In an effort to fulfill his campaign promise to make Ontario "open for business", Premier Doug Ford introduced the "Making Ontario Open for Business Act" on Tuesday. This pro-business legislation introduces sweeping changes, and repeals the bulk of the Wynne government's Bill 148.
Bill 148 was a long overdue update to the Ontario Employment Standards Act. It modernized workers rights to address the current issues affecting workers in Ontario, and to reflect the needs of the present workforce.
Most notably, Bill 148 raised the minimum wage in Ontario, introduced equal pay for equal work, increased vacation time, provided employees with personal emergency leave days, unpaid leave for employees who need to care for a critically ill family member, and provided leave for employees who are experiencing domestic or sexual violence.
However, according to the new PC Government, Bill 148 is "burdensome, job-killing red tape" that hinders investment and job growth in Ontario.
Unfortunately, the PC Government is missing the big picture. Bill 148 and the employee protection it provides, is necessary for job growth and increased investment in Ontario. A workforce in which employee's are afforded a minimum protection promotes longevity and consistency in the workforce and improves employee moral. Overall Bill 148 had the potential to benefit employers by limiting the potential for wrongful dismissal or human rights claims made against them.
What Will the Proposed Changes Do?
The Making Ontario Open for Business Act will, if passed, make the following notable changes, among other changes:
- Freeze the Ontario minimum wage at $14 for two years (until 2020), after which the minimum wage may increase with the rate of inflation. This will prevent the gradual increase to $15 that was proposed by Bill 148;
- Remove the minimum of two (2) paid sick days, and replace it with a minimum of three (3) unpaid sick days;
- Remove the requirement to pay part-time and casual staff at the same rate as full-time workers;
- Cancels the ten (10) personal emergency leave days, and replaces it with three (3) days for personal illness, two (2) for bereavement and three (3) for family responsibilities; and
- Repeals the changes to the Labour Relations Act that would make it easier for workers in various sectors to join a union.
The Conservative Government's proposal to repeal Bill 148 stymies the progress Ontario is trying to make towards modernizing its workplace legislation. The Employment Standards Act has not seen any major updates in over a decade. The needs of the workplace have changed over the past decade, it is only reasonable that workplace legislation keep up.
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