Ontario Labour Law Report Falls Short: Steelworkers

TORONTO, May 24, 2017 /CNW/ - After many months of constructive input and consultations, the final report from Ontario's Changing Workplaces Review clearly sets out the critical need for progressive change for employees in Ontario. But some of its key recommendations then fall well short of the path needed to get there.

Just days ago, Labour Minister Kevin Flynn told the Toronto Star that the current employee-employer relationship is "an unbalanced relationship where the employer holds all the cards."

Yet around strikes and lockouts, the Review leaves that imbalance largely in place by suggesting that employers should be free from third-party arbitration in the event of long lockouts and strikes and still be able to hire replacement labour. The Review departs from decades of well-researched evidence that a card-based certification process is needed to sufficiently remove the inherent and damaging effect of employer involvement in employees' unionization choices.

The United Steelworkers (USW) is also disappointed that the Review did not advise the government to introduce paid domestic violence leave and a longer period of unpaid, protected leave so as to assist those exiting abusive domestic relationships and that it recommends a reduction in personal emergency leave time for workers.

Other recommendations by the Review would, 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 co-workers during organizing efforts, for ensuring that workers in the precarious sectors of security, cleaning, food services and home health care do not lose their union in the event of a flip in their company's contract for service and for increasing certain sanctions on employers that breach the law.

The USW supports the Review's unequivocal guidance that Ontario law and policy should begin to build modern, durable bargaining structures by enhancing the labour board's capacity to consolidate bargaining units and by providing workers in often low-paid franchise employment with the right to combine multiple bargaining units in one area into one overall bargaining unit.

As well, the USW supports the Review's direction for the government to close some of the egregious exemptions and loopholes in the Employment Standards Act, to equalize part-timers' pay with that of full-time workers, to limit the right of employers to keep workers in lower-paid 'permanent temporary' status and to increase vacations for workers with five years of employment with the same employer.

The USW calls on Premier Wynne and Minister Flynn to promptly introduce legislation encompassing these and other Review recommendations and to also move beyond the Review and truly rebalance the employee-employer relationship by guaranteeing:

  • a broader-based bargaining model that is even more inclusive and reaches beyond employees of franchisees. The goal must be to bring access to OLRA 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 all Ontarians, no matter where they work. Currently this right is limited to those in the construction sector, a restriction that has no justification.

"The USW calls on the Premier and Cabinet to show that Ontario can lead in the renewal and expansion of employees' rights. The goal must be to raise working conditions standards for all Ontarians," said Marty Warren, USW Ontario Director. "This government can choose to aim much higher. In the next few weeks, we will know its choice."

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: Contacts: 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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