On­tario wage hike ‘re­ally good day for lit­tle guy’

$15 per hour min­i­mum, help for part-timers

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - JES­SICA SMITH CROSS AND AL­LI­SON JONES

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YEAR BE­FORE a gen­eral elec­tion, On­tario’s Lib­eral gov­ern­ment is promis­ing sweep­ing changes to labour laws that would ben­e­fit mil­lions of work­ers, in­clud­ing rais­ing the min­i­mum wage to $15 an hour by 2019, en­sur­ing equal pay for part-time em­ploy­ees and in­creas­ing va­ca­tion en­ti­tle­ments.

Premier Kathleen Wynne made the an­nounce­ment at a cam­paign-style me­dia event Tues­day, sur­rounded by sup­port­ers in con­struc­tion and health-care unions, and ac­tivists who’d called for the min­i­mum wage in­crease.

Ten per cent of On­tario work­ers cur­rently make the min­i­mum wage, Wynne said, and 30 per cent make less than $15 an hour.

“That’s mil­lions of peo­ple, many of them sup­port­ing a fam­ily on a wage that just doesn’t go far enough,” she said. “They’re rais­ing chil­dren, sav­ing up for their ed­u­ca­tion, won­der­ing if they’ll ever be able to get ahead on the monthly bud­get, let alone own a home.”

Hamil­ton’s Cham­ber of Com­merce was taken aback by the new leg­is­la­tion, said pol­icy an­a­lyst Huza­ifa Saeed.

The cham­ber had taken part in the Chang­ing Work­places Re­view from which the re­forms stem, Saeed said. Wage had not been part of the dis­cus­sion, and there was no in­di­ca­tion the other changes would be so “dras­tic,” he said. “They were very un­ex­pected.”

It’s too early to say what kind of im­pact they will have on small- and medium-sized busi­nesses, but Saeed said the cham­ber will con­sult with its mem­bers about this go­ing for­ward.

Wynne said the min­i­mum wage in­crease will be phased in grad­u­ally.

“Change in the work­place isn’t just on the hori­zon, it’s here.” PREMIER KATHLEEN WYNNE

It will rise with in­fla­tion, as sched­uled, from $11.40 cur­rently to $11.60 in Oc­to­ber. Then, the gov­ern­ment plans to bump it up to $14 an hour on Jan. 1, 2018, and $15 the fol­low­ing year.

Wynne also an­nounced plans to en­sure part-time work­ers will get equal pay for do­ing work equal to full-time staff, and that the min­i­mum va­ca­tion en­ti­tle­ment will be in­creased. In­stead of two weeks of va­ca­tion, work­ers will be able to get three weeks of paid va­ca­tion a year af­ter five years on the job.

The pro­posed changes are in re­sponse to a gov­ern­ment-com­mis­sioned re­port re­leased last week that in­cluded 173 rec­om­men­da­tions ad­dress­ing pre­car­i­ous work.

The Chang­ing Work­places re­view con­cluded that new tech­nol­ogy, a shrink­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor and fewer union jobs, among other fac­tors, have left ap­prox­i­mately one-third of On­tario’s 6.6 mil­lion work­ers vul­ner­a­ble.

The prov­ince’s changes to work­place laws will also es­tab­lish fairer rules for sched­ul­ing, in­clud­ing mak­ing em­ploy­ers pay three hours of wages if they can­cel a shift with fewer than 48 hours no­tice, Wynne said.

Per­sonal emer­gency leave would also be ex­panded. Cur­rently, it is only avail­able to em­ploy­ees at com­pa­nies with more than 50 peo­ple, but pro­posed leg­is­la­tion would en­sure all em­ploy­ees in the prov­ince get 10 days per year, two of them paid, Wynne said.

“Change in the work­place isn’t just on the hori­zon, it’s here,” Wynne said. “Peo­ple are work­ing longer, jobs are less se­cure, ben­e­fits are harder to come by, and pro­tec­tions are fewer and fewer. In a time of change like this, when the very na­ture of work is be­ing trans­formed, we need to make cer­tain that our work­ers are treated fairly.”

Labour Min­is­ter Kevin Flynn said the gov­ern­ment will ta­ble leg­is­la­tion on the labour law changes this week, be­fore the leg­is­la­ture rises for the sum­mer. The gov­ern­ment plans to send it to com­mit­tee for con­sul­ta­tions around the prov­ince over the sum­mer.

Flynn said that even though some of the changes — in­clud­ing the $15 min­i­mum wage — will come to into force af­ter the next elec­tion, they’re not con­tin­gent on the Lib­er­als be­ing re-elected.

“Any po­lit­i­cal party wants vot­ers to feel pretty good about you when you’re go­ing into an elec­tion. That’s part of be­ing in pol­i­tics, but it’s more than that. To­day’s re­ally a good day for the lit­tle guy.”

We need to make cer­tain that our work­ers are treated fairly.” KATHLEEN WYNNE PREMIER

CHRISTO­PHER KATSAROV, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

On­tario’s min­i­mum wage will jump from $11.40 an hour to $14 next year, and to $15 in 2019, says Premier Kathleen Wynne, de­spite busi­ness’s op­po­si­tion.

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