- June 20, 2017
- Posted by: Sage Shield Safety Consultants
- Category: Global Safety News
Along with the May 30 minimum wage increase announcement, the Ontario Liberals have put forward legislation that would introduce a number of sweeping changes to labour law in the province. This is a start to supporting working people in Ontario, but it doesn’t go far enough.
In a recent speech, Deena Ladd from the Workers’ Action Centre in Toronto described Ontario’s labour law as “Swiss cheese.” Whatever protections it contains do not cover all workers. If you are: a young person, a domestic worker, work in agriculture or horticulture, work in a business with fewer than 20 employees, or a liquor server, then you fall through one of the many holes in Ontario’s workplace protections.
If you are 18 or younger — that is to say, if you are one of the many young people struggling to save up for post-secondary education in a province with some of the highest tuition fees in the country — you are not paid minimum wage. Similarly, liquor servers are not paid the provincial minimum wage — for some, this is offset by tips, but this is not the case for everyone. As a former server, I can personally attest that there are evenings when restaurant workers in Ontario are simply making less than minimum wage, tips included.
If you are a worker in a workplace with fewer than 20 employees in Ontario, your employer has no responsibility to ensure that there is a trained Workplace Health and Safety representative in your workplace. Having such a rep means that at least one worker is informed about possible hazards in the workplace and able to make recommendations to management for improvements to safety policy and protocols. This is legally required in larger workplaces. However, smaller workplaces are exempt. The health and safety of workers is compromised as a result.
Lastly, the Liberals’ labour law reforms do not address the exclusion of domestic, agricultural and horticultural workers from the right to unionize. Domestic workers, a group comprised almost entirely of women, are excluded on the grounds that a domestic worker’s “special bond” with her employer would be damaged if she had the power to file formal grievances when her employer fails to respect her basic rights.
The Ontario Liberals recognize the importance of improving the enforcement of Ontario’s employment standards. The best protection a worker can have is education and a formal, protected means of filing workplace grievances. While the Liberals have made a good start in supporting working people in Ontario with the minimum wage increase, too many people are still being left behind.