Ontario plans big boost to minimum wage, update of labour laws: Cohn

May 15, 2017
Article Source
Hamilton Spectator

Sweeping labour reforms — and a dramatic rise in the minimum wage up to $15 an hour — could soon target companies relying unfairly on part-time or contract work that deprives many Ontarians of decent wages from steady employment.

Ontario's Liberal government is debating a comprehensive update to labour laws that would boost private sector unionization, which has been declining at the same time as so-called precarious employment has left more and more people — middle class and working class — bouncing from one job to the next.

The provincial cabinet will decide next week how far to take the package of reforms spearheaded by Labour Minister Kevin Flynn after a two-year review, Changing Workplaces, headed by outside experts. But it could have far-reaching effects for people of all ages and all walks of life who worry about vacation time, job security and wage transparency as temporary workers are increasingly treated like second-class citizens.

Government sources say most elements are falling into place after public hearings and private lobbying that has pitted union demands against a backlash from the corporate sector — with the governing Liberals caught in the middle. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because cabinet deliberations are supposed to remain confidential.

In an interview, Flynn hinted strongly at the direction he is taking if he can win support from his cabinet colleagues. And with an election looming next year, the Liberals are also laying the groundwork for a campaign battle against the Opposition Progressive Conservatives, who have previously derided unions and opposed a higher minimum wage.

But as more workers face a future of instability and unpredictability, the government's goal is "to rebalance what has become an unbalanced relationship where the employer holds all the cards," Flynn told me.

"You can't justify treating that part-time worker any differently than a full-time worker."

Flynn argued that unionization is closely tied to higher living standards and employment protections, both of which have eroded in a changing workplace and world. The rise of franchise businesses and fragmented workplaces has made it much harder to organize workers into a union with rules dating from decades ago.

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