2016—2017 · Vol. 44 No. 1



Changing Workplaces Review and the fight to Make it Fair

Rally for Decent WorkOver the summer, the Ontario Ministry of Labour released the long-awaited Interim Report from the Changing Workplaces Review. The report presents a range of options for changes to both the Labour Relations Act and the Employment Standards Act, all based on consultations held in cities across the province in 2015.

Throughout those consultations, the business lobby maintained a firm position that no changes to these laws were necessary. Workers, community groups and unions, on the other hand, were united and adamant that a major overhaul is required to bring both of these laws into line with the new reality that has been emerging for Ontario workers over the past several years. While a quarter of Ontario’s workforce was once employed in well-paid, largely unionized industrial-sector jobs, that number is now barely 10 percent. At the same time, the proportion of service-sector jobs—many of them part-time and poorly paid—has increased dramatically, and the laws regulating labour and employment practices are woefully inadequate when it comes to protecting the hundreds of thousands of Ontarians who are now trapped in these low-wage, precarious jobs, without the protection of a union.

Infographic: Minimum wage — Canadian Association of Labour MediaAmong the progressive options contemplated in the report are changes to the Labour Relations Act that would not only make it easier for workers to unionize, but would also strengthen the rules to ensure that newly-unionized workers are able to bargain a fair first contract. Among the changes proposed for the Employment Standards Act are the strengthening of regulations so that employers could no longer shift their obligations onto contractors, sub-contractors and temporary agencies, and a provision for personal leave, vacation time and sick days for all workers.

Now that the Interim Report has been issued, the Ministry is inviting feedback on the options. And because business and employer groups will undoubtedly be pressuring the government to make as few improvements as possible, it’s critical that the voice of labour be loud and relentless in advocating for significant, positive change.

One way to ensure that voice is heard is to attend the Rally for Decent Work at Queen’s Park on October 1, 2016, hosted by the Fight for $15 and Fairness. Workers from around the province will be converging to deliver the same message that unions have delivered to the Changing Workplaces Review—that it’s time for the government to step up and make the legislative changes that will ensure decent working conditions, a living wage and fairness in every workplace in Ontario.

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