Rewarding the ‘good actors’
Ontario has introduced legislation called the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017. At the Ontario Legislature, it is called Bill 148. It is the first time in a generation that substantive changes have been made to update Ontario labour and employment laws. At its core, Bill 148 proposes an overdue cleanup of employment and labour-related legislation to close loopholes, reduce ambiguity, reflect the changing work and employment environment, and ‘raise the bar’ on how employees in a workplace may be compensated and treated.
Local employers have primarily asked me about two things: the two-step rise in the minimum wage, and whether proposed changes in how a union may organize a workplace might affect them. These two points were also my own primary concern. I received four separate briefings on the bill, two of which were one-on-one detailed conversations with a trusted friend, Labour Minister Kevin Flynn.
The proposed reforms and changes in Bill 148 will do no harm to reputable businesses operating in a fair and legal way.
Card-based union certification will, in the bill’s proposals, be extended in a very small way: to workplaces in which the workforce is mobile. Examples might include cleaners and security guards. If your employees work from a fixed location, this proposal does not apply to you. For example, most franchisors and franchisees are not affected by this proposal.
Similarly, the proposal to move Ontario’s minimum wage from its current $11.40 per hour to $14.00 per hour at the start of 2018, and to $15.00 per hour at the start of 2019 also affects few of western Mississauga’s employers and work forces, most of which pay (and are paid) more than the minimum wage. Ontario-wide, however, the proportion of the work force paid just the minimum wage has grown in the past decade. Moreover, outside Ontario, competing jurisdictions have caught up with, or are close to, Ontario’s minimum wage.
Getting at the ‘bad actors’
In practical terms, the proposals in Bill 148 level the proverbial playing field. Local businesses that operate in a lawful, ethical and transparent way, and pay their people fairly will feel little, if any, impact from Bill 148. Such businesses rightfully complain about competitors who pay workers cash under the table; compensate workers at the minimum wage and no more; cut corners on safety; misuse unpaid internships to get value for nothing; farm out workers through temp agencies to avoid benefits and similar practices. It is this latter group of ‘bad actor’ employers who will feel the impact of the proposals in Bill 148.
Businesses operating within the law, treating their people well, and paying a fair and living wage will find their competitive position improved within Ontario, and unchanged outside Ontario.
In recent weeks, business groups and economists have confirmed research clearly and repeatedly showing a rising minimum wage puts capital into the economy, and creates jobs.
Bill 148 proposals in a nutshell
- Raise Ontario’s general minimum wage to $14 per hour on January 1, 2018, and then to $15 on January 1, 2019, followed by annual increases at the rate of inflation;
- Mandate equal pay for part-time, temporary, casual and seasonal employees doing the same job as full-time employees; and equal pay for temporary help agency employees doing the same job as permanent employees at the agencies’ client companies;
- Expand personal emergency leave to include an across-the-board minimum of at least two paid days per year for all workers;
- Bring Ontario’s vacation time into line with the national average by ensuring at least three weeks’ vacation after five years with the same employer;
- Make employee scheduling fairer, including requiring employees to be paid for three hours of work if their shift is cancelled within 48 hours of its scheduled start time.
More information about Bill 148
- Ontario Ministry of Labour news release describing Bill 148;
- Read the actual text of Bill 148 at the Ontario Legislature’s web site;
- Open letter from Canadian economists supporting the rise in Ontario’s minimum wage;
- Ontario Ministry of Labour web site.
Bill 148 in the Legislature
Individuals and businesses made more than 90 presentations to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs at the Legislature during the summer. The legislation is currently in second reading debate in the Ontario Legislature. Incoming e-mail and community reaction in Mississauga is running overwhelmingly (about 500:1) in favour of the proposals in Bill 148.