By: Michelle Cook, Summer Law Student
Tuesday, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced which recommendations of the Final Report of the Changing Workplace Review she would like to see implemented, including a $15 minimum wage (see our summary of the Final Report here). While rumors of a $15 minimum wage have been swirling around since the past month (we first reported on it here), the announcement comes as part of the Ontario Liberal’s bigger campaign to protect vulnerable workers. The announcement also confirmed the rumours that annual vacation pay will be rising from two weeks to three weeks for employees that have worked at their jobs for at least five years (this was also recommended in the Final Report).
Throughout this campaign-style announcement it became abundantly clear that the Liberals were going to use this labour reform as a key platform position as they face a tough competition in next Spring’s provincial election. Not only is she hoping to attract support from the 10% of workers that current rely on Ontario’s $11.40 minimum wage, she is also hoping to alleviate strain on the 30% of workers who earn less than $15 an hour.
The schedule for raising the minimum wage is ambitious and stark—the wage will jump to $14 an hour on January 1, 2018, about six months before the next election. From then, it will take a year to rise to the $15 amount. The provincial Liberals, the NDP and Toronto Mayor John Tory have all confirmed their support to the $15 minimum wage increase and hope to have the amount tied to inflation going forward. Meanwhile, the Ontario Progressive Conservatives have refuse to announce their position on the topic, suggesting that they may try to roll back the minimum wage if they were elected into power. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business came out as the strongest opposition to the change, suggesting that small businesses with low profit margins may be forced to terminate employees because of the change.
Additional announced changes were regulations on scheduling practices, including a modified “three hour rule” with no exemptions (i.e. that the employer is required to pay an employee three hours’ wages if they cancel your shift with less than 48 hours notice). The current “3 hour rule” only applies if the employee physically arrives at the workplace. The provincial government also decided to implement the Final Report’s recommendation of changing personal emergency leave, allowing employees to take 10 days of leave per year, two of them paid. The government announced doubling the amount of Ministry of Labour workplace inspectors. Card-based certification for unionization is also making a return in the temporary worker, building services worker and home and community-care worker sectors.
The biggest change is yet to come as the Liberals have announced they hope to introduce legislative overhauls to labour and employment law this week, with implementation occurring by 2018. It looks like 2018 will be a big year for Ontario unions, employers and employees.
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