TORONTO—Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has initiated changes to the province’s labour legislation in a move she says creates more opportunity and security for workers.
The flagship policy of Wynne’s labour initiative is hiking the minimum wage, which will rise to $14 per hour on January 1, 2018, and then to $15 on January 1, 2019, followed by annual increases pegged to the rate of inflation.
“The economy has changed. Work has changed. It’s time our laws and protections for workers changed too,” said Premier Wynne. “Too many families are struggling to get by on part-time or contract work and unstable employment. And no one working full time in Ontario should live in poverty. With these changes, every worker in Ontario will be treated fairly, paid a living wage and have the opportunities they deserve.”
The new rules also ensure part-time workers are paid the same hourly wage as full-time workers, introducing paid sick days for every worker and stepping up enforcement of the new employment laws.
In a press release, the Wynne government says exports and business investments are increasing and the unemployment rate is at a 16-year low, but the nature of work has changed, leaving workers struggling to support their families on part-time, contract or minimum-wage work.
Described as a “landmark package of measures,” the new legislation includes:
- Raising Ontario’s general minimum wage to $14 per hour on January 1, 2018, with annual increases at the rate of inflation
- Mandating equal pay for part-time, temporary, casual and seasonal employees doing the same job as full-time employees; and equal pay for temporary help agency employees doing the same job as permanent employees at the agencies’ client companies
- Expanding personal emergency leave to include an across-the-board minimum of at least two paid days per year for all workers
- Bringing Ontario’s vacation time into line with the national average by ensuring at least three weeks’ vacation after five years with a company
- Making employee scheduling fairer, including requiring employees to be paid for three hours of work if their shift is cancelled within 48 hours of its scheduled start time
- The government will also propose measures to expand family leaves and make certain that employees are not misclassified as independent contractors
To enforce these changes, the province will hire up to 175 more employment standards officers and launch a program to educate both employees and small and medium-sized businesses about their rights and obligations under the Employment Standards Act.
Today’s announcement was a response to the final report of the Changing Workplaces Review, ordered by the provincial liberals and conducted by special advisors Michael Mitchell and John Murray, over the course of two years. It is the first-ever independent review of the Employment Standards Act and Labour Relations Act.
The report estimates that more than 30 per cent of Ontario workers were in precarious work in 2014. The press release says this type of employment makes it hard to earn a decent income and interferes with opportunities to enjoy decent working conditions and/or puts workers at risk.
“These changes will ensure every hard-working Ontarian has the chance to reach their full potential and share in Ontario’s prosperity. Fairness and decency must be the defining values of our workplaces,” said Kevin Flynn, Ontario’s labour minister.
More than a quarter of Ontario workers would receive a pay hike through the proposed increase to the minimum wage.
The government plans to launch a broad consultation process to gain feedback from a wide variety of stakeholders on the draft legislation.