Reforming Labour Laws: There’s a Lot on the line

Dear Peter,

Ontario’s labour laws are set for review this year and there is a lot on the line.

It has been 20 years since labour laws were re-opened in Ontario and that was under a Mike Harris government, when many of the gains made during the province’s first-ever NDP government were rolled back.

Now there is new hope. The Wynne government has bent to pressure from the labour movement, sustained media attention to the growing trend towards precarious work and the ensuing public outcry.

Yesterday, the “Changing Workplaces Review” began consultations in Toronto and they will be rolling out across the province over the months ahead.

There can be little doubt that this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change Ontario’s outmoded labour laws to lift employment standards for every worker and provide easier access to unionization and the protections it affords.

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) has responded by bringing together a big table of affiliates, progressive economists, labour-side lawyers and community allies to analyze the existing gaps in labour law and the impact on the people who are falling through them. All of this in an effort to develop a clear vision that is shared across the labour movement and to put forward a comprehensive set of policy proposals that can restore the balance to labour relations in Ontario and ensure that having a job will always be a pathway out of poverty.

The OFL is proposing a series of improvements to the Labour Relations Act that would eliminate the barriers to unionization, prevent employer intimidation and harassment during an organizing drive, help secure collective agreements and resolve disputes and maintain union protection in the workplace.

Key among the OFL’s recommendations are:

1. Card-Based Union Certification
2. Early Disclosure of Employee Lists
3. Neutral and Off-Site Voting, Including Telephone and Electronic Voting
4. Interest Arbitration for a First Contract
5. Reinstatement Following an Organizing Drive
6. Successor Rights for the Contract Services Sector
7. Anti-Scab Rules

The OFL is also working with the Workers’ Action Centre to champion changes to Employment Standards Act that would raise the floor for every worker in Ontario. Under the banner of “$15 and Fairness,” the labour movement is advocating for a $15 an hour minimum wage, paid sick days, increased vacation pay, an end to split shifts, equal treatment for temp agency workers and various other changes that would put an end to precarious work.

Schedule of Public Consultation Meetings

Any Ontarian concerned about workers’ rights and fair labour practices should learn more about the government’s “Changing Workplaces Review” and register to make a presentation during one of the public consultations:

• Toronto: Jun. 16, from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. at Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre Hotel (525 Bay St.)
• Ottawa: Jun. 18, from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. at Courtyard Ottawa Downtown (350 Dalhousie St.)
• Mississauga: Jun. 24, from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. at Courtyard Toronto by Marriott (7015 Century Ave.)
• Guelph: Jun. 25, from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. at OMAFRA (1 Stone Rd. W.)
• Windsor: Jul. 7, from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. at Holiday Inn (1855 Huron Church Rd.)
• London: Jul. 8, from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. at Station Park All Suite Hotel (242 Pall Mall St.)
• Sudbury: Jul. 23, from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. at a Venue TBD
• Hamilton: Sep. 10, from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. at a Venue TBD
• Thunder Bay: Sep. 16, from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. at a Venue TBD
• Toronto: Sep. 18, from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. at a Venue TBD

For information about the review and to register for public consultations, visit: http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/about/workplace/consultation.php

Comments can also be submitted before September 18, 2015 by contacting: CWR.SpecialAdvisors@ontario.ca or 1-888-868-5844

Join the registry at the OFL of people and organizations participating in the review and you will receive information and updates. Contact: Sylvia Stewart, OFL at sstewart@ofl.ca or 416-443-7677 (toll free: 1-800 668-9138)

To read more about the OFL demands and to read the preliminary submission, visit: http://ofl.ca/index.php/labourlawreform/

Together, we can fix labour law and stand up for workers’ rights.

In solidarity
Sid Ryan
OFL President