Unifor make voices heard
Unifor Local 636 demonstrated outside MPP Ernie Hardeman’s office to oppose Bill 47
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.
Members of Unifor 636 protest Bill 47 outside of Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman’s office in Woodstock on Friday.