TORONTO, Sept. 26, 2012 /CNW/ - An announcement last week by the
Ministry of Labour that it intends to strengthen the Employment
Standards Act by hiring 18 additional enforcement officers was quietly
followed days later by a decision to lay off 19 staff doing
On Sept. 17 the Ministry announced with considerable media fanfare that
it was hiring the additional 18 officers in a bid to "protect"
vulnerable workers from predatory employers who fail to meet minimum
standards of wages, hours of work, paid holidays and other regulations
under the Act.
Three days later, on Sept. 20, 19 employment standards officers, known
as ESO1s, were told they were out of a job, victims of the McGuinty
government's attack on public services as a weapon in its austerity
agenda. Seventeen of the 19 officers have 20 or more years of service
with the provincial government.
"This move has all the hallmarks of how the McGuinty government goes
about misguiding the public and distorting the truth about the future
of public services in Ontario," said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president
of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. "The Ministry said this
was a 'proactive' move on its part to protect vulnerable workers; I say
it doesn't move the yardsticks one inch forward in protecting the
workplace rights of employees."
The duties of employment standards officers include investigating
complaints from workers, many of whom are new Canadians and who come
from minority groups, when their employers fail to meet the
requirements of the Act. Each of the affected officers facing layoffs
carries an average of 25 investigations at any one time. Under ESA
regulations they are required to clear a case within 40 days or pass
the file to a more senior officer, known as ESO2s.
"When you get past all the bafflegab coming out of the Minister's office
what we really see is how the government is eliminating that first
level of investigation by punting cases to other officers who are
already overworked," said Thomas. "No matter how the Ministry wants to
spin this, the issue is that these changes do nothing to strengthen
working conditions for tens of thousands of marginalized workers who
already bear the cost of unethical and unscrupulous employers."
SOURCE: Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)
For further information:
Len Elliot, OPSEU Chair, Ministry of Labour Employee Relations Committee, cell: (519) 857-4000