Uni­for make voices heard

Uni­for Lo­cal 636 demon­strated out­side MPP Ernie Harde­man’s of­fice to op­pose Bill 47

Sentinel-Review (Woodstock) - - NEWS - CHRIS FUNSTON With files from Jen­nifer Bieman, The Lon­don Free Press

In their sec­ond demon­stra­tion in front of Ox­ford MPP Ernie Harde­man’s Wood­stock con­stituency of­fice in as many weeks, Uni­for mem­bers wanted their voices heard as they con­tin­ued to op­pose the Mak­ing On­tario Open for Busi­ness Act (Bill 47).

Mem­bers of Lo­cal 636 ral­lied on Fri­day to op­pose the bill they say will hurt On­tario work­ers work­ers.

“We’re here fight­ing for work­ers’ rights and we aren’t go­ing away,” said Melissa Holden, vice-pres­i­dent of Uni­for Lo­cal 636. “We are go­ing to con­tinue to fight be­cause, if the MPs aren’t go­ing to fight their con­stituen­cies’ rights, then we’re go­ing to do ev­ery­thing we can to make sure that some­one gets elected next time that will fight for our rights.”

Uni­for of­fi­cials said the Ox­ford MPP has pub­licly sup­ported Bill 47 on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions. The bill’s in­tent, they said, is to re­peal a num­ber of rights in­tro­duced through the pre­vi­ous Lib­eral gov­ern­ment’s labour re­forms that will neg­a­tively af­fect work­ers in the rid­ing, as well as mil­lions of other work­ers across On­tario.

In a state­ment to the Sentinel Re­view, Harde­man said he be­lieved what is more sig­nif­i­cant – de­spite the demon­stra­tions – is the num­ber of peo­ple, busi­ness own­ers and agri­cul­tural lead­ers he’s heard from who are sup­port­ing the gov­ern­ment’s changes.

“They are go­ing to lead to more good jobs and eco­nomic growth here in Ox­ford,” Harde­man said in the state­ment. “I heard from one Ox­ford busi­ness owner who had laid off six peo­ple as a re­sult of Bill 148 and is now feel­ing pos­i­tive about fu­ture growth.”

Harde­man, the prov­ince’s agri­cul­ture min­is­ter, said sev­eral or­ga­ni­za­tions across the agri­cul­ture and food pro­cess­ing sec­tors sup­port the new bill, in­clud­ing the On­tario Fed­er­a­tion of Agri­cul­ture, Chicken Farm­ers of On­tario, and Food and Bev­er­age of On­tario.

“Our gov­ern­ment will con­tinue to make changes that will at­tract good jobs and eco­nomic growth and across On­tario,” said Harde­man.

Bill 47 elim­i­nates the $1-an-hour min­i­mum wage bump the pre­vi­ous Lib­eral gov­ern­ment had planned for Jan. 1, 2019. The bill also makes min­i­mum wage sub­ject to an an­nual ad­just­ment for in­fla­tion start­ing Oct. 1, 2020.

The pre­vi­ous Lib­eral gov­ern­ment raised min­i­mum wage to $14 an hour in Jan­uary, an amount that was set to in­crease to $15 at the start of 2019.

The in­creases were part of the Fair Work­places, Bet­ter Jobs Act (Bill 148), which in­sti­tuted sev­eral other labour re­forms, in­clud­ing three hours’ pay for em­ploy­ees whose shifts are can­celled with less than 48 hours’ no­tice and equal pay for full-time, part-time, ca­sual and tem­po­rary em­ploy­ees do­ing the same job.

The Ford gov­ern­ment is re­peal­ing both of those re­forms, and sev­eral more, which Holden said is fright­en­ing to work­ers, es­pe­cially those who work part time and make min­i­mum wage.

“It’s re­ally scary. They seem to be at­tack­ing the must vul­ner­a­ble cit­i­zens,” said Holden of the On­tario Con­ser­va­tives. “They’re at­tack­ing peo­ple who make min­i­mum wage. They’re at­tack­ing our health-care sys­tem, hos­pi­tals and long-term care cen­tres. The PCs were elected on be­ing for the peo­ple – but you’re ob­vi­ously not for the av­er­age, hard­work­ing On­tario cit­i­zen.”

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port by Ox­ford Com­mu­nity Health, 4.3 per cent of Ox­ford county res­i­dents have an in­come too low for ba­sic needs, with 33 per cent of woman mak­ing min­i­mum wage com­pared to 22 per cent of men.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Mem­bers of Uni­for 636 protest Bill 47 out­side of Ox­ford MPP Ernie Harde­man’s of­fice in Wood­stock on Fri­day.

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