Major Changes in Labour Standards in Ontario: an important Win for Workers!

Major Changes in Labour Standards in Ontario: an important Win for Workers!

Following up with the release of The Changing Workplaces Review’s final report, the Liberal Government has recently introduced Bill 148 (Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act), to amend two fundamental Labour laws in Ontario, the Employment Standards Act for all workers, and the Labour Relations Act for unionized workers only. One of the major improvements is the introduction of $15 minimum wage to be phased in on January 1st, 2019.

The IAM has been an active voice of the Fight for $15 & Fairness campaign and is happy to see that the current government announced the increase of the hourly minimum wage. That measure is praised by the Labour movement, grassroots organizations and economists. However, a few exemptions remain and many workers will not benefit from that increase. The IAM wants those exemptions removed

Public Hearings across the province are being held throughout the summer and the IAM strongly encourages members to attend them to have their voices heard. MIF webinars to present on Bill 148 are being organized to give you the proper tools.

Labour Relations Acts (LRA) Changes – Main Highlights

  • Bill 148 makes significant improvements by providing access to workplace information, under certain conditions. The ability to access needed information, however, remains limited. To strengthen workers’ right to organize, Bill 148 should also permit unions to access – in addition to full names, phone numbers, and personal email addresses – employees’ mailing addresses, job classification, employment status.

Extension of Card-based Certification

  • Only four sectors (temp agency industry, the building services sector, home care and community services industry, and the existing construction industry) will permit workers to unionize through card-based certification in the province. All sectors, not just four sectors of the job market, should have access to card-based certification.

Addressing “Contract-Flipping”

  • The legislation proposes to extend successorship rights only to the building services industry and allows for regulations to potentially extend successorship rights to publicly funded services. Bill 148 should extend successorship rights to all contracted services.

“Anti-Scab” Provision

  • The Bill does not prohibit “anti-scab” workers. Bill 148 should prohibit the use of replacement workers during strikes and lockouts.

Greater Access to first Contract Arbitration Provision

  • Bill 148 proposes that if a union is remedially certified, the OLRB must then order mediation-arbitration unless the union has aggravated the process. Bill 148 should provide automatic access to first agreement arbitration.

Employment Standards Act (ESA) – Main Highlights

Strengthen equal Pay for equal Work

  • Bill 148 acknowledges the fundamental principle that workers who are doing similar work should be paid the same. However, it currently states that males and females (and other genders) doing “substantially the same” work should be paid the same. This creates an incentive for employers to establish or maintain minor differences between jobs performed by different genders in an effort to maintain pay differences. To protect equal pay for equal work and prevent employers from manipulating job duties to evade equal pay obligations, the legislation should instead speak to “similar work”. For equal pay protections to be effective, workers must be aware of the wage structure in their workplace. 148 should require employers to have a proactive obligation of pay transparency that requires them to post wage rate information in the workplace and to report this information to the Ministry of Labour. Bill 148 should repeal both exceptions to equal pay and mirror the exemption language in the Pay Equity Act, which requires an employer to show that differential pay is both objective and does not discriminate based on sex.

“Just Cause” Protection for Workers

  • Bill 148 fails to protect non-unionized workers from unjust dismissal. Currently, the ESA does not require employers to have “just cause” when terminating workers. Bill 148 should provide for unjust dismissal protection in the ESA after a worker has been employed for three months with the same employer.

Paid Personal Emergency Leave (PEL) Days

  • If passed, the legislation will provide workers with two paid sick days without a medical note. Bill 148 should provide workers with seven paid PEL days.

Leave for Survivors of domestic and/or sexual Violence

  • The Bill does not provide designated domestic and/or sexual violence leave. Instead of creating a separate leave, Bill 148 creates a new entitlement to PEL. Bill 148 should create a designated leave for survivors of domestic and/or sexual violence – ten paid days of job-protected leave, followed by 60 days of job-protected unpaid leave.