By Sarah Mojtehedzadeh
Protesters rallied across the province Monday urging Premier Doug Ford not to scrap new worker protections after he pledged earlier this month to repeal the law giving Ontarians two paid sick days, equal pay for equal work and a minimum wage bump.
In Toronto, at least 200 protesters gathered outside the Ministry of Labour in support of a $15 minimum wage, currently scheduled to come into effect in January. Ford has pledged to freeze it at $14 and scrap the rest of Bill 148, which was enacted late last year to tackle the rise of precarious work.
“I have the same bills as most families and I’m struggling to pay them,” said Christine, who addressed Monday’s rally and is only being identified by her first name for fear of reprisal at one of her four minimum-wage employers.
“We’ve been prisoners in our homes because, aside from work, we can’t afford to go anywhere. Who lives like that?”
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has called for a “full repeal” of the new legislation, which it says has “created a number of compounding changes that created greater administrative and financial pressure on employers.”
At Queen’s Park Monday, Ford said the minimum wage hike from $11.60 to $14, which took place earlier this year, increased payroll costs by 22 per cent — and that a further bump to $15 in January would increase them by 32 per cent.
“I’m guessing already 60,000 people have already lost their jobs,” he said.
On a year-over-year basis, employment increased by 1.1 per cent, or 79,000 jobs, in Ontario in August, according to Statistics Canada.
In addition to increasing the province’s minimum wage, Bill 148 provided two paid, job-protected emergency leave days for all workers, increased holiday entitlement, mandated equal pay for casual and part-time workers doing the same job as full-time employees, enshrined, improved scheduling protections and boosted protections for temp agency workers.
The legislation represents the most sweeping change to the province’s labour laws in decades, and was implemented after two years of research and public consultation conducted by two independent labour experts. About one-third of Ontario’s workforce are vulnerable workers in low-wage, precarious employment, according to the final 400-page report written by the two experts about proposed labour reforms.
“It’s not realistic. We’re going to create good-paying jobs. We’re going to make sure that the part-time person gets treated very well,” Ford said in response to questions in the legislature from New Democrat MPP Sara Singh (Brampton Centre).
“But you have to keep in mind the person that’s been working there 15 years. You can’t treat a part-timer the same way.”
Monday’s rally was spearheaded by unions, worker advocates, and the Fight for $15 movement, which has successfully fought for a higher minimum wage and other protections for precarious workers in cities like San Francisco, Seattle and New York.
“We are not willing to turn the clock back to 40 years ago” said Deena Ladd of the Toronto-based Workers’ Action Centre. “This is not asking too much. These are basic rights.”
United Steelworkers Union International vice-president Carol Landry told the crowd outside the Ministry of Labour she could “not believe in 2018 these are the choices we are giving working families.”
“Our message is, Premier Ford, do the right thing.”
Gilleen Pearce, who owns a Toronto-based dog walking service, said she attended the rally because the “Chamber of Commerce does not speak for everyone.”
“The narrative about business has 100 per cent been hijacked by right-leaning, anti-worker voices,” said Pearce, who is also the spokesperson for the Better Way Alliance — a group of Ontario employers that supports Bill 148.
“I don’t want workers to feel all business owners are against them.”
At another action orchestrated by Toronto teachers, Roopa Cheema said she was worried about the potential impact on her students if the bill is scrapped.
“This minimum wage issue is an education issue because our students’ living conditions are their learning conditions,” she said, adding many of her high school students from low-income households are working to pay their families’ bills.
“They are coming to school hungry and exhausted and stressed and anxious,” she said. “These are not high school students saving to go to university. They’re working to keep the lights on.”
By Allan Benner
Workers Activist Group protests threat of Bill 148 repeal
After years of fighting for a $15 minimum wage, members of Niagara Workers Activist Group are now fighting to keep the promised wage hike.
Nearly two years after Ontario's former Liberal government approved Bill 148 increasing the minimum wage to $15 on Jan. 1, 2019, members of the grassroots organization formed that was in 2015 to lobby for a fair wage for workers are resuming their "moral battle."
About two dozen Niagara Workers Activist Group members and labour organization representatives gathered in front of the Ministry of Transportation building on St. Paul Street Monday in one of more than 40 protests that took place across Ontario responding to plans announced earlier this month by Premier Doug Ford to repeal the $15 minimum wage, as well as other benefits such as 10 days of emergency leave, equal pay for part time and contract workers, and leaves of absence for victims of domestic violence.
NWAG co-chair Lisa Britton, who organized the local protest, said numerous people working in Niagara's low-paying service industry jobs will be hard hit if the province follows through with its plans.
She said the PC government "needs to understand that we need the $15 minimum wage — we need Bill 148."
Although cool, rainy weather and "short notice" about the protest was blamed for modest participation, NWAG member Salaeh Waziruddin said there is substantial support for the minimum wage increase.
"Everybody knows somebody who is trying to make it work, trying to make ends meet with minimum wage and it's not working," he said. "When we canvass, we are seeing a lot of support."
Waziruddin said rolling back Bill 148 will be terrible for workers.
"We can't let them do that. We have to organize," he told protesters. "We need to show them that if they take away our minimum wage, we're going to show our maximum rage."
NWAG member Julia Lucas said the provincial government is "threatening to do everything they can to make life harder for the working people."
"A third of the workers in this province are earning minimum wage, so there's a lot at stake. It's important for all of them to be able to pay for all the things that we take for granted," Lucas said. "This is a moral battle."
Kyle Hoskin from Candaian Union of Public Employees Local 1287, representing workers at Emterra Environmental, said there's more at stake than just the $15 minimum wage.
"This is going to impact every single person in this province," he said. "I think it's important that we protect this bill in its entirety with all of its provisions."
Although public-sector union representatives participated in the protest, Bruce Allen from Unifor Local 199 pointed out that most minimum wage earners work in the private sector.
"Right now I'm going to call on the private sector unions who aren't here — with the exception of me — and say, 'You guys have to step up,'" he said. "The private sector workforce has got to get behind this struggle."
Britton said the group has plans for additional protests, if needed.
She also invited people to get involved by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Vincent Ball
A handful of people gathered Monday at Brantford-Brant MPP Will Bouma’s constituency office to urge the provincial government to back off plans to repeal labour laws.
The Brantford action was among about 50 expected to take part in communities across Ontario in defence of new workers’ rights brought in by Bill 148: Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, including the $15 minimum wage that is scheduled for Jan. 1.
“We think Bill 148 should remain in place,” said Andja Milos, a 26-year-old Laurier Brantford criminology student, who was part of the group at Bouma’s office on Nelson Street.
“I’ve worked for temp agencies and know what that’s like,” she said.
“And there are a lot of people who work full-time hours but only get part-time pay.
“We want fairness in the workplace and that’s what Bill 148 is all about.”
The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act was brought in by the previous Liberal government. Premier Doug Ford has vowed to get rid of the legislation, suggesting it has been a job killer.
Bouma was not at the constituency office on Monday. So, Milos and others provided information to an office employee.
Milos said she is especially concerned about the potential loss of personal emergency leave, a measure she says is vitally important to workers.
“Workers shouldn’t have to go to a lot of trouble to get time off in an emergency,” she said, adding that the law helps part-time workers and others who are struggling with child care or providing care to a family member.
Under existing legislation, employees are entitled to 10 sick days a year, two of them paid.
The province also is being urged to follow through on a planned raise of the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
The “Fight for $15 and fairness” is being supported by labour leaders, including Chris Buckley, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour.
“It’s not too late for Premier Doug Ford and his cabinet to do the right thing and help Ontario workers,” Buckley said in a statement.
For more information about the campaign visit www.15andfairness.org.
By Jill Young
There are over 50 protests planned today across Ontario about Bill 148
Over 50 protests are planned today province-wide about the minimum wage.
It's about the potential scrapping of Bill 148 which would include a $15 minimum wage by January of next year.
The bill was introduced by the previous Liberal government, and even before he was elected, Premier Doug Ford voiced his opposition to it.
A rally is being held this afternoon at 4:15 at the office of Simcoe Grey MPP Jim Wilson in Alliston.
Wilson is also Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade.
By Jerry Dias
Ford should explain where he's getting his numbers before he attacks a piece of legislation that can make a real difference in workers' lives.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford needs to understand that before he goes telling the Ontario Legislature, as he was quoted in online publication Queen's Park Todayas saying, that the bill has caused businesses to leave Ontario "in droves."
Statistics Canada tracks the number of incorporated businesses in Ontario and across the country, but the most recent data is only for 2016, so Ford can't be using official statistics to back up his assertion.
Ford should explain where he's getting his numbers before he attacks a piece of legislation that can make a real difference in workers' lives.
Think about it: people with good jobs have more money to spend, and the confidence to spend that money.
When people spend their earnings, it spurs the economy. Every dollar workers earn becomes revenue for businesses in their community, which leads to those businesses needing to hire more workers.
People in precarious jobs often have little money to spend, and in any case can be leery of doing so in in case things go bad and their hours are cut or they lose their job.
If people can't spend, the economy can't grow. It's just common sense. Precarious jobs create a precarious economy.
The bill raised the minimum wage, allowed for two paid days of sick leave a year, provisions to ensure predictable shift schedules, three weeks' vacation after five years, sexual and domestic violence leave, and more.
Now the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, whose members are the same businesses that benefit most when workers in their community have more money to spend, is calling on the Ford government to repeal Bill 148.
Even before the bill came into effect, the Chamber commissioned an apocalyptic report claiming that Bill 148 would cost the province 185,000 jobs.
In my experience, only a bad trade deal can cause that kind of damage.
While Ford's claim that businesses are leaving in droves can't be backed up with verifiable statistics, we do know that in the seven months after the minimum wage came into effect, unemployment in Ontario fell from 5.6 to 5.4 per cent as the province added 80,000 jobs, one of the best job creation rates in the country.
I have to ask, if companies are leaving, who is hiring all these workers?
The job growth we have seen is the exact opposite of what the chamber predicted. A dip in the notoriously volatile employment rate in August doesn't change the longer-term growth trend since the minimum wage was raised at the start of the year. The fact is, Bill 148 has not been the job killer the Chamber of Commerce claimed.
Disturbingly, the Ford government seems open to the Chamber's call to repeal Bill 148, with Ford himself making a surprise announcement in the Legislature that his government would get rid the bill.
Such a move would return the province to having labour laws dating back to the 1970s, when jobs were much more likely be permanent and full-time, and could support a family, including fringe benefits and a pension that guaranteed retirement security.
Things look rather different today. In Hamilton, for instance, only 44 per cent of millennials have been able to find full-time, permanent jobs in a city that was once a major centre of manufacturing in this country, according to a recent report. Disturbingly, 38 per cent of those polled by McMaster University and the Poverty and Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario said they expect to be worse off than their parents.
Precarious jobs are characterized by lower pay, little, if anything, in the way of benefits or a pension, and heightened insecurity. People in jobs like that don't tend to spend. They can't.
We need more provinces to pass legislation such as Bill 148, so we can address the dire future facing our young people. Instead, we face the prospect of losing what gains have been made.
Rather than calling for the bill to be repealed, the Chamber of Commerce should rescind its own misguided report and let its members go about the business of reaping the rewards of having consumers in their communities with more money in their pockets.
Jerry Dias, National President, Unifor
By Chris Buckley
Far too many Ontarians have experienced domestic or sexual violence. My own story is like many others: a father who was physically abusive towards my mother. It was 50 years ago, but I remember the day she was able to leave like it was yesterday. I remember trudging along beside her in the snow with my brothers and sister in tow. I remember that we headed to my Aunt’s house. I remember that we slept on the floor for weeks as my mother looked for work and then used her off hours to find us housing, see the doctor and find a lawyer; everything she needed to keep us safe.
This was a time long before domestic and sexual violence leave existed in Ontario.
Thankfully, workers fought for and won today’s laws, which provide survivors with five paid days off work to help them. It’s one portion of the decent work laws that Doug Ford wants to cancel.
With decent work laws, keeping us safe would have been easier for my mother. Right now, Ontario has a number of new laws that improve life for workers in this province: the upcoming $15 minimum wage, two paid sick days, 10 personal emergency leave days, two of them paid, and laws that make it easier to join and keep a union.
Doug Ford has said he will scrap the whole thing, leaving millions without these important protections. This isn’t good for working-age people anywhere in this province, and it’s not good for their children.
Teachers tell us that losing decent work laws will put stress and strain on students who live in poverty. Doctors have told us that sick days and better wages improve the health of workers. Faith leaders report the benefits of decent work laws for members in their congregations.
Ontario’s decent work laws are the result of a long process of consultation. I spoke to MPPs who were deciding on the law. As I sat in the committee rooms, I kept the stories I’ve heard from workers across this province in the back of my mind, along with my mother’s story.
My brother, mother and I scraped by on my mother’s wages for many years. I wonder how her life would have been different with a decent minimum wage and decent work laws to help, including domestic and sexual violence leave.
Decent work laws create the conditions for workers to do better. When workers do better, so do their families, and so does Ontario.
Decent work laws, including domestic and sexual violence leave, would have provided my mother with the support every worker now has in this province.
Doug Ford must stop listening to big corporations, and start listening to the millions of workers who will be left vulnerable if he cancels decent work laws and the Jan. 1 increase to a $15 minimum wage.
Mr. Ford, it’s not too late to change your mind and keep your hands off decent work laws and the $15 minimum wage.
Chris Buckley is the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour.
By Gill Deacon
Yesterday, Doug Ford said the government will scrap legislation that, among other things, would raise the minimum wage to 15 dollars. The move has been criticized by a number of people... including, now, teachers. A number of teachers and support staff are holding a rally tomorrow to draw attention to the repercussions that scrapping the minimum wage hike could have on students and their families. Melanie Wilson is a high school teacher with the TDSB who's participating in tomorrow's rally.
By Amanda Lang
TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Doug Ford vowed Tuesday to scrap labour reform legislation from the previous Liberal regime that raised the province's minimum wage and introduced a range of other worker protections, a declaration that came days after his government said the law was under review.
Ford's comments caught the opposition off guard and upset those in the labour community who have been supporters of the law known as Bill 148.
"We're getting rid of Bill 148," the premier said in the legislature. "We're going to make sure we're competitive around the world."
The Progressive Conservatives said last week that they would halt a planned increase to minimum wage set to kick in next year as a result of the Liberal law, and the labour minister said the rest of the legislation was being reviewed.
The bill mandates equal pay for part-time and temporary workers doing the same job as full-time employees and increases vacation entitlements to three weeks after a worker has been with their company for five years.
It also requires employees to be paid for three hours if their shift is cancelled within 48 hours of its start, and expands personal emergency leave to 10 days per year, two of them paid.
When brought in, the law was applauded by labour activists who had been calling on the government to increase the minimum wage for years. Some businesses, however, complained about the hike in minimum wage -- from $11.60 to $14 an hour on Jan. 1 -- and raised prices, cut staff hours and reduced employee benefits in response.
When asked to clarify his comments about the bill, Ford doubled down on his remarks Tuesday afternoon.
"I don't think this is any surprise," he said. "I talked about this all throughout the campaign. I went from town to town talking about Bill 148."
Ford said the bill has hurt Ontario businesses and meant workers lost their jobs. He wouldn't say if the government planned a full repeal of the bill or changes to part of it, adding that more information would be available in the coming weeks.
"Bottom line, it's an absolute job-killer," he said of the bill. "We want to create more jobs for everyone right across the sector."
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said it's not clear, despite Ford's latest comments, just what the government plans to do with the labour reform law. Repealing the legislation will only make life more unstable for workers across the province, she said.
"At the end of the day, dragging us backwards to the days where people couldn't get three weeks vacation or they couldn't get sick time off when they were sick at work, these are things that we worry about," she said.
Interim Liberal leader John Fraser said the premier's declaration hurts workers across the province.
"It does a disservice to the office to not fully consider the direction you're going in," he said. "The premier's not doing that."
Pam Frache, the Ontario co-ordinator of the Fight for $15 and Fairness, a group that supports the law, noted that the government has not yet introduced legislation to replace or repeal Bill 148, despite Ford's comments.
"We still think there's time for the premier to change his mind, to do the right thing and to stand with the people, not with the corporate elites," she said.
Meanwhile, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, which represents the province's business community, said it would like the government to repeal Bill 148.
"The very real unintended consequences (of Bill 148) have forced our members to decrease product offerings and increase the price of products being sold, hire fewer employees, reduce services and hours of operation, cut back on employee benefits, and halt capital investment -- all in an effort to stay afloat," president Rocco Rossi said in a statement.
Last year the province's economic watchdog, the Financial Accountability Office, estimated more than 50,000 people could lose their jobs due to the minimum wage increase brought in by the Liberal bill.
By Colin D'Mello
Premier Doug Ford says his government will “get rid” of Bill 148, the labour reform law that raised minimum wage and gave part-time and contract workers job security and protections.
In a surprise statement during question period, Ford announced the repeal of the bill, claiming the issue was top of mind when he talked to “thousands and thousands of people” across the province.
Minutes later, Economic Development Minister Jim Wilson clarified, saying the government is still “consulting” on Bill 148 while confirming that some parts “probably will go.”
The premier was asked about the his decision again during an afternoon press conference, and would only say his government "will talk" about the specific plans. He would not confirm whether the decision had been finalized, but noted his intention to scrap the bill should come as "no surprise."
The bill, passed by the previous Liberal government last November, brought sweeping labour reforms. It included changes like mandating employees be paid three hours’ worth of wages if a shift was cancelled within 48 hours. The legislation also extended emergency medical leave to ten days, two of which are paid days,and enacted equal pay for equal work.
The bill would also have raised the minimum wage to $15/hour in 2019, but Labour Minister Laurie Scott announced a “pause” last week, freezing wages at$14/hour.
Ford said on Friday wages would likely rise “in two years” without giving any firm commitments on how much of a raise minimum wage employees would get.
Pam Frache, with the group Fight for $15 & Fairness, called the government’s intent to scrap the bill “cruel and egregious.” She defended the emergency leave provision as being a “lifesaver” for families with young children.
“These are not perks for workers,” Frache told CTV News Toronto “These are basic tools to help people survive.”
Frache stressed that “rolling back labour rights by decades” would affect millions of workers across the province. She is calling on the premier to “do the right thing.”
Ford’s decision is in line with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, which called for an “immediate repeal” of Bill 148 in September.
“Bill 148 has led to a substantial decrease in staff hours and capital investment as well as an increased reliance on automation,” said a statement from Rocco Rossi, president of the OCC.
Parts of the law came into effect in 2018 and other portions are scheduled to be implemented in 2019.
Frache said while Ford’s statement was “disappointing,” it isn’t final.
The government will have to enact new legislation that rewrites Ontario’s labour laws.
By Sarah Mojtehedzadeh, Robert Benzie and Rob Ferguson
Two paid sick days are too much.
That was the message Tuesday from Premier Doug Ford, who is poised to dismantle the previous Liberal government’s labour reforms that increased sick day benefits and paid vacation, and were set to raise the minimum wage from $14 an hour to $15 on Jan. 1.
“We’re getting rid of Bill 148,” Ford thundered in the legislature after being questioned by Liberal MPP Michael Coteau.
The premier added that “60,000 people lost their jobs under Bill 148,” an apparent reference to part-time positions that have been cut.
“When I criss-crossed this province, I talked to the peoplewho earn minimum wage, the ones who even were able to keep their job. I’d go into a little Home Hardware. Rather than having seven employees, they’d cut three employees because of Bill 148,” he said.
“We’re going to create more jobs so we can hire more people, unlike the Liberals, who destroyed this province.”
Later Tuesday, Ford said alarm over his remarks shouldn’t come as “any surprise” given his comments on the reforms during the spring election campaign, and he promised more details “over the next few weeks.”
“Bottom line, it’s an absolute job killer,” he said.
On a year-over-year basis, employment increased by 1.1 per cent, or 79,000 jobs, in Ontario in August, according to Statistics Canada. Total hours worked across the province also increased after much of Bill 148 took effect in January.
To repeal the legislation, the government will need to introduce a replacement bill. Deena Ladd of the Toronto-based Workers’ Action Centre said she was “waiting for more than just a comment in question period to actually take the government seriously at this point.”
“I think everyone is really kind of appalled that they would consider getting rid of basic labour legislation,” she said. “They’re just talking about it and I think they’re evaluating the response they’re getting from the people in the province.”
The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, better known as Bill 148, provided two paid, job-protected emergency leave days for all workers, increased holiday entitlement, mandated equal pay for casual and part-time workers doing the same job as full-time employees, enshrined improved scheduling protections and boosted protections for temp agency workers.
The legislation represents the most sweeping change to the province’s labour laws in decades, and was implemented after two years of research and public consultation conducted by two independent labour experts. About one-third of Ontario’s workforce are vulnerable workers in precarious employment, according to the final 400-page report written by the two experts about proposed labour reforms.
The advisers also found that Ontario faced “serious” and extensive problems enforcing basic employment rights prior to Bill 148, leaving thousands of vulnerable workers open to abuse.
Coteau was incredulous that Ford would effectively throw out the baby with the bathwater in his bid to cancel the minimum wage increase by getting rid of all the reforms in Bill 148.
“I think it’s reasonable that workers be given fair notice for compensation when their employer cancels their shift,” said the Liberal MPP for Don Valley East, a former cabinet minister.
“It allows employees to have some stability in their schedule if they’re going to school, to ensure they have adequate child care and if they’re working a second job.
“Some 1.6 million Ontarians do not have sick days. In the legislation it guarantees two days to Ontarians. This is about decency for employees,” Coteau added.
“Does the premier believe that two sick days is too much for people in Ontario? He says he stands up for the little guy. He says he stands up for the people of Ontario. Two sick days is decency.”
At a news conference last week in support of the $15 minimum wage, currently scheduled to kick in on Jan. 1, Toronto-based emergency room physician Dr. Edward Xie said paid sick days were “not just an improvement to labour standards, but also a major public health advance.”
At least 145 countries, including 23 jurisdictions in the United States, give workers the right to be compensated when they’re ill.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said “it’s unfortunate we have a government now that’s going to drag us backwards likely to a place where people are not going to be able to get a fair shake at work.”
“I’ve met guys who stop me literally on the street canvassing ... and say they’ve worked at the same employer for over 20 years and still only get two weeks vacation. Really? I mean, it’s time to make those changes,” Horwath said.
Chris Buckley, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, said worker advocates had fought “long and hard” to make improvements to the province’s “severely outdated” labour and employment laws.
“I caution the premier and today’s government not to eliminate Bill 148,” he said. “As a labour movement, we’re not going to sit idly by.”
But Rocco Rossi, president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, praised Ford.
“We have been persistently urging the government to take immediate action and repeal Bill 148 due to the compounding labour reforms which come at too high a cost to the economy and workers,” he said.
“The very real unintended consequences have forced our members to decrease product offerings and increase the price of products being sold, hire fewer employees, reduce services and hours of operation, cut back on employee benefits and halt capital investment — all in an effort to stay afloat.”