• Barrie Today: Activists came knocking and the deputy premier was home

    By Kim Champion

    Members of Fight for $15 and Fairness and the Ontario Federation of Labour had issues they wanted to discuss with Elliott

    Workers rights activists met with Newmarket-Aurora MPP and Deputy Premier Christine Elliott on Tuesday during constituents’ week to plead their case that paid sick days are essential to public health.

    As well as advocating for a $15-an-hour minimum wage and safe workplaces, members of Fight for $15 and Fairness and the Ontario Federation of Labour wanted to discuss with Elliott, also the province's health minister, the consequences of taking away paid sick days.

    The local groups are fired up over the Ontario government’s move to repeal much of the former Liberal government’s Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, also known as Bill 148. The Ford government’s Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act, would, if passed, freeze the current minimum wage at $14 an hour until 2020. 

    Personal emergency leave, currently consisting of two paid days and eight unpaid days of protected leave annually for each worker, would be replaced with the right to three sick days, two bereavement days and three family responsibility days annually — all unpaid. Employers could once again require a doctor's note for time off.

    “Paid sick days are essential to public health, especially coming into the too often deadly flu season,” $15 and Fairness spokesperson Jessa McLean said in an email. “Allowing employers to demand sick notes would be a burden on the already overcrowded health-care system and contribute to the hallway medicine that the Progressive Conservative government has vowed to end in Ontario.”

    McLean's request for a meeting was acknowledged by Elliott in early October when the deputy minister was confronted by protestors in Aurora as she made her way into a local chambers of commerce event. Elliott told them she would be happy to meet.

    The group delivered a petition that had more than 500 names on it from Elliott's northern York Region riding to maintain worker protections in Bill 148.  

    “We presented hundreds of signatures from her constituents and we asked MPP Elliott to pledge to vote to withdraw Bill 47,” McLean said. “And she would not.”

    The delegation who met with Elliott included McLean, Dr. Jesse McLaren, an emergency room doctor who shared his view that people turning up in the ER seeking doctor's notes for employers were a drain on public health resources, and CUPE Local 905 chief steward Katherine Grzejszczak, who shared her beliefs about fair scheduling, precarious employment and the positive outcomes of elevating labour standards across the board.

    “Elliott acknowledged that the Health Ministry had not been consulted on Bill 47, which includes changes that will have obvious impacts on public health,” McLean added.

    Meanwhile, Newmarket Chamber of Commerce CEO Tracy Walters said in a previous interview the Ford government’s new labour bill would "take off some of the pressure (small businesses) have been feeling on Bill 148 and the speed of the changes. Reducing the red tape burden will be welcomed."

    While Walter said many local businesses support modernizing labour laws — and many already pay their employees above the minimum wage and for personal emergency days —  Bill 148 brought in changes too quickly and without consultation.

    "It was too much, too soon," she added, "and actually caused more red tape." 

    In a media release announcing the regulatory and legislative changes to come with the expected passage of Bill 47, Elliott said: “This new legislation will help bring more jobs to communities like ours and create a better environment for businesses to grow. During the campaign, we heard that doing business in Ontario was becoming increasingly unaffordable, and Bill 148 imposed unnecessary costs on Ontario job creators. That’s why we’re cutting red tape and taking concrete measures to create jobs and make sure Ontario is open for business.”

    ~With files from Debora Kelly

    Read the Barrie today full story

  • Huff Post: Ontario MPP Ignored Concerns About Sick Days, Doctors' Notes, Constituents Say

    By Emma Paling

    A meeting with Ross Romano was unproductive, his Sault Ste. Marie constituents say.

    Constituents say a Progressive Conservative MPP — who told the legislature he's gotten "nothing but compliments" on the provincial government's new labour bill — has ignored their concerns.

    Sault Ste. Marie MPP Ross Romano spoke about Bill 47 only once in the legislature. Called the Making Ontario Open For Business Act, it repeals many of the labour reforms introduced by former premier Kathleen Wynne. It passed its final reading on Wednesday.

    "I have been getting nothing but compliments from everybody back home — constant compliments," Romano said on Oct. 31. "All I hear is: Thank you, thank you, thank you to our government for getting rid of this horrible [Liberal] Bill 148."

    One week earlier, constituent Mike McCleary emailed Romano a detailed list of his concerns about the law. He didn't get a response.

    "The fact that he says we're just complimenting it blindly, it's insulting," McCleary told HuffPost Canada. "It shows what he really thinks of the working class community here."

    The father-of-two followed up with messages to Romano on Facebook and Twitter, and another email. This time he copied NDP leader Andrea Horwath and a CBC News reporter. He heard back in an hour.

    "It didn't really seem like a coincidence that when I copied the Opposition leader and a couple media sources, I got a response back so quickly."

    Eventually, Romano agreed to meet with McCleary and some others who were worried about the bill on Nov. 6.

    "I'd say it was overall pretty unproductive," McCleary said of the meeting. "I had asked him for specific answers on things, but [got] mostly political answers dancing around."

    In the meeting, Romano said again that he has heard no complaints about Bill 47, according to Tara Maszczakiewicz, regional vice president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, who was there. Her union has been unequivocally critical of the bill.

    "I don't know where he is, if he hides from social media, or what," Maszczakiewicz told HuffPost Canada. "But there were people outside his office protesting on the Tuesday, in the pouring rain, before we met with him on Friday."

    Approached at Queen's Park on Wednesday, Romano told HuffPost Canada he couldn't take questions because he had a meeting. His staff has also not replied to a request for comment.

    McCleary is concerned about how the bill's changes to leave and doctor's notes will affect workers.

    The bill scraps a rule that employees have to give workers two paid sick days a year, and lowers the total number of days off from 10 to eight. It also rescinds a rule forbidding employers from requesting a doctor's note after an employee takes a sick day.

    "I don't want to go sit in the doctor's office for four or five hours to get a doctor's note because I had to take a little bit of time to take care of myself," McCleary, who works evenings at a call centre, said.

    He said that the transit system in the Sault isn't very good, so people who need a doctor's note may have to choose between sitting on the bus for hours or paying for a cab. A cab across town costs about $20, he said, and doctor's offices usually charge at least $10 for a note.

    "When you're talking about a low-income family, that could be the difference between a couple of meals," he said.

    Read the Huff Post full story

  • 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.”

    Watch the Global News full story

  • Windsor Star: Workers rally to oppose 'regressive' labour bill which halts Jan. minimum wage hike

    By Taylor Campbell

    Hands off our decent work laws.

    That was the message nine workers’ rights advocates had for Ontario Premier Doug Ford at a rally in Windsor Friday.

    A new workplace standards bill, Bill 47, introduced at Queen’s Park in October, promises to repeal the majority of worker protections implemented in January by the previous Liberal government through Bill 148.

    “What would be adequate is to leave the legislation as it is and then review it for improvements,” said Mario Spagnuolo, organizer of the local “$15 and Fairness” group.

    The province-wide organization was created in 2013 to pressure the Ontario government to increase minimum wage and bring workers above the poverty line. Members of $15 and Fairness want to see provincial minimum wage rise to $15, something that was supposed to happen in January under Bill 148.

    Bill 47 is regressive, Spagnuolo said. He and the members of his group, many of them union representatives, gathered near the Windsor Chamber of Commerce to raise awareness.

    “We believe the Ford government is trying to ram through this legislation without proper consultation,” said Spagnuolo. “It’s regressive in nature, and what we want to see is some progress when it comes to the minimum standards and employment standards in Ontario.”

    Under Bill 47, minimum wage would remain at $14 per hour instead of increasing to $15 per hour January 2019. Annual minimum wage adjustments would be tied to inflation, and would start in October of 2020. Employees would no longer be entitled to the two paid days of personal emergency leave each year granted by Bill 148. Employers would be allowed to pay part-time and full-time employees different wages for equal work, which had been prohibited under Bill 148.

    “This is going to bring us back a few years instead of forward,” said Spagnuolo, who raised his group’s concerns at the constituency office of  MPP Rick Nicholls (C. —Chatham-Kent-Essex) before the rally Friday.

    “We wanted for him to hear some of our concerns and bring them back to the caucus.”

    Read the Windsor Star full story

  • York Region: Ford supporters ‘shocked’ by minimum wage freeze: York Region protest organizer

    By Dina Al-Shibeeb

    The organizer said the ‘biggest struggle’ when advocating for workers’ rights is that ‘generally people are unaware of their own rights’

    Some of Premier Doug Ford's supporters were “shocked” by the Progressive Conservative Party’s bill to freeze the minimum wage at $14 and eliminate Ontarians’ two paid sick leaves, says the organizer of York Region’s Fight for $15 & Fairness.

    “I have spoken with people who voted for Doug Ford, and earn a minimum wage and find out they are not getting raise in January,” said Jessa McLean during a town-hall meeting she organized at Newmarket’s CUPE 905 on Nov. 15. “Not only they were losing their raise they were counting on, but it was happening by somebody who didn’t say anything about it at the campaign trail.”

    McLean made the statement before the Ontario government passed Bill 47 on Wednesday Nov. 21.

    Fight for 15 & Fairness movement started on April 15, 2015 in the province, and now it's escalating its activism after the Ontario government introduced Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018 or Bill 47 in late October to repeal reforms in the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act or Bill 148 enacted by the former Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne.

    Click Here on the changes that will be made if Bill 47 is passed.

    'Selected' deputations

    The town hall meeting was held in reaction to deputations made to the province's finance and economic affairs committee session, also held in the same day on Nov. 15 to help the government make a decision on the bill, which Fight for $15 & Fairness criticized for having “only a handful of people selected from a compiled list.” 

    At the town hall meeting, McLean read a letter by a single woman in her 40s named Christine, who works three part-time, minimum wage jobs. The letter was supposed to be heard by the finance committee, however Christine couldn't find a substitute to cover one of her shifts, showing how the deputations are lacking in real representations.

    The organizer said the “biggest struggle” when advocating for workers’ rights is that “generally people are unaware of their own rights, when they gain them or when they lose them, so education is 90 per cent of the battle.”

    “The Conservative government holds a majority on the committee just like they do in the legislature, and so they pick — predominantly — who will speak, and we know that they already don't support workers' rights.”

    Inaccessibility' to politicians

    McLean also criticized local politicians' “inaccessibility to us but always listening to the corporate,” explaining how it took two months to arrange “a meeting with my own MPP Caroline Mulroney [for York-Simcoe], and even then, I was limited to 15 minutes.”

    The activist said she had to “ambush” Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care and MPP for Newmarket-Aurora, to speak with her at her Aurora office on Nov. 6.

    At the meeting, McLean was accompanied by Dr. Jesse McLaren, an ER doctor and a delegate from the Decent Work and Health Network as well as Katherine Grzejszczak, the newly elected CUPE local 905 president and also an organizer for Fight for $15 and Fairness.

    “We had to ambush her outside of a luncheon in order to get her to a promised meeting,” she said.

    After a face-to-face meeting, McLean said Elliott acknowledged she and her ministry might have not gotten “everything right” on Bill 47.

    McLean said she questioned Elliott about the cutbacks on sick leaves and if there is any “evidence” in “taking them away.” The activist recalled the minister saying: “Maybe we didn’t get everything right.”

    “Christine Elliott said that she wasn’t even consulted on sick days,” nor its "impact" on the health-care system, she added.  However, “four days later, she (Elliott) bragged about her involvement in Bill 47, so she is lying to somebody.”

    When asked about this by York RegionMedia Group, Elliott rejected McLean’s claim, saying she was “consulted on all legislation” as “as a senior member of cabinet.”

    “We make decisions as a team. I look forward to working with members of our government and with partners as we continue to ensure that Ontario is open for business.”

    Elliott's office also provided the following statement when asked about McLean’s frustration.

    “As Deputy Premier, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, and MPP, I am proud to have worked with our government to bring forward Bill 47 and repeal most parts of the Liberals’ job-killing Bill 148,” the statement read.

    At the Town Hall meeting, Carolina Jimenez, a nurse and co-ordinator for Decent Work and Health Network, also spoke out saying, “We can think of Bill 47 as a prescription for poor health.”

    While supporters of Bill 47 say “workers abuse the paid sick days and revoking them will be good for business,” Jimenez cited studies from New York and San Francisco, where “basic days have been legislated, about five to nine days, most workers took three days, and a quarter of the workers took no days off.”

    The nurse also said, on average, when people get “severely sick” such as with the flu, it usually lasts at least three days, and the Centre for Disease Control recommends people stay home for one to two days.

    Read the York Region full story

  • The Strand: Five days for survivors, protest held in Queen's Park

    By Luke Zurcher

    On November 10 at 4 pm, the 5 Days for Survivors: March for Work Rights for Survivors of Sexual Violence gathered in front of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to march for the retention of Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act.  

    Bill 148 establishes various workplace rights and protections, including an increased minimum wage, easier access to a greater number of personal emergency leave days regardless of workplace size, ten days of leave in cases of exposure to sexual or domestic violence, and equal pay for workers performing equal work. 

    In October of this year, Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government began consideration of Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open for Business ActThis legislation will repeal significant sections of Bill 148, including a halt to the rising minimum wage, which will be subjected to annual inflation adjustments, and reductions on personal emergency leave days.  

    Currently, workers employed for a minimum of 13 weeks have access to two categories of leave: domestic or sexual violence leave, and personal emergency leave. For each, employees are granted up to ten individual days of leave annually, with five days paid under domestic or sexual violence leave, and two paid under personal emergency leave.  

    According to Bill 47, personal emergency leave days will be repealed in order to “establish separate entitlements to sick leave, family responsibility leave and bereavement leave.” Employees under the considered Bill 47 will receive three days of sick leave, three days of family responsibility leave, and two days of bereavement leave annually, all unpaid.  

    Bill 47 does not address domestic sexual violence leave days. However, the 5 Days event page claims if Bill 47 is passed, “many of the other rights in the workplace that survivors need such as higher wages, equal pay and control over work schedules are at risk.” Event organizers argue, “We need to link and connect all forms of violence [to] build a strong movement that protects us in all aspects of our lives.” 

    Katie Bishop, a first-time organizer, created the 5 Days march to draw awareness to the current features of Bill 148 as well as the projected changes of Bill 47. Driven by personal experience, Bishop organized the march when she was unable to access five days of paid leave in her workplace as a victim of sexual violence. 

    The 5 Days Facebook page says: “We need to push for changes on how Survivors can use the 5 days of paid leave and expand access to personal emergency leave.” The page points to the current inaccessibility of personal emergency leave days in spite of Bill 148’s implementation. 

    The march began in front of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and travelled south along University Avenue, stopping at the Ontario Immigration building at University and Dundas. Four speakers spoke outside this building: Katie Bishop, a representative for Fight for $15 & Fairness, one working in Trauma Supportand a Consent Educator. 

    Bishop spoke about the urgency of the issues, discussing her personal experience as a survivor of sexual violence, and the difficulties she faced in accessing the five days of paid leave provisioned by Bill 148. 

    Fight for 15 and Fairness spoke about the necessity of the rising minimum wage, which in its current state keeps a significant number of minimum wage workers living at the poverty line. The speaker discussed the negations planned by Bill 47, which will revert progressions made by the Fight for 15 and Fairness in favour of the employer over the employee. 

    Speakers for Trauma Support and Consent Education spoke together about sexual and domestic violence. They discussed the time it takes both for personal recovery from violent trauma, as well as for seeking professional help, an option which is not always easily accessible. Further, domestic violence usually involves moving, which can be complicated by family and conflict. All of this can take significant time, resources, and energy, beyond what is provided by five days of paid leave. 

    Each speaker discussed the difficulties that those who work minimum wage jobs with unsafe conditions still face, despite the enactment of Bill 148 one year ago. The speakers argued that the negations proposed by Bill 47 will only worsen already difficult conditions and will significantly lessen Ontario workplace safety and equality. 

    The march concluded at 6  pm with a candlelight vigil for four people who died while employed at Fiera Foods–affiliated factories, one of whom died just this October at a factory in North York, due to unsafe work conditions. 

    Bill 47 was carried to a second reading as of November 12 and has been referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. A November 5 CBC news article stated the bill “is likely to be approved due to the [current] government’s majority.” 

    The 5 Days march has been one in a string of protests across Ontario that have taken place in the past two months regarding Bill 47.

    Read The Strand full story

  • CBC News: Ontario passes sweeping labour reform law, rolls back many changes made by Liberals

    Law freezes minimum wage at $14 an hour until 2020, cuts 2 paid personal leave days for workers

    The Ontario government passed sweeping labour reform legislation Wednesday, effectively rolling back many changes brought in by the previous Liberal regime.

    The law freezes the province's minimum wage at $14 an hour until 2020 and cuts two paid personal leave days for workers, among other things.

    The governing Progressive Conservatives said the legislation would encourage job growth in the province. They have said the changes made by their predecessors imposed significant costs on businesses and argued the new legislation would ease that burden.

    "It's going to be good for employers, it's going to be good for employees," Tory House Leader Todd Smith said.

    The measures were applauded by some in the business community but condemned by anti-poverty activists, union leaders and opposition parties, who say the changes will make life harder for average people.

    "We just saw workers' rights be torn out from under them, we just saw the lowest income workers lose $2,000 in increased pay because of the decisions that the government made today in passing legislation," NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said.

    Liberal legislator Nathalie Des Rosiers said the fact that Ontarians lost two paid sick days as a result of the legislation was "a real shame."

    "You need to ensure that your minimum standards of employment respond to the reality of work today," she said, adding that was the purpose of the former Liberal government's reforms.

    The Tory government has said Premier Doug Ford received death threats and the labour minister had her constituency office vandalized after the legislation was introduced last month — incidents that were denounced by all parties.

    Labour and advocacy groups have raised the alarm at the short time frame allotted for consultation on the Tory legislation, with many saying they were denied the chance to weigh in.

    Fight for $15 and Fairness, a group advocating for the minimum wage increase to be reinstated, said the five-hour limit placed on public input was in "stark contrast" with the 14 days of province-wide hearings the Liberals held on their labour changes.

    "Let's be clear, rich corporations are the only ones who stand to benefit from Bill 47, while the lowest wage earners will be forced back into poverty," spokeswoman Pam Frache said of the law that passed Wednesday.

    Ontario's minimum wage increased from $11.60 to $14 an hour on Jan. 1, and was set to rise to $15 an hour next year as a result of the Liberals' labour laws.

    Future minimum wage hikes to be tied to inflation

    Under the government's new legislation, it will remain at $14 until October 2020, with future increases tied to the rate of

    To offset the move, the Tories have exempted those earning under $30,000 from provincial income tax and given a tax cut to those earning up to $38,000. But critics maintain the plan will save workers less money than they would gain through a wage hike.

    The law will also bring the total of personal leave days down to eight from 10 — three for personal illness, two for bereavement leave and three for family responsibilities.

    The legislation keeps provisions brought in by the Liberals that granted workers up to 10 days of leave if they or their child experiences domestic or sexual violence. It will also maintain regulations that grant Ontario workers three weeks of paid vacation after five years of service.

    A number of scheduling provisions will be eliminated, however, including a minimum of three hours pay in the event a shift is cancelled 48 hours or less before it was scheduled to begin.

    Read the CBC News full story

  • The Varsity: Op-ed - What students stand to lose with Bill 47

    By Clement Cheng, Simran Dhunna and Mia Sanders

    Fight for $15 and Fairness UofT on why we must resist the Ford government’s rollbacks of our labour rights

    In November 2017, the Liberal government passed Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, a watershed moment in Ontario’s history. As a result, over 1.7 million minimum wage workers saw a direct pay increase from $11.60 to $14 per hour, with the $15 minimum wage to come this January. Millions more benefited indirectly from wage bumps.

    Today, the Progressive Conservative government is turning back the clock on our rights with Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act. On November 20, our MPPs will start the third reading of the bill.

    The vote will proceed after only five hours of public consultation. Citing the two weeks of extensive consultations preceding Bill 148, Deena Ladd from the Workers’ Action Centre and the Ontario Federation of Labour called these consultations a “sham.”

    Though Doug Ford prides himself on being “for the people,” Bill 47 would endanger millions of workers by repealing almost all of the provisions under Bill 148, including paid sick days, equal pay for equal work, fairer scheduling laws, and easier ways for certain sectors to unionize.

    Why students should be concerned

    Among those who stand to lose the most are students. As Ontario has the highest average tuition fees in the country, many of us have no choice but to compromise our studies by juggling multiple jobs to pay tuition, afford rent, and support our families.

    Those of us working in academia, such as teaching assistants, also face precarity. Over 75 per cent of college faculty members are temporary contract workers. Ontario’s colleges and universities estimate that they pocket $336 million annually by paying these precariously employed faculty less than their permanent colleagues, who do the same work.

    And it’s not just postsecondary students who depend on a better minimum wage and fairer working conditions. Two weeks ago, high school students protested Bill 47 to expose that Ontario is the only province in Canada where student workers under 18 earn a subminimum wage of $13.15 per hour compared to the adult rate of $14 per hour. Bill 47 would cancel the scheduled increase in the subminimum student wage, directly impacting students’ ability to save for postsecondary education at institutions like U of T.

    Once in university, many of us take on precarious, low-paying jobs — often in the service and retail sectors — that expose us to a slew of poor working conditions. Students are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of Bill 47 due to our demanding school obligations and the structural barriers some of us face. This is especially true for racialized, women-identified, gender non-conforming, queer, trans, working-class, disabled, and international students.

    If it passes, Bill 47 would deny us the right to 10 job-protected leave days,two of which are paid — a rollback that 77 per cent of Ontarians oppose. The bill would also repeal fairer scheduling provisions, such as being able to refuse last-minute shift changes without risking our jobs. Taking time off and having flexibility in scheduling is especially important for students who commute, live with mental or physical illness, and have caregiving responsibilities.

    Moreover, many U of T students find work through temporary agencies. By repealing the Equal Pay for Equal Work provision, Bill 47 condemns students who are temporary workers — often racialized and international students — to be paid less than permanent workers for the same job. It also gives a green light to employers who violate employment standards by reducing the penalties for labour violations by 75 per cent.

    Unfair labour laws such as those crafted by Ford have a body count. Just two weeks ago, a fourth temp worker died at a Fiera Foods-affiliated company that is notorious for having 191 health and safety violations. The same company claimed the lives of 17-year-old Ivan Golyashov and 23-year-old Amina Diaby, whose hijab got caught in a machine.

    U of T’s complicity

    Corporate elites continue to lobby against the very laws that are meant to prevent the deaths of young workers like Golyashov and Diaby. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) has been spearheading these lobbying efforts, claiming that Bill 148 was “too much, too fast.”

    As a member of the OCC, U of T cannot be absolved of its complicity in Ford’s pursuit to slash Bill 148. While Ryerson University, another member of the OCC, has attempted to distance itself from the organization, our university has remained silent.

    Now would be a good time for U of T to come clean. To the administration: establish your stance on Bill 47, clarify your relationship with the OCC, and explain why you, as a public university, continue paying membership to a corporate lobbying group that actively undermines workers’ rights — and, by extension, our financial security and well-being as students.

    How students can win

    Unlike the university, we have not been idle. The U of T chapter of Fight for $15 and Fairness has started conversations with hundreds of students across campus. From petitioning at Sid Smith to handing out leaflets at Clubs Fair, we have heard from U of T students of all stripes: commuters who spend hundreds of dollars a month on transit, students raising young children, and classmates supporting their grandparents.

    Among the thousands of students who have signed our petition, many are shocked to hear that the Ford government is attacking their future and those of their families.

    Along the way, we have been debunking some myths. For instance, Bill 148 is not an “absolute job-killer” as Ford would have people believe. Since Bill 148, the average number of hours worked has increased, and 139,000 net jobs have been created in the province year-over-year.

    While canvassing, we also uncovered the deception behind Ford’s new income tax cut for low-income workers, which leaves them with around $1,000 less in their pockets per year than if the $15 minimum wage came into effect. Under Ford’s plan, the minimum wage would be frozen at $14 until October 2020, after which it would be indexed to inflation. In other words, Ontarians would not see the $15 arrive until 2025.

    The province-wide Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign has been organizing tirelessly for years to win Bill 148. Now that it’s under imminent threat, we will continue to organize against a government that is ruthlessly trying to turn back the clock on our labour rights. With the power of thousands of students behind us, we will win again.

    On Tuesday, November 20, the Ontario Legislative Assembly will debate on Bill 47. Please join the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign in Queen’s Park to pack the gallery and stand united against this regressive legislation. Arrive no later than 4:30 pm to get through security. You may also submit a customizable letter calling for the withdrawal of Bill 47 here, which will be sent to Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs:

    Clement Cheng is a fourth-year Peace, Conflict and Justice, English, and Geography student at Victoria College. Simran Dhunna is a first-year student in the Master of Public Health in Epidemiology program at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Mia Sanders is a second-year Women and Gender Studies and Diaspora & Transnational Studies student at Victoria College. They are members of the U of T chapter of Fight for $15 and Fairness.

    Read The Varsity full story

  • City News: Federal, Ontario governments square off over sick-leave days

    The Trudeau government is poised to give federally regulated workers more paid personal-leave days just as the Ford government is scrapping Bill 148, which takes away two paid sick days and a minimum wage hike to $15.

    Watch the City News full story

  • Blackburn News: Windsor union members fight against minimum wage repeal

    By Mark Brown

    A group of union members from Windsor-Essex are putting the Ontario government on notice concerning a proposed rollback of the minimum wage.

    The group, known as Fight For $15 and Fairness, held a demonstration on Dougall Avenue in Windsor on Friday afternoon, not far from the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce. The group is are hoping to call attention to the effort by Ontario’s PC-majority government to repeal the plan to raise the minimum wage in Ontario from $14 per hour to $15 on January 1.

    The legislation, known as Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act, would if passed roll back the planned minimum wage increase, keeping it at $14 per hour, and instead tie increases through 2020 with inflation. The minimum wage increase was part of Bill 148, which was passed by the previous Liberal-controlled legislature.

    Mario Spagnuolo, who organized the demonstration, said that the proposed minimum wage rollback is not the only concern they have.

    “One of the concerns is the cut to paid sick days that are available through the legislation, and also the requirement for employees to have to get a doctor’s note if they take one day off sick for cold or flu,” said Spagnuolo.

    The law that is currently in place says employers cannot ask for a doctor’s note when they access their ten days of emergency leave currently under the law. Spagnuolo said it would be better if the Ford government left the legislation alone and allowed for more public consultation on it.

    “We believe that we need more thorough discussion on this and we want the public to be aware that this is going to bring us back a few years,” said Spagnuolo.

    The Ford government says Bill 47 will help make Ontario more friendly for job creation by cutting red tape, and replacing regulations that they consider outdated and burdensome.

    For complete information on Fight For $15 and Fairness, visit their official website.

    Read the Blackburn News full story


  • CBC News: NDP warns Ontario labour reforms will hurt post-secondary students and teachers alike

    By Muriel Draaisma

    'Decent work is an education issue,' union leader tells reporters at Queen's Park

    An Ontario government bill that aims to roll back labour reforms would make life more difficult for precariously-employed university and college students, staff and faculty, says an NDP MPP.

    Chris Glover, A Toronto MPP who serves as the Official Opposition's universities critic, urged the provincial government to immediately withdraw Bill 47 on Monday.

    The bill, dubbed the Making Ontario Open for Business Act, would repeal a planned minimum wage hike to $15 — an increase set to happen in January 2019 — while cancelling two guaranteed paid sick days for all Ontario workers. The Progressive Conservative plan has already passed first reading and is likely to be approved due to the government's majority.

    "The students in our colleges and universities in Ontario, already faced with the highest tuition fees and highest debt levels, are potentially facing much higher costs for going to school," Glover told reporters at a Queen's Park news conference.

    According to Statistics Canada, undergraduate students in Ontario paid more than $8,000 in tuition fees, the highest average in the country, as of the 2016/2017 academic year.

    Other speakers said the bill will add to the financial insecurity facing college and university staff and faculty, many of whom work contract-to-contract with no health benefits or pensions.

    According to Glover, more than half of university faculty members and more than 75 per cent of college faculty members are part-time, temporary contract workers.

    Glover called the bill an attack on their rights.

    Previous gains to be lost, union reps say

    RM Kennedy, chair of the college faculty division at Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents more than 40,000 faculty and staff at colleges, agreed, saying: "Decent work is an education issue."

    Labour reforms introduced by the Liberal government, under 2017's Bill 148, were "a good start," Kennedy said. 

    "For part-time support staff, many of whom are also students, paid sick days and a livable wage are needed to make ends meet," he said. "For contract college faculty, the equal pay raises that were achieved with Bill 148 have been life-altering."

    These gains will be lost with the new legislation, he added.

    "Students go to school so they can get good jobs, but the vast majority of faculty teaching them, ironically, do not have good jobs," he said.

    "Thousands of Ontario college workers are looking at cuts to the improved wages, which they have only had a few months to experience."

    The bill is "a step in the wrong direction," according to Kimberly Ellis-Hale, chair of the contract faculty committee of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, which represents 17,000 professors and academic librarians at 29 faculty associations. 

    Ellis-Hale said she has been working on 12-week contracts for most of the last 21 years. She said most contract faculty do not have desks to call their own, health benefits or pensions, or job security. Living contract to contract is extremely stressful, she added.

    "We should be making progress in addressing fairness for contract faculty, not rolling back reasonable and essential elements to improve workers' rights," she said.

    "If the premier is really here for the people, the hard-working, front-line people, and is truly committed to helping people like me make ends meet, then he should withdraw Bill 47." 

    Bill to weaken learning conditions, grad student says

    Hamish Russell, an international graduate student at the University of Toronto and a member of Canadian Union of Public Employees, told the news conference that post-secondary students and workers juggle many jobs, high rents and demanding course loads.

    The bill will not only erode working conditions, it will also weaken learning conditions, he said.

    Read the CBC News full story

  • NOW Toronto: Doug Ford’s Open For Business Act is bad for our health

    By Fernando Arce

    The Ford government's plan to eliminate paid sick days and reduce access to personal emergency leave has far-reaching implications for the health of every resident in Ontario

    While Doug Ford’s Making Ontario Open For Business Act (Bill 47) is ostensibly about helping businesses, a coalition of labour activists and health professionals see it as a public health crisis in the making. 

    Calling it a “massive step backward for health care in Ontario” during a press conference at Queen’s Park on October 30, Dr. Danyaal Raza, a family physician with the Department of Family Medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital and member of the Decent Work & Health Network, says the bill “has implications for the health of every resident in Ontario.” 

    The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, passed by the previous Liberal government in 2017, granted two out of the seven paid sick days that had been lobbied for by groups like the Fight for $15 and Fairness coalition, the organizers of last week’s press conference. But the Ford government wants to eliminate paid sick days altogether and reduce access to personal emergency leave. 

    If passed, workers will be forced to parcel out their personal emergencies into a total of eight days of “personal emergency leave” (down from 10) all unpaid and divided into three categories: sick leave (three days), family responsibility leave (three days) and bereavement leave (two days).

    Deena Ladd, a coordinator with the Workers' Action Centre, says Ford's bill should be renamed the "Making Ontario Open For Sickness” bill.

    When asked about the rationale for eliminating paid sick days, the Ministry of Labour offered in an email response to NOW that “these eight days... would be in line with Alberta and British Columbia, and could be taken without fear of termination.” 

    But as studies have shown, paid sick days can make a crucial, sometimes even fatal difference, when workers choose to stay home or work through their sickness.

    “A lot of specialists don’t have availability in the evening, so having sick days allows patients to get to those appointments during the day,” says Raza. Employees without paid sick days also tend to get fewer flu shots, mammograms, pap smears and blood pressure checks.

    The changes proposed by the Ford government mean that Ontarians will be at greater risk of contracting diseases when workplaces become inundated with sick workers unable to afford a day off to see their physician or get well. Raza says schools could soon follow when sick children are forced to attend because their parents or guardians can’t stay home with them.

    Two years ago this scenario came to pass, with tragic consequences, when two-year-old Jude – described by his mother Jill Promoli as an otherwise “perfectly healthy child” – succumbed to influenza B, which had begun with a fever the day before. His sister had first caught the bug in her kindergarten class. Said Promoli at last week’s press conference: "One sick child came to school, and basically, it became an entire classroom full of sick children."

    The Ford government’s legislation is also reintroducing employer-mandated sick notes. As CBC News reported, it was the Retail Council of Canada president Diane Brisebois, one of the main lobbyists for the bill, who claimed workers were abusing their privileges by faking illness.

    However, studies in New York City and San Francisco, where employees receive between five and nine paid sick days, suggest fears about widespread abuse by employees are unfounded.

    Raza says “most workers took three or fewer days off. And a quarter of workers took no time off at all. We’re learning from experiences of other jurisdictions.” 

    Ford claims the bill is about finding “efficiencies,” but Raza says there is nothing cost-effective about it. 

    “If the government is interested in making health care more efficient, then Bill 47 is in complete contradiction to that goal.”  

    Read the NOW Toronto full story

  • Soo Today: Rally urges Ross Romano to stand up for workers

    By James Hopkin

    Representatives from a number of local unions stood with the Sault Ste. Marie and District Labour Council in front of Sault Ste. Marie MPP Ross Romano’s constituency office Tuesday to rally for workers' rights.

    Bill 47 - also known as the Making Ontario Open for Business Act - will scrap the planned $15 per hour minimum wage and reduce the number of sick days allotted to workers.

    The minimum wage in Ontario will also be capped at $14 per hour until fall 2020.  

    USW 9548 president Cody Alexander - who also serves as second vice-president for the labour council - says Romano has been silent in the Sault since the provincial election.

    “We need to get the message to Mr. Romano that this is not acceptable, and that they need to stand for workers, as opposed to find ways to work them to death,” Alexander said.

    Members of OPSEU, United Steelworkers and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario stood with the local labour council outside Romano’s Bay Street office, hoping to speak with the local MPP.

    Romano’s office told SooToday that Romano is currently participating in a series of roundtable discussions in Thunder Bay, which were booked about a week ago.

    “Doug Ford seems to take offence to the working class people, and he seems to want to continue to put money in big business’ pockets while not being concerned with the actual people that make the big business their money,” Alexander said.

    The Ford government has stated that the repeal of Bill 148 will cut red tape and encourage business investment in part by scrapping the minimum wage hike.

    Alexander says that he’s aware of the “fear mongering from the Ford government.”

    “I haven’t seen any evidence of that,” Alexander said. “As far as what we’ve seen, it’s doing better for business, because people have more money to spend.”

    “Many of the people that are making the minimum wage are also consumers, so having more money in their pockets is better for business all around.”

    Alexander told SooToday that the labour movement has been fighting to stop precarious work for decades, and for awhile it felt as though gains were being made in that fight.

    “A lot of these gains that we made with Bill 148 were long overdue,” said Alexander. “The minimum wage was one those that should’ve been increased yearly but it wasn’t, so as far as I’m concerned, the $14 an hour is less than what they should’ve been making anyways at minimum wage.”

    Read the Soo Today full story

  • The Conversation: Ontario’s ‘Open for Business’ law will erode workplace rights

    By Alison Braley-Rattai

    Ontario’s Conservative government recently tabled the Open for Business Act (Bill 47). Bill 47 proposes to repeal the changes to Ontario’s workplace laws introduced by the previous Liberal government under Bill 148.

    The purpose of Bill 148 was to increase fairness for workers, particularly those precariously employed, while balancing the interests of employers.

    It was three years in the making and informed by a panel of two workplace law experts, which twice toured the province to hear from hundreds of witnesses before tabling its 419-page final report. By contrast, Premier Doug Ford’s government claims to have spoken with “dozens” of employers and unions prior to introducing Bill 47.

    The purpose of Bill 47 is to “bring jobs and investment back to our province” and to increase “opportunities” for workers. One needs to look harder for any mention of fairness for workers or the creation of decent jobs, although the government claims to wish to “protect” workers. At the end of the day, however, Bill 47 will do none of the above.

    The economic sky isn’t falling

    By far, the most controversial aspect of Bill 148 was the increase in the minimum wage, from $11.60 to $14 in January 2018, with another scheduled increase to $15 set for January 2019. Bill 47 freezes the rate at $14, with an “annual inflation adjustment” as of October 2020.

    Notably, the Ontario Conservatives have opposed every raise in the minimum wage since at least 1995, when they froze wages for eight years. They opposed this one as well, predicting rampant job loss. They were wrong.

    In July, Ontario’s unemployment rate hit an 18-year low, with notable jobs gains in the hospitality sector, an industry among those most affected by Bill 148. Bank of Canada economists have said no evidence indicates that Bill 148 caused any general economic downturn.

    The reality is that raising the minimum wage on its own has no net effect upon employment figures. The reason is simple: There are too many other factors at play. But that hasn’t stopped the government’s wrongful claim that Bill 148 has crippled the economy.

    Bill 47 decreases fairness at work

    While doing virtually nothing for job creation, Bill 47 will decrease fairness for workers.

    For instance, Bill 47 repeals the provision giving workers the right to refuse work with less than 96 hours’ notice. Such notice is important for those with child/elder care issues, or indeed other jobs, to make appropriate arrangements.

    Bill 47 retains the provision to pay workers for three hours if they are required to show up to work but are then not required to work for three hours. However, workers who are on call but are then not required to work will no longer have the same right to three hours pay. It also repeals the right to three hours pay if a scheduled shift is cancelled within 48 hours.

    In the name of “flexibility,” employers retain the authority to make scheduling decisions that they believe best suit their bottom lines, while virtually all the risk for such decisions flows to workers.

    Employers are not encouraged to make careful scheduling decisions, since they will no longer bear even the minimal responsibility of guaranteeing three hours pay in most instances. Meanwhile, last-minute scheduling changes wreak havoc on the lives of workers and their families.

    Even the tepid provision requiring employers to consider requests for a change in schedule or work location in good faith, by providing reasons for a refusal of any such request, is now gone.

    Precarious workers and temp agencies

    What’s more, Bill 47 reintroduces an incentive to create piecemeal, precarious work. The proliferation of employment agencies — many fly-by-night — and the intense vulnerability of those employed through them has been well-documented. So too have the health impacts of precarious work for certain demographics that make up a large percentage of the precarious workforce.

    The Liberals’ Bill 148 made it less attractive for employers to rely upon a casual, precarious workforce by removing distinctions in pay that were based upon “employment status.” The fact that a worker was hired through a temp agency or worked part-time hours could not be the basis for differential pay.

    Because precarious work is often gendered and racialized, this provision had the added effect of reducing distinctions indirectly related to gender and race as well.

    Bill 47 reintroduces pay distinctions based upon employment status.

    What about balance?

    The government claimed it was introducing Bill 47 to repeal those parts of Bill 148 “that are causing employers the most concern and unnecessary burden.” Evidently, this government suffers from an inability to prioritize since virtually all of Bill 148’s numerous changes are on the chopping block.

    Undoubtedly, the various political parties will adopt various stances on policy issues. What is lacking from Bill 47 is any semblance of balance. Rather than use a scalpel to excise those aspects causing “the most concern,” the government used a fish-hook to gut the bill almost entirely. What little is left provides fewer benefits to workers.

    But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Bill 47 was the manner in which the Conservatives greeted its introduction in the legislature: standing and clapping while proposing to repeal basic protections for the most vulnerable workers.

    Such displays transform the slogan of a government “for the people” into Orwellian doublespeak.

    Read The Conversation full story

  • Toronto Star: Students want Ontario to scrap special minimum wage that is lower than that paid to adults

    By Sarah Mojtehedzadeh

    Ontario is the only province in Canada to have a minimum wage for young workers that is lower than the minimum wage for adults — and Grade 12 student Taamara Thanaraj isn’t happy that a scheduled increase to that rate may soon be frozen.

    She was one of a group of 30 students who gathered under drizzly skies at Yonge and Bloor Sts. Friday to protest Bill 47, provincial legislation that, if passed, will result in significant rollbacks to labour protections recently enacted including increases to the general minimum wage and the subminimum wage for students.

    “Right now, minimum wage is not a livable wage for a lot of people, especially for parents. That’s why a lot of young people do work,” said Thanaraj, who attends the Scarborough Academy of Technological, Environmental and Computer Education at William Arnot Porter Collegiate Institute.

    Bill 47 will keep the general minimum wage at $14 an hour, but cancel an increase to $15 scheduled for January. It will also cancel a scheduled bump from $13.15 to $14.10 an hour for students’ minimum wage.

    Employers in Ontario are not required to pay the general minimum wage to students under 18 who work part-time during school or work during a school break or the summer holidays.

    In 2017, an extensive report written by two independent experts for the government’s two-year Changing Workplace Review noted that 59 per cent of young people in that category reported making less than the general minimum wage, and this resulted in $25 million in lost wages a year for the province’s student employees.

    “Ontario is the only province in Canada with a lower minimum wage for students, and those (provinces) that previously had a lower rate eliminated them years ago,” the report said.

    “In our view, the impact of the provision is discriminatory, and, although the Human Rights Code effectively permits discrimination of those under 18, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not.”

    Thanaraj said she helped organize Friday’s protest to advocate for young people — and to send a message to government that they deserve equal treatment.

    “The government is assuming that because you’re a younger person, you don’t have financial responsiblities. But that’s such a generalization, because most young people are saving up for post-secondary opportunities,” she said.

    According to the Ministry of Labour’s policy manual, the rationale for the exemption is “to facilitate the employment of younger persons,” who may struggle to compete for jobs with older students with more work experience.

    Several business groups opposed removing the wage differential. These included the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association, which said, in its submission, to the review that requiring employers to pay students under 18 the general minimum wage “will have a huge impact on the overall business” and “will greatly affect youth employment.”

    Documents obtained by the Star through a Freedom of Information request show Morley Gunderson, the CIBC Chair in Youth Employment at the University of Toronto, advised the review experts that “the evidence suggests that the sky will not fall in if the student subminimum (wage) is raised, although it may reduce their employment, perhaps by two per cent or so.”

    The review recommended that government eliminate the lower student minimum wage over a three-year period, which the Liberals’ Bill 148 did not do. It did increase the base rate.

    The Progressive Conservative provincial government has called Bill 148 “job-killing” legislation, and says its proposed replacement, Bill 47, will “make the province open for business, grow the economy and help create good jobs”

    NDP MPP Jessica Bell, who addressed Friday’s protest, said Bill 47 serves “an economy of the rich.”

    “Even if we’re not old enough to vote, that doesn’t mean we don’t understand our civic rights. Because we’re old enough to work,” added Thanaraj.

    “It’s about more than just a $1 raise; it’s a fight against poverty and discrimination in the workplace.”

    Read the Toronto Star full story

  • The Peterborough Examiner: Protest expected as Peterborough-Kawartha MPP opens office

    By Joelle Kovach

    Dave Smith to host grand opening Saturday on Water Street

    A protest is expected outside Conservative MPP Dave Smith's constituency office on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. over workers' issues such as the halted minimum wage hike.

    The protest is being organized by the Ontario Federation of Labour, although it's expected to also include retirees from General Electric who developed cancer from exposure to workplace toxins.

    Sue James, a GE retiree and health advocate, said she's been trying to get a follow-up appointment with Smith since he met with the retirees for the first time, in August.

    "We want a face-to-face with Smith, who seems to be avoiding us," James said on Friday.

    The protest will coincide with the grand opening of Smith's office – which he calls the Action Centre – at 1123 Water St. near Marina Blvd. in the city's north end.

    Smith announced in October it would be a barbecue, and he'd offer free hotdogs and burgers.

    He wasn't available for an interview Friday. When asked via text how he felt about the protest, he wrote that he will feed anyone who comes to his event.

    "We want to encourage everyone who comes – including the protesters – to bring mitts, scarves and hats to donate to Brock Mission and Youth Emergency Shelter," he wrote.

    The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) stated on social media Friday that the protest was organized in objection to the provincial government's treatment of workers.

    The government proposes not to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour in January as planned by the previous Liberal government, for instance, and to cancel the two paid sick days that workers now get.

    The government has also made cuts to the WSIB premiums, the OFL points out – and that concerns James because many GE retirees are seeking compensation for cancer developed from working with toxic chemicals.

    James and a group of retirees – many of them sick with cancer – first met with Smith in August to ask him to help them advocate for compensation.

    He said at the time he'd do research and update them on his findings in early September, but James has not been able to set a follow-up appointment.

    She's spoken to Smith's staff a few times this fall, she said, but they've told her there's no point meeting because he has nothing to report.

    "You really do feel he's pushing you aside," James said. "He really should be interested in his constituents and what's important to them."

    When asked on Friday to respond to James's assertion that he's brushing off former GE workers, Smith responded (in writing) this way:

    "We have an open house tomorrow and everyone is welcome to come."

    Read The Peterborough Examiner full story

  • Toronto Star: Workers’ rights advocates push back at PC bill to derail labour reforms

    By Sarah Mojtehedzadeh

    Removing workers’ right to two paid sick days and replacing them with unpaid emergency leave is “more progressive” for workers, Conservative MPPs said Thursday at a testy committee hearing for proposed new labour legislation.

    Bill 47, which aims to undo numerous recently enacted measures including two paid sick days, equal pay for equal work, and a scheduled minimum wage bump to $15 in January, passed its second reading earlier this week and is now before the Finance and Economic Affairs committee.

    Candace Rennick, secretary-treasurer for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said the rollback “makes picking on the poor a government priority” and called it “bizarre” to make workers choose between losing a day’s pay and coming into work ill.

    Ontario workers are currently entitled to two paid sick days and eight unpaid leave days. The government wants to give workers eight unpaid leave days instead — three for illness, three for family responsibilities, and two for bereavement leave.

    “We’re hearing that it’s more progressive,” said Conservative MPP for Thornhill Gila Martow of the new proposals.

    “We are offering a very progressive package of leave,” she said, adding most other Canadians provinces do not offer paid sick days.

    Prince Edward Island is currently the only province with paid sick days provisions. Some 146 jurisdictions around the world offer some form of compensation when employees are ill.

    How your rights on the job will change if Bill 47 is passed

    Legislation recently introduced in Ottawa also provides workers employed in federally regulated industries with three paid sick days.

    Speaking on behalf of the Decent Work and Health Network, Jesse McLaren said Bill 47, which will reinstate employers’ right to ask workers for sick notes, “goes against public health evidence.”

    “As an emergency room physician, I depend on my patients not to come to the emergency room for unnecessary reasons like a sick note,” he said.

    Michelle Eaton, vice-president of communications for the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, told the committee Bill 47 “restored fairness for both business and workers while reducing the financial burden,” on companies.

    “Bill 148 was too much too fast,” she said, referring to the Liberal reforms passed in 2017. “(It) created significant unintended but predictable consequences for businesses.”

    Julie Kwiecinski, director of provincial affairs for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said her members “felt unfairly vilified by Bill 148.”

    “They felt disrespected for the jobs they create and the contributions they make every day in their communities,” adding that the changes were “forced on them all at once without any economic impact analysis whatsoever.”

    Bill 148 was introduced following a two-year consultation and a 400-page independent report informed by 10 academic research projects.

    Ontario Federation of Labour president Chris Buckley said the changes would result in workers “working full time and still living in poverty.”

    On top of the 20 groups scheduled to depute on Thursday, some 113 applicants unsuccessfully requested to testify in person to the committee. They will be able to make written submissions instead.

    Critics lashed out at the short time frame for consultation on the bill — pointing out that the new labour protections introduced in 2017 involved 12 public consultations, 200 oral presentations, and nearly 600 written submissions.

    Catherine Fife, NDP MPP for Waterloo requested Thursday’s session be extended until midnight to accommodate the volume of applications to speak, but the request was denied because the house had ordered the committee to sit until 6 p.m.

    “I know previously the consultation was two years so five minutes probably doesn’t seem enough,” said NDP MPP for Sudbury Jamie West to Buckley, referring to the brief period he was able to testify.

    “Neither does five hours,” Buckley responded.

    Read the Toronto Star full story

  • Toronto Star: Ministry of Health not consulted about health impacts of removing paid sick days, advocates told

    By Sarah Mojtehedzadeh

    The Ministry of Health was not consulted about the health impacts of proposed new legislation to remove Ontario workers’ right to two paid sick days despite extensive literature showing the policy’s public health implications, according to three individuals who met with health minister and deputy premier Christine Elliott earlier this month.

    The Nov. 6 meeting with Elliott about Bill 47, which proposes significant changes to workplace standards, was attended by emergency room physician Jesse McLaren, Fight for $15 organizer Jessa McLean, and Katherine Grzejszczak, president of CUPE Local 905, which represents York Region municipal employees, including front-line health-care professionals.

    All three separately told the Star that when presented with evidence about the public health benefits of paid sick days, Elliott responded by saying she had not been consulted about the Conservative government’s new legislation. Organizer McLean said when pressed on the health implications of the bill, Elliott said neither she nor her ministry were involved in its drafting.

    “That surprised us because we knew the impact it would have on the Ministry of Health,” said McLean.

    “She said I wasn’t involved in this, you should check with the labour ministry — they’re the ones who drafted this legislation,” said McLaren, who works at Toronto General Hospital and is involved with the Decent Work and Health Network, which seeks to address health equity issues.

    “That was kind of a shocking statement from the health minister and the deputy premier.”

    When asked whether the health ministry and minister had been consulted about Bill 47, spokesperson David Jensen said the Star should “contact the Ministry of Labour since they are the lead ministry for Bill 47 and would have any information on what consultations took place.”

    Asked what consultations took place on the health impacts of the legislation, labour minister spokesperson Christine Bujold said Elliott has “publicly indicated that she worked with other members of Cabinet on Bill 47,” and pointed to a Nov. 10 tweet from the minister where she said she was “proud to have worked with our government to bring forward Bill 47 and repeal most parts of the Liberals’ job-killing Bill 148.”

    Bujold did not respond to followup questions about whether the health ministry or minister were specifically consulted about the sick day policy.

    Advocates worry the loss of paid sick days will result in more people coming to work sick if it means losing a day’s pay.

    Ontario workers are currently entitled to two paid sick days and eight unpaid leave days after measures brought in last year under the Liberals through Bill 148. The Ford government wants to give workers eight unpaid leave days instead — three for illness, three for family responsibilities, and two for bereavement leave.

    A recent Campaign Research survey found 77 per cent of Ontarians oppose the move to scrap two paid sick leave days.

    McLaren said the Decent Work and Health network had sought a meeting with the Ministry of Health about paid sick leave since October, initially pressing through the Ontario Medical Association. When nothing materialized, he joined the Nov. 6 meeting, which took place during Elliott’s constituency week.

    McLaren said he provided Elliott with 15 research studies on the benefits of paid sick days, including a 2010 World Health Organization report that found that “gaps in paid sick leave result in severe impacts on public health and the economy.”

    Another article from the American Journal of Public Health found that the absence of paid sick days in the U.S. resulted in 5 million more flu cases amongst the general population.

    “She did take the studies that I brought,” McLaren added of Elliott. “She said she would read them and said she would speak with the labour minister.”

    Last week, McLaren testified before the Finance and Economic Affairs committee that removing paid sick days and reinstating employers’ right to ask for sick notes through Bill 47 “goes against public health evidence” and will contribute to hospital overcrowding.

    “As an emergency room physician, I depend on my patients not to come to the emergency room for unnecessary reasons like a sick note,” he told the committee.

    Conservative MPP for Thornhill Gila Martow told the committee the new proposals for unpaid leave were “more progressive.”

    “We are offering a very progressive package of leave,” she said, adding most other Canadians provinces do not offer paid sick days.

    CUPE Local 905 president Grzejszczak, who is also a paramedic, and attended the Nov. 6 meeting, said there was “one line that consistently comes out of this government about Bill 47 and that’s the impact on business. That’s the only thing I’ve heard them say the entire time.”

    “So her inability to engage on the health issues I actually didn’t find surprising,” she added of Elliott.

    Grzejszczak said she told Elliott that some of her members, including paramedics and nursing staff in long-term-care facilities in York Region, will lose their right to paid sick days if Bill 47 passes.

    “They will be coming into work sick and caring for immunocompromised patients,” she said

    McLaren, who said the Decent Work and Health Network met with previous health minister Eric Hoskins in the lead-up to Bill 148, said he asked Elliott what health evidence the government used to draft the new legislation.

    “She went back to the economic arguments,” he said, adding that research from San Francisco and New York shows employer support for paid sick leave policies implemented in those jurisdictions.

    “It’s a bit of a myth that it will destroy small businesses,” said McLaren.

    Bill 47 is expected to go to its third reading at Queen’s Park Tuesday.

    Read the Toronto Star full story

  • in Brampton: Here’s What’s Happening With Worker’s Sick Days in Ontario

    By Paige Petrovsky

    If passed Bill 47 would repeal most of the workplace protections that were put into place about a year ago. These workplace protections aimed to ensure safety and well-being on the job.

    Now, the passing of Bill 47 may be a reality.

    It was recently announced that Bill 47 passed the third reading today, Nov. 21.

    Bill 47 would eliminate two paid sick days and limit access to personal emergency leave and have lower penalties assigned to employers for violating workplace laws.

    Critics also worry that it will make it easier to deny workers any employment standards protections — including EI, CPP and WSIB — by misclassifying them as self-employed contractors instead of employees, make it easier for employers to fire workers who decline last-minute shifts.

    Critics have also spoken out against the province’s plan to freeze minimum wage at $14 per hour and delay a $15 minimum wage in Ontario to 2025. They also say the bill would allow employers to pay part-time and temporary agency workers a lower wage than their full-time or directly-hired counterparts, which will lead to an increase in precarious jobs with no benefits.

    Premier Ford broke his promise to Ontarians today, he’s not for the people,” Pam Frache, Coordinator of the Ontario-wide Fight for $15 & Fairness Campaign, said in a recent press release.

    Let’s be clear, rich corporations are the only ones who stand to benefit from Bill 47, while the lowest wage earners will be forced back into poverty.”

    In the press release, Franche added:

    The Ford government had absolutely no mandate to pass Bill 47, they ignored the majority opposition coming from the public and shut the people out from giving input every step of the way."

    According to a recent press release, a recent campaign research poll showed that 77 per cent of Ontarians - including 64 per cent of PC voters - opposed the elimination of paid sick days.

    Regardless, the Ford government voted to cancel them.

    "Bill 47 is replacing the previous leave reforms with a straightforward package of defined annual job-protected leave days for every worker in Ontario: 3 days of sick leave; 3 days of family responsibility leave; and 2 bereavement days," Christine Bujold, Senior Communications Advisor and Press Secretary, Office of the Honourable Laurie Scott, Minister of Labour, said via email.

    "Workers would be eligible for these leaves after two weeks of work for the employer. In addition to these job-protected leave days, every worker in Ontario will be eligible to receive three weeks of paid vacation after five years."

    The Ontario Chamber of Commerce, on the other hand, is happy with the passage. The following statement was released by Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the OCC.

    On behalf of our 60,000 members in 135 communities across the province, we are pleased the Government of Ontario is holding strong in its commitment to make Ontario open for business. Bill 47 restores balance to both employers and workers as well as reduces significant financial and administrative burden felt by businesses of all sizes throughout the province. With the competitiveness of our province at a critical point, the labour reforms introduced by Bill 47 are fundamental to the long-term prosperity of our people, our businesses, and our economy.”

    What do you think of Bill 47?

    Read the in Brampton full story

  • NOW Toronto: Why women stand to lose most under Doug Ford's Making Ontario Open For Business Act

    By Doreen Nicoll

    The Ford government have set in motion changes that will significantly add to the financial stress for women, including those looking to leave abusive relationships

    The Raise the Rates Coalition is holding a rally outside Premier Doug Ford’s family business, Deco Labels, on Saturday (November 17), at 1 pm, to protest Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open For Business Act. Among other cost-cutting moves, the proposed legislation will repeal a planned $1 increase in minimum wage. That’s in addition to the Ford government’s decision earlier this fall to cut in half a long-awaited rate increase to already massively underfunded Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Payment programs.

    While Bill 47 takes away hard-won protections for marginalized and racialized workers, the coalition says it’s women who stand to lose the most.

    That’s because women comprise the bulk of part-time workers, says Pam Frache, coordinator of the Fight for $15 and Fairness Coalition, one of the groups organizing Saturday’s protest. The bill also removes equal pay protections. While employers are still prohibited from paying women less than men, the bill removes the right of employees to request employers review their rate of pay or provide a response in writing on the reasons why they may be receiving unequal pay.

    Regarding women in the workforce, Frache says, “Maintaining a sub-poverty minimum wage and paying women less than their full-time counterparts exacerbates an already unequal situation.”

    The Ford government’s proposed changes will also make it more difficult for female-dominated workplaces, like home-care services, to unionize.

    Bill 47 maintains provisions brought in by the previous Liberal government providing up to 17 weeks of leave for victims of sexual assault or domestic violence. Those provisions include five days of paid leave, time that is generally used to go to doctor’s appointments, get legal assistance, find new housing, find child care and to access a variety of services for themselves and their children. But the bill repeals 10 days of job-protected leave for personal and family illness.

    London West NDP MPP Peggy Sattler, the party’s former women’s critic, points out that for women escaping violence, “if her job is insecure and doesn’t pay enough to lift her out of poverty, she may still feel forced to stay in the abusive relationship.”

    Research shows that women are far more likely to fall into poverty after leaving a relationship than men. Too often women are afraid to leave or are forced to return to their abusers because they can’t afford rent, child care, food, clothing and other basic necessities.

    With most women’s shelters operating over capacity due to a lack of affordable transition and permanent housing, the added burden of insufficient income makes it all the more difficult for women to leave and remain out of abusive relationships. Now Ford and his government have set in motion changes that will significantly add to that financial stress for women.

    Read the NOW Toronto full story