not just as good economics, but as important social determinants of health and well-being. Doug Ford’s rollback of our labour laws is harmful to our community. If not you, MPP Fedeli, then who will stand up for workers in our communities?
We have a front row seat to the impact of low wages. Low paid work might be good for the bottom line, but it doesn’t let families invest in the lives of their children and in the economy of our communities. Faced with last-minute scheduling parents can’t commit to coach soccer teams or be a steadying presence in school advisory committees, for example. Our families need to be the priorities in the lives of working people, not the increasing demands of more hours, multiple jobs, and less money.
What will happen when Doug Ford decides to eliminate the tuition grant program, MPP Fedeli? How will people afford to lift themselves out of poverty and become productive, taxpaying members of our society? More crippling and tsunami-like loans are not the answer. Higher incomes help people make their lives better.
MPP Fedeli, we don’t want our young adults to leave Nipissing. With fewer decent jobs as the reality, available employment needs to allow families the ability to pay the bills. Since the $14 minimum wage came in, Ontario’s full-time jobs have increased and unemployment rates have fallen to record lows. For the first time in a long time more families have more money to help them find ways to lead lasting and meaningful lives in the North. We urge you to vote against Bill 47.
Nipissing Educators for $15
Nipissing University Faculty Association
Read the Bay today full story
The Varsity: Provincial government to repeal Bill 148, targeting minimum wage, workplace legislation
By Ann Marie Elpa
U of T under fire for membership in anti-Bill 148 lobby group
Premier Doug Ford’s government introduced legislation on October 23 to repeal parts of Bill 148 — the law that raised Ontario’s minimum wage from $11.25 to $14 an hour and strengthened workplace laws related to paid sick leave, equal pay for equal work, and other workers’ rights.
The University of Toronto has come under fire from local labour unions for its membership in the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), an independent, non-partisan business lobby group that has been a vocal supporter of repealing the bill. As a corporate member, U of T does not have voting rights but it can still influence the policy agenda.
Bill 148, titled the “Fairer Workplaces, Better Jobs Act 2017,” was introduced by the previous Liberal government in November 2017. The bill was set to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour in January 2019, but Ford’s government has capped minimum wage at the current $14 an hour.
The OCC has taken a strong stance against the bill. The group cites claims of unintended price inflation on goods and services, as well as cutbacks on staffing and benefits by small businesses, among its grievances.
“In the months following its introduction, the Fair Jobs, Better Workplaces Act has had a visible impact on the Consumer Price Index, resulting in price increases for everyday consumer goods and services for every family in Ontario,” read an OCC press release from October 23.
Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the OCC, said in a statement that “as Ontario’s business advocate, our position has always been clear: Bill 148 was too much, too fast. The compounding labour reforms and unintended consequences came at too high a cost to Ontario’s economy.”
Labour unions respond
The Ford government’s plans to repeal parts of Bill 148 have been met with strong pushback. On October 23, Ontario Labour Minister Laurie Scott’s office was broken into and vandalized, and the words “Attack Workers We Fight Back $15” were spraypainted on the walls outside her office.
Labour unions have been especially vocal in their opposition to the seemingly imminent repeal of Bill 148. Emergency rallies were held across Ontario over the past week in response to Ford’s plans.
One rally was held in downtown Toronto on October 24 in front of the offices of the Ministry of Labour. Local labour groups, including the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and UFCW Local 175 and 633 were out in force. Groups held signs with messages of “$15 and fairness,” and cheers included “Hey Ford — Stop your hypocrisy! Fairness means democracy!”
The Varsity spoke to two U of T labour unions, CUPE 3261 and CUPE 3902, regarding the university’s position on the repeal of Bill 148. CUPE 3261 represents service workers, and CUPE 3902 represents sessional lecturers and teaching assistants.
“We are so very glad we were able to negotiate $15 an hour rate effective October 1, 2017 with the University of Toronto,” wrote Allan James, President of CUPE 3261, in an email. “We need a living wage, but $15 was a start. We don’t understand how anyone can afford to work in Toronto at this rate of pay.”
“It looks like [Ford] is listening to the Chamber of Commerce instead of trying to protect working people in Ontario,” James continued. “University of Toronto is a member of the Chamber of Commerce and should be advocating for equal pay for equal work.”
Members of CUPE 3902 also criticized the university’s membership in the OCC.
“As a [member] of the Chamber of Commerce, The University of Toronto is partially responsible for the lobbying of Big Business which led to this repeal,” read an email statement from Jess Taylor, Chair of CUPE 3902.
“As a leader in research, The University of Toronto should know gains for workers improve the economy, the city, and its culture. As an employer, The University of Toronto should protect its workers and should treat the people who are educating students with respect and dignity.”
“This is a grave disappointment,” Taylor said.
The university’s next steps
U of T increased its minimum wage to $15 in January to coincide with the anticipated raise mandated by Bill 148.
“Earlier this year, the University took a leadership role on this issue and increased the minimum rate of pay for most non-union casual employees to $15 an hour,” said Elizabeth Church, a U of T spokesperson. “The $15-an-hour wage is consistent with the rates of our unionized casual staff.”
The university has no plans to cap its minimum rate of pay.
The St. Catharines Standard: Protesters oppose minimum wage rollback
By Allan Benner
Dozens picket outside economic summit during Ford speech
As business and political leaders celebrated the repeal of the former Liberal government's Fair Workplaces Better Jobs Act during the final day of the Ontario Economic Summit on Friday, dozens of Niagara residents gathered to protest the impact the slashed legislation is having on workers.
Carrying Fight for $15 and Fairness picket signs and flags identifying several labour groups, the protesters chanted slogans like "workers united will never be defeated" as the Ontario Chamber of Commerce event drew to a close at the White Oaks conference centre in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Kyle Hoskin, a member of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1287, said he hastily organized the protest to coincide with a visit from Premier Doug Ford, after the Progressive Conservative government repealed the legislation earlier this week — scrapping the $15 an hour minimum wage that was to come into effect on Jan. 1, while also eliminating other benefits for workers.
Hoskin said the repeal of Bill 148 is the most recent in a series of cuts that have hurt the most vulnerable in the province.
"He (Ford) took away the minimum income project. This was a project that was proving to be turning the tide in the province. It was reducing poverty, getting people to where they truly needed to be. He took away $100 million in school funding for school repairs. Now our kids are sitting in schools that are no longer in shape," he said. "Is that for the people? Who are they representing?"
Niagara Workers Activist Group chair Lisa Britton listed numerous changes that will adversely impact workers, in addition to the lost wage increase — such as the loss of a minimum of three hours of pay for being on-call, the elimination of 10 emergency leave days, and the loss of a provision that prevented employers from requiring a medical note from sick workers.
Unifor Local 199 president Greg Brady said the cuts "just kicks the low income and middle-class right in the teeth."
"It's terrible," he added.
Kit Andres joined the protesters, speaking for the migrant workers that spend most of the year in Canada, primarily working in local agriculture industry.
Many of them, she said, are paid piecework for their efforts, often resulting in paychecks that fall short of even $14 an hour.
"As part of their contract, piecework is supposed to equal minimum wage if not higher, but we've been seeing that often it's lower. It's not across the board, but it is happening," Andres said.
Niagara Centre MPP Jeff Burch, who joined the protest along with MPP Wayne Gates from Niagara Falls, said "people who can barely make ends meet were counting on a little bit of fairness in their wages and a couple of emergency leave days."
"This government, in addition to all the other things they've done like cancelling mental health spending and cancelling the basic income pilot project, to add insult to injury now they've decided to not go ahead with a very basic minimum wage increase," the NDP representative said.
Gates said if you want to say you're open for business, "you have to include everybody."
"You have to include workers, you have to include the families, you have to include the communities. That's not what's happening today."
He said when 20 per cent of Ontario's children "are going to be hungry tonight," the best way to help them is to ensure their parents are paid enough money to sustain them.
Meanwhile, Gates said the loss of two paid sick days can be "a health and safety issue."
"Do you want your cook or your server to be forced to come to work because they can't afford to take a day off?" he asked.
NDP Official Opposition leader Andrea Horwath discussed her concerns about the repeal of Bill 148 while addressing business leaders from across the province, at the Ontario Economic Summit, Thursday.
Although the NDP's support for the legislation may have put her political party at odds with business leaders, Horwath said the changes were needed to address years of inaction by previous governments.
And told reporters that she suspects "there will be a lot of dialogue in communities around the province about how to try to convince the Ford government that they've gone too far with the wholesale repeal of Bill 148."
Referring to smashed windows at Labour Minister Laurie Scott's constituency office in Lindsay, Horwath urged people to refrain from that kind of activity.
"There's no doubt, and it's understandable, that people are feeling hurt by this. The people are angry, frustrated and worried, but that does not mean that resorting to violence, resorting to breaking the law is something we condone," she said. "There's no cause for that kind of activity."
The Niagara Poverty Reduction Network issued a statement earlier this week in response to the provincial government decision, saying a recent study showed that nearly half of Niagara's workers face employment precarity and uncertainty.
"Precarious employment is on the rise in Ontario, and a recent study done in Niagara showed that nearly 1 in 2 workers faces employment precarity and uncertainty," said the organization's chair Glen Walker.
"The loss of key elements, including two paid sick days and equal pay for equal work, means that workers will continue to struggle to make ends meet and to maintain their health. As well, keeping minimum wage at $14/hour until 2020 means that workers will not be able to keep up with inflation and meet their cost of living needs."
The organization has advocated for a living wage to be provided by Niagara employers, calculated at $17.57 per hour in the region.
Global News: Dozens of protesters rally in Kingston against PC government’s changes to bill 148
By Frazer Snowdon
Nearly fifty people gathered in front of a Tim Horton's Thursday, speaking out against sweeping changes to bill 148. This includes freezing minimum wage and scrapping a number of provisions meant to help workers.
Nearly 50 people gathered at a Tim Horton’s in Kingston to speak out against the Ford government’s announcement of sweeping changes to the labour reform bill.
The protest was one of many happening across the province.
In Kingston, representatives from a number of labour unions showed up in support of those affected by the proposed changes.
On Tuesday, the Ford government announced an action to repeal several measures in the Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs Act, including freezing the minimum wage at $14 an hour. It had been slated to increase to $15 an hour by 2019.
“We need to keep changing minds until common sense says $15 an hour needs to happen now, not later,” says Lesley Jamieson of Kingston and District Labour Council.
On Tuesday, the Ford government introduced a new bill with a slew of changes that will scrap labour reforms put into place by former premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government.
The new bill will see the bulk of the Liberals’ changes scrapped. Since the implementation of Bill 148, Jamieson says workers were seeing improvement in employment conditions.
“They are seeing personal emergency days for the first time,” Jamieson says. “There is a sense that their work is appreciated and valued in the workplace.”
But with the repeal, several reforms will be changed — like two paid sick days — and freezing the minimum wage at $14 an hour until 2020.
The legislation brought in by the Liberals also required employees to be paid for three hours if their shift is cancelled within 48 hours of its start, and giving them 10 emergency leave days per year, two of them paid. Jamieson says repealing the bill and replacing it with one that takes away everything gained to make workplaces better is a step backward.
“We’re going to see less money staying in Kingston, more money leaving and going into the pockets of those who don’t need it.”
Kingston resident Doug Nesbitt helped start the “Fight for 15 and Fairness” campaign in the region. Nesbitt has worked in a variety of minimum wage jobs throughout his life and says the decision to repeal is not for the people.
“I think it’s kind of a cruel decision by the government to do this,” Nesbitt says. “I think they are listening to the business lobbying.”
Ryerson Today: What the minimum wage freeze means
By Will Sloan
What happens when you’ve planned an event, and then the premise of the event falls apart the night before?
Consider the 8th Ryerson Social Justice Week, where a panel called “We Need a Raise!: The Fight for $15 and Fairness in Today’s Political Climate” was scheduled for October 24. The discussion would have focused on the long campaign waged by grassroots activists that would have raised the Ontario minimum wage to $15 in 2019, while also anticipating how gains could be defended against a potentially hostile new government.
But on October 23, the Ontario provincial government introduced the Making Ontario Open for Business Act. The bill, which passed first reading, will freeze or rollback many parts of the Liberals’ Bill 148, which passed in 2017 and began to take effect this year.
The panel was originally to have featured veteran labour organizers Deena Ladd and Pam Franche. Both were now busy at emergency meetings. In their place was Jared Ong, an organizer with the $15 and Fairness campaign, who did his best to lay out what the new legislation means.
“I’m an older millennial, and none of my friends work full-time, permanent, unionized work,” said Ong. “A lot of them are scrounging by on part-time work. A lot of them are pursuing their dreams, and they have to do part-time and contract work to pay the bills. … Disproportionately immigrants, racialized communities, people with disabilities, and First Nations communities work low-wage or minimum-wage jobs with no job security and without protections.”
Why $15? Ong noted, “We spoke to a lot of workers across Ontario. It’s a number that inspired a lot of people to work for, but it’s not a pie-in-the-sky number.”
So, what have the labour activists won and kept? January 1, 2018, the adult general minimum wage increased from $11.60 to $14. The new Ontario government has announced a freeze at $14 until 2020, after which the minimum wage will increase at the rate of inflation (reaching $15 by about 2024)—so, not a rollback. Workers are guaranteed three weeks’ paid vacation after five years with the same employer, and are entitled to domestic violence leave. In addition, employers can no longer ask for a doctor’s note. Employers will also still be required to maintain gender equality in their payments.
On the other hand: where Bill 148 allowed workers up to 10 days of job-protected emergency leave, two of them paid, the new legislation allows eight unpaid days off—three for sickness, two for bereavement, three for family responsibilities.
Employees will no longer receive three hours pay when they are on-call but not called in to work. They won’t receive three hours pay if their shift is cancelled with less than two days’ notice. Employers will not be required to pay part-time staff the same rate as full-time staff doing the same work. Workers will no longer have the right to refuse a shift without penalty if scheduled under four days’ notice.
New protections against job misclassification have also been removed. If an employer misclassifies a worker as an independent contractor, Bill 148 would have placed the burden of proof on the employer to prove that the employee was correctly classified in the event of a legal challenge. In the new legislation, this is reversed. The new legislation also removes some protections for union organizing, including contract-flipping.
With the Making Ontario Open for Business Act, MP Jim Wilson has said that the government is simply ending the “job killing” parts of Bill 148. Labour minister Laurie Scott says the reforms “will simplify, harmonize and reduce the regulatory burden for anyone willing to create jobs in Ontario.” For their part, activists cite figures that six months after the minimum wage increase, Canada’s jobless rate dropped to an 18-year low, external link.
To the claim that a minimum wage hike would hurt small businesses, Ong countered, “A majority of small businesses actually pay above the minimum wage. … If you’re a small business, you’re relying on a few staff who you train over a period of time, and you want them to have a good relationship with you, dignity at work, and a good relationship with customers.”
Ong added, “If a business model requires their workers working poverty wages for a business to succeed, that business should adapt and change the business model.”
Bay Today: Local group protests province's minimum wage freeze
By Chris Dawson
'We are out here in emergency response to the tabled law that the Ford government put out Tuesday afternoon'
A group of concerned citizens was making noise along Lakeshore Drive during rush hour on Wednesday afternoon.
They were out along the overpass near Lakeshore and Judge with signs showing their anger over the provincial government's recent move to freeze the minimum wage at $14 an hour for the next two years and eliminate two paid sick days.
Jared Hunt from "Nipissing Decent Work" organized the Wednesday event.
“We are out here in emergency response to the tabled law that the Ford government put out Tuesday afternoon,” said Hunt.
“We are making some noise and if it is not Vic Fedeli who is going to represent the low wage workers in our community, you know that’s our MPP, our elected official, then who will,” Hunt questioned.
Hunt, who was joined by a group of union workers and concerned citizens for the protest, says this event is part of a series of events they will be holding to protest the minimum wage freeze, which comes only a few months before the federal government moves the minimum wage to $15.
“As we speak to more people they start to realize what they have and what is about to be taken away - steamrolled, completely steamrolled - without any consultation whatsoever. Then they are going to start to ask more questions,” said Hunt.
Hunt believes this rollback legislation takes away some of the most basic protections from workers.
“This is an attack on low-income workers, women, people of colour and newcomers who are disproportionately represented in precarious jobs,” said Hunt.
Meanwhile, Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli says the Ontario Government is acting to help create and protect jobs in Ontario by reducing the regulatory burden on Ontario businesses and workers.
“Businesses told us that the previous government created a regulatory burden that chased businesses and jobs out of Ontario and we can’t afford to ignore the problem any longer,” said Fedeli.
“This legislation is great for job creators and great for any person looking to find work in Ontario. By reducing the red-tape burden we are once again making Ontario one of the best places in the world to invest, and create jobs. And we believe that anybody who is prepared to work hard deserves a shot at a better job.”
The Making Ontario Open for Business Act will, if passed by Ontario’s Legislature, replace the previous minimum wage scheme with one that remains at $14 per hour until 2020, at which point it will rise with inflation.
The Act will also replace Personal Emergency Leave rules to allow workers to take up to three days for personal illness, two for bereavement and three for family responsibilities while maintaining leave provisions for victims of domestic or sexual violence.
Kitchener Today: Rally held to protest repeal of Bill 148
The Ford government announced earlier this week it will cap the minimum wage at $14 an hour until 2020
The Ford government is scrapping Bill 148, and a rally was held in Waterloo to voice opposition to the move.
Those who were in attendance on Wednesday afternoon say they aren't just worried about the province freezing the minimum wage.
One of those at the rally was Steve Dick, OPSEU Local 258 president, who says there are more reasons than the freeze to keep Bill 148.
"I think minimum wage is one of the smallest. I think the personal entitlement leave days is a huge thing for people ... people that need time off for family, for being sick, for childcare ... they now can't take it and if they do they are going to get penalized." Dick told 570 NEWS.
Jim Stewart with the Waterloo Region Health Coalition, who was also at the rally, says we can expect to see louder and more frequent rallies in the future.
KitchenerToday.com has also learned over 150 people from the area attended Wednesday's rally at Queen's Park in Toronto.
Ontario will cap the province's minimum wage at $14 an hour until 2020 as part of a rollback of labour reforms introduced by the previous Liberal government.
The Progressive Conservatives say businesses were hurt by the changes brought in by the previous regime.
Ontario's minimum wage increased from $11.60 to $14 an hour on January 1, and was set to rise to $15 an hour next year as a result of the Liberal law.
with files from Ben Eppel and The Canadian Press
The Silhouette: Mac fights back against expected minimum wage freeze
By Ryan Tse
Fight for $15 and Fairness has been voicing opposition to the provincial government’s plan to scrap Bill 148
On Oct. 23, the provincial government officially scrapped Bill 148, which had called for a rise in minimum wage to $15 in 2019, in addition to a number of protections for workers. Premier Doug Ford claims that Bill 148 was “too much, too fast” and a “job killer.”
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has opposed the labour reforms and further minimum wage hikes, arguing that the recently instituted higher minimum wage has hurt small businesses and the overall economy. However, the government did say that the minimum wage will stay at $14 an hour for 33 months.
Fight for $15 and Fairness, a prominent province-wide labour rights advocacy group, has strongly opposed this announcement. The organization’s McMaster chapter has been active in raising awareness about the current situation.
Fight for $15 and Fairness McMaster organizer Chloe Rockarts said that having a relatively high minimum wage has been beneficial both for students and for university workers such as food staff.
Rockarts also stressed that if the bill is scrapped, there will be more consequences beyond just affecting minimum wage workers, citing the “equal pay for equal work” principle and paid sick day provisions as examples.
“For those that are not necessarily in those workplaces where people are getting paid minimum wage do not see it directly affecting them, but what we would like to do is focus less on the ‘15’ aspect and more on the fairness,” said Rockarts.
McMaster labour studies professor Stephanie Ross echoed many of the same concerns, adding that the minimum wage increase has resulted in an improved economy.
“We see job growth in those provinces that increased their minimum wage,” said Ross. “The negative effects of repealing Bill 148 will be serious for Mac students, as people most likely to work in minimum wage jobs and who are struggling to make and save money for tuition and living expenses.”
To push back against the minimum wage freeze, Fight for 15 McMaster held a rally at Jackson Square as part of a province-wide “day of action” to support Bill 148 and the scheduled wage increase. The next day, they held a bake sale to promote discussion on the topic.
“We are just trying to raise awareness around all of these things right now,” said Rockarts. “Generally, a lot of the campaign work that we do is focused on outreach.”
Beyond outreach, they are planning on contacting local MPPs to urge them to support the bill.
The bill was planned to be fully implemented in 2019. In January 2019, certain scheduling protections for employees along with the minimum wage increase were scheduled to come into effect.
Despite the sealed fate of Bill 148, Rockarts is feeling optimistic about Fight for 15 McMaster’s campaign this year so far.
“This is our third year and we are only getting bigger and doing more,” said Rockarts, who notes that the group has seen increased engagement since the implementation of Bill 148 and the election of Doug Ford.
“Because it has been in the news so much, and because people are being directly affected at work, people are way more interested and way more willing to engage,” said Rockarts.
While the provincial government goes forward with their plan to cut Bill 148, it remains increasingly clear that they face immense opposition.
Waterloo Chronicle: Labour council, concerned citizens rally in protest of Ontario's repeal of Bill 148 at Waterloo Square
By Namish Modi
Following the Ontario government’s repeal of Bill 148 on Tuesday, Oct. 23, the Waterloo Regional Labour Council organized a quick rally to protest the dramatic changes to worker's rights.
And on a frigid Wednesday afternoon at Waterloo Town Square, members of the union along with concerned citizens gathered at Waterloo Square sending the message: “Hands off workers rights.”
Kelly Dick, who works at the Waterloo Regional Labour Council, organized the rally, which was one of many across Ontario on Wednesday as citizens fight for “$15 and fairness.”
“It’ a direct attack on working people in this province,” said Dick, passionately.
Dick, who also works at Loblaws, rallied the 35 to 40 supporters in attendance with a speech in front of the shops at Waterloo Town Square and was “elated” with the turnout.
“This affects every single person, in this community, in this province, everywhere, everywhere, everybody,” said Dick, following the rally. "I don’t care how much you make, I don’t care where you live, this affects every single person in this province, and everybody needs to get involved in this. We need to stop this from happening, it is absolutely an atrocity.”
Among the changes to the bill include freezing wages at $14, as opposed to the planned increase to $15, as well as other changes to the Liberal government’s Fair Workplaces and Betters Jobs Act.
Dick, who has a “very vested” interest in the bill, also is a part of the Ontario Federation of Labour, and the Canadian Labour Congress.
There will also be changes to the personal-leave rule for workplaces instituted by former premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals. The current rules, workers are allowed to take 10 days while two of them are paid. Under Doug Ford’s plan, workers would receive eight emergency days; two for bereavement, three for family responsibilities, and three for illness.
“(He’s) not only telling you now, as workers in Ontario, you can have eight days. But he’s dictated what you can use those days for,” said Dick. “Disgusting. Why should anyone be allowed to tell us what we’re using our personal emergency leave days for?”
“Doug’s campaign slogan was for the people, I’m not sure what people he’s for. I can tell you one thing, it’s not certainly the people standing here today, it’s certainly not your average Ontarian, it’s certainly not anybody whose not making a six or seven-figure income, it’s certainly is not somebody that does not own a company or a business. I don’t understand why one government thinks that it needs to rip and shred everything that another government did, it just didn’t make any sense to me. It’s a waste of money, it blows money, and not everything that the other government did was bad, honestly.”
Catherine Campbell, a mother of four in K-W specifically asked to be on record, was a passionate advocate against the PC government’s repeal.
“I kept saying to myself before I left my house, Doug Ford is evil, even though I already told it to myself, I just said he’s an evil, he’s an evil man, how dare he do this to all these people,” said Campbell, who is also belongs Fair Votes Canada, a nonprofit citizen movement for electoral reform.
Campbell says her daughter, who works in a restaurant, sees plenty of her co-workers come into work ill, and this will only increase due to Ford’s cutbacks.
A representative from Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife’s office was present at the rally while incoming Ward 5 Coun. Jen Vasic also attended.
Dick explained that if the petition in present at the rally gets 50 signed petition sheets, it will be taken to the local PC MPP's, who can read it out in the Ontario legislature.