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  • September 18, 2017

Increasing Fairness in our Workplaces

A young man from Kingston recently shared a story with me that is similar to that of many Ontarians. He is struggling to get ahead; he can only get precarious work and a minimum wage income. His wife makes more than he does, and he longs to be able to contribute more.  He is overwhelmed with necessary life expenses, and this financial stress has begun to negatively affect his mental health. He expressed his longing for a win, how one single win could be a game changer for him.  His story is one of many.

Since the announcement of Bill 148; Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, he has had a few less sleepless nights and thanked me for my support of the Bill and our current government’s acknowledgment of the difficult situation many Ontarians find themselves in due to a minimum wage income.

It is stories like this that make me proud to be a part of a government that believes in fairness for all and continues to work to raise living standards.

To read more on Bill 148; Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act and the proposed changes, please see below.

Bill 148: Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act

Kingston and the Islands is no exception to precarious work and our employees not only want better, they need better; which is why I will always strive for more. Our government’s historic bill, which followed from the Changing Workplaces Review, will create more opportunity and security for workers with a plan for Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs. The proposed plan will update the province’s Labour and employment laws with the following changes:

  • Raise Ontario's general minimum wage to $14 per hour on January 1, 2018, and then to $15 on January 1, 2019, followed by annual increases at the rate of inflation
  • Mandate 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
  • Expand personal emergency leave to include an across-the-board minimum of at least two paid days per year for all workers
  • Bring Ontario's vacation time into line with the national average by ensuring at least three weeks' vacation after five years with the same employer
  • Make 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.


Bill 148 - Frequently Asked Questions

Won’t the cost of goods and services go up for everyone?  The cost of living will just become higher, won’t it?

It is important to recognize that the goals of economic growth and improved employee rights are not mutually exclusive. We have to make sure businesses have what they need to keep growing and we also have to make sure everyone in the province can benefit from that growth. We know that higher wages lead to greater job satisfaction and productivity, less turnover and more spending power for lower income earners.  That’s good for workers and its good for business too.

What is the timeline for the minimum wage increases? Are these increases guaranteed to happen?

Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs has passed First Reading and is currently with the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. As such, these are currently proposed changes to the legislation and will need to receive Royal Assent before the bill can be implemented. Our government has proposed raising the minimum wage to $14 per hour on January 1, 2018 and then to $15 on January 1, 2019, followed by annual increases in the rate of inflation.

If I am currently being paid over the minimum wage (example: $13.50) will I continue to be paid the same amount over the new minimum wage proportionally (example: current minimum wage is $11.40/hour or $2.10/hour less than the first increase to $14.00/hour.  Therefore, will my wage be $14.00/hour plus $2.10 = $16.10) after the first increase to $14.00 on January 1st, 2018?

The Ontario government has no rules or regulations requiring a business to proportionally raise an employee’s wage after these increases are put into place. This will be to your employer’s discretion.

How does Ontario’s minimum wage compare to other jurisdictions?

Ontario is not the first jurisdiction to move towards a $15-an-hour minimum. Alberta has committed an increase to a $15 minimum wage by 2018 and British Columbia will move to $15 by 2021. The negotiated minimum in Denmark is the equivalent of C$22.50 and the legislated minimum in Australia is C$17.70. Both countries pay their lowest-skilled workers much more than we do, but have unemployment rates similar to Ontario’s, around six per cent. There was also a 2016 study examining minimum wage hikes in the US, which showed no correlation between those increases and job losses. Between 2013 and 2014, 14 states increased the minimum wage and the majority of these states saw above-average job growth.

Were businesses consulted throughout this process?

There was a two-year extensive consultation process.

In the Review’s first phase of consultation, there were 12 public sessions held across Ontario that heard over 200 public presentations. The Review also received over 300 written submissions.

A wide range of business, labour, and advocacy groups as well as individuals provided input to the Special Advisors.

An Interim Report was issued in July 2016 that contained approximately 50 issues and over 225 options for further consultation. The Interim Report can be found on the Ministry of Labour website.

The second phase of consultation was initiated after the release of the CWR Interim Report and concluded in October 2016. The Special Advisors received over 280 written submissions in response to the Interim Report.

Why are you not removing the student minimum and liquor server minimum wage differential?

We are not removing the differentials. The current student minimum wage is $10.70 per hour and liquor server minimum wage is $9.90, therefore there will remain a differential of $0.80. However, the student and liquor server minimum wage will increase proportionately to the new general minimum wage in Ontario.

Won’t the changes help organized labour more than workers themselves?

The decision of workers to join a union, or not join a union, is a paramount right in this province. To be able to do so freely, without intimidation, is fundamental to fair workplaces in Ontario.

Our modern workplaces require a modern approach to certification. Expanding the method that workers can use to make their decision increases the democratization of the process, and provides an environment where the true wishes of the workers is more fairly demonstrated.

These changes will also ensure the process is done in a transparent manner, where access to information is available to all parties and nothing is being done in secret. Fairness also means respecting the will of workers. This includes maintaining union status when contractors change in contracting out in building services and homecare.

Will the government support businesses through this transition?

Our government recognizes that the Ontario economy depends on the strength of small businesses, which create jobs and build local economies. The Ministry of Labour will work with all kinds of businesses to see if there is further support the government can offer.

Some initiatives that are already in place are:

  • Eliminating the Capital Tax, this is providing $2.3 billion of tax relief every year.
  • Reducing the small business Corporate Income Tax Rate from 5.5% to 4.5%, saving businesses $2.5 billion per year.
  • Establishing the Burden Reduction Bill to save businesses up to $31 million and helping them avoid $200 million in costs.
  • Investing $190 billion over 13 years in infrastructure to make it easier for businesses to move their goods and services. 

These proposed changes will ensure that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from these initiatives, between government, business and workers, and share in the growth of our economy.

As part of Ontario’s five-year, $650 million Business Growth Initiative, we are also proposing a number of measures within the next few months to further help small businesses grow and cut red tape. Some of these measures include: reducing regulatory costs, streamlining compliance, international or national standards alignment, rewarding good actors, electronic transmission guarantee, government procurement, one-window service and reducing fees and other costs.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office at skiwala.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org or 613-547-2385.

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