Work­place law changes don’t go far enough: Hor­wath

Up to Queen’s Park to do the right thing for work­ers

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - AN­DREA HOR­WATH An­drea Hor­wath is leader of On­tario’s NDP.

I pub­licly com­mit­ted to a $15 min­i­mum wage in early 2016, and since then, the NDP has been proud to join to­gether with the ad­vo­cacy groups and unions that led the un­re­lent­ing push for a $15 wage.

Now, it’s up to Queen’s Park to do the right thing for work­ers. That means mak­ing sure wage in­creases ac­tu­ally hap­pen — but it also means do­ing so much more to help the grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple in un­sta­ble work build sta­bil­ity.

The fact is, the Chang­ing Work­places Re­view that kicked off this over­due dis­cus­sion was sup­posed to rec­og­nize how work has changed in On­tario. Sadly, it didn’t.

Now, the pro­posed changes to the Labour Re­la­tions and Em­ploy­ment Stan­dards Acts aren’t good enough.

Less sta­ble work — like part-time and con­tract work — is quickly on the rise. Since Kath­leen Wynne be­came Pre­mier, the num­ber of peo­ple work­ing more than one part-time job has shot up by 20 per cent.

But the changes now on the ta­ble fall short of lev­el­ling the play­ing field for those work­ers. The bill is rid­dled with in­con­sis­ten­cies, giv­ing some rights to some, not to oth­ers.

The NDP is now tour­ing to hear feed­back on this bill. It’s clear the bill fails to give tem­po­rary, part-time and con­tract work­ers more sta­bil­ity — and fails many other work­ers in other ways. After we’ve heard what peo­ple across the prov­ince have to say, I’ll be tabling a full pack­age of mean­ing­ful amend­ments.

I can tell you now, there are a few is­sues my amend­ments will def­i­nitely ad­dress.

First, I be­lieve work­ers with un­sta­ble, part-time and con­tract work should have ac­cess to paid sick and per­sonal emer­gency days. It’s not right to force a per­son to choose be­tween tak­ing care of their health, or pro­tect­ing their bud­get for the month.

Yet, those work­ers are re­stricted to just two days per year — meant to cover ev­ery­thing from ill­ness to surgery, a flooded base­ment at home or a sick child.

I’ll be fight­ing for a rea­son­able num­ber of paid days to cover ill­ness and per­sonal emer­gen­cies.

The bill also gives three weeks’ va­ca­tion only to those with five years of se­nior­ity in a job. That’s too long to wait, given the changed na­ture of work.

And it’s ab­so­lutely un­ac­cept­able that this bill doesn’t do more to pro­vide sup­port and flex­i­bil­ity for vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. An On­tario NDP mo­tion over a year ago called for those es­cap­ing in­ti­mate part­ner abuse and as­sault to have ac­cess to 10 days of paid leave, flex­i­ble work ar­range­ments and ad­di­tional rea­son­able un­paid leave, if needed. Sur­vivors may need time to get med­i­cal treat­ment both for their phys­i­cal and men­tal health, to seek vic­tims’ ser­vices or so­cial ser­vices, to re­lo­cate to a shel­ter or safe home, and to par­tic­i­pate in le­gal pro­ceed­ings.

That mo­tion passed unan­i­mously. Then was ig­nored — left out of the new bill. That’s un­ac­cept­able.

My amend­ments will also rec­og­nize that work­ers in ev­ery work­place should have the right to choose to form a union. A union card is a ticket into the mid­dle class, a promise of fair­ness and great sta­bi­liz­ing fac­tor in the lives of On­tario work­ers.

Yet card-check cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, union suc­ces­sor rights and first-con­tract ar­bi­tra­tion — all things that help work­ers to form a union and ob­tain their first, fair col­lec­tive agree­ment — are limited to just some work­ers in some sec­tors. That’s not good enough. Work­ers and fam­i­lies de­serve more sta­bil­ity. This is our op­por­tu­nity. So let’s do some­thing about it.

I’ll be fight­ing for a rea­son­able num­ber of paid days to cover ill­ness and per­sonal emer­gen­cies AN­DREA HOR­WATH

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