Ontario's Government Must Aim Higher: United Steelworkers

TORONTO, May 31, 2017 /CNW/ - The changes to labour law and employment standards announced by the Ontario government do not match up to some of the most significant challenges faced by working Ontarians.

"There are some positive moves, but it has been 25 years since there have been major positive changes to these laws, so the government could and should have done more here," said Marty Warren, USW Ontario Director.

The increase in the minimum wage to $15 is positive, but the overall package shies away from providing employees with enough means to form unions and bargain consistent improvements in precarious workplaces.

The USW is disappointed that the government chose not to follow the advice of its special advisors to provide workers in often low-paid franchise employment with the a broader-based bargaining model and the right to combine multiple bargaining units in one area into one overall bargaining unit. This is the sort of innovative change that is needed by people working without union membership in vulnerable and precarious jobs – the very group that the government has repeatedly asserted is most in need of help. 

Last week, after two years of consultations, the special advisors to the Ministry of Labour delivered 173 recommendations for changes to Ontario's Labour Relations Act (OLRA) and the Employment Standards Act (ESA).  

"Union members from all parts of Ontario made their genuine concerns heard.  Although we say the reforms are too modest, we are proud that our engagement was active and informed. That's what union members do, we get involved for the common good. Imagine what this would have been like if only business had been in the room," said Warren.

The USW calls upon the government and the opposition parties to improve these proposed changes to ensure:

  • An inclusive broader-based bargaining model that brings access to collective bargaining rights to employees in all corners of our rapidly changing economy.
  • The option of binding arbitration to solve long strikes or lockouts and the protection of the right to strike by prohibiting employers from using replacement workers.
  • Card-check certification rights for Ontarians in all sectors and workplaces.
  • A longer period of paid, protected leave for those exiting abusive domestic relationships.

Some changes announced will, if implemented, go some way toward repairing other sections of the province's currently outmoded legislation. 

Among the recommendations supported by the USW are the provision of initial means for employees to communicate with their co-workers during organizing efforts, the extension of successor rights so that workers in the precarious sectors of security, cleaning and food services do not lose their union in the event of a flip in their company's contract for service and the increases in certain sanctions on employers that breach the law. 

"There is time to improve this plan in forthcoming legislation," said Warren. "Working people have been waiting 25 years for a real change to our labour laws and this is not yet it. Our union and our members will be there to advocate for improvements. We hope the government is ready to listen."

For a full list of the priorities identified by the USW, click here.  

Important material from the Ontario Federation of Labour can be found at: www.makeitfair.ca/priorities.

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information: Marty Warren, USW Ontario Director, 416-243-8792, mwarren@usw.ca; Brad James, USW Organizing Department, 416-524-5118, bjames@usw.ca; Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-434-2221, bgallagher@usw.ca

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