Local labour council decries repeal of labour reforms
The Grey Bruce Labour Council has denounced the Ontario government’s planned rollback of labour reforms as a “betrayal” of workers.
“The (Premier Doug) Ford government talked about ’for the people’ throughout the election,” a news release from labour council president Kevin Smith said.
“. . . Ford and his sycophantic caucus have betrayed the very people that he claimed to want to work for,” council vice-president David Trumble said in the statement.
The labour council supported Bill 148’s focus on helping people with precarious work, in low-paid part-time and contract jobs - with a $15 minimum wage, scheduling protections and measures that made it easier to unionize.
The labour council also took specific aim at Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker, the Progressive Conservative party whip, and Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson, the education minister. The labour council said its delegates met with both MPPs before the election and left not seeing eye-to-eye, but with assurances they were heard.
The labour council now accuses the MPPs of paying “lip service” to their concerns and scrapping Bill 148s without a mandate.
They said the MPPs “tossed workers and many of their constituents aside to ensure their continued position as lapdogs of organizations that have advocated against workers and improvements for workers.”
Thompson’s office issued a statement on behalf of the minister and Walker which said they “listened to small business across Ontario.
“We firmly believe that by repealing Bill 148 we will reverse the damage done to our economy by the previous government including the more than 300,000 manufacturing jobs lost in Ontario in the last 15 years.
“We participated in extensive consultations with businesses and unions who all expressed the need to lighten financial burden and red tape on businesses. Repealing Bill 148 will solve key business concerns, ensure reasonable regulations and make Ontario open for business once again.”
The labour council said it would like to learn which members of the Owen Sound and District Chamber of Commerce supported the repeal of the Liberals’ labour reforms and patronize only those businesses whose owners supported the Liberal reforms, Trumble said in an interview. How that would happen he didn’t know.
Also, he noted Ontario saw job growth of more than 50,000 jobs since Bill 148 started coming into effect last November - “rather than this hue and cry that business was being driven away,” Trumble said.
For him, the biggest disappointment of the government’s new legislation is reversal of general support of workers in precarious jobs. The next biggest concern is what he said was a reversal of efforts to step up enforcement of health and safety laws.
The Making Ontario Open for Business Act (Bill 47) will freeze the $14 minimum wage until October 2020, followed by increases tied to the inflation rate, rather than have it rise to $15 per hour Jan. 1.
It will scrap 10 emergency leave days for workers and replace them with three unpaid days off for personal illness, two off for bereavement and three off for family responsibilities, also unpaid. Employers once again may ask for a sick note.
The Progressive Conservative government will end pay equity between part-time and full-time workers and reverse changes that made it easier for some to join a union.
While employees won’t be able to refuse a shift scheduled less than 96 hours before its start anymore, employers still will have to pay for a minimum of three hours work if a shift is cancelled or reduced.
Domestic and sexual violence leave will remain as before, as will three weeks vacation entitlement after five years.