Workers’ voices heard, government moves on fairer labour laws and $15 minimum wage

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University professors and academic librarians are pleased that the government is taking steps to bring more fairness to workplaces across Ontario. Today’s announcement by the Ontario Government includes positive measures to ensure equal pay for part-time and casual workers, more reasonable scheduling, and better rules for joining unions in some sectors. It also includes a welcome plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by January 2019.

Since the outset of the Changing Workplaces Review, OCUFA has been advocating for changes to employment and labour law that would improve working conditions, in particular for contract faculty at Ontario’s universities, and strengthen the rights of workers to join a union. The government has now indicated it is planning to move forward on many of our recommendations:

  • OCUFA recommends that all workers, including part-time and contract workers, should receive equal pay for work of equal value and equal access to benefits. The government announcement proposes that part-time, casual, seasonal, and temporary workers are paid equally to full-time workers when performing the same job for the same employer, but equal treatment is not extended to benefits.
  • OCUFA recommends reasonable scheduling provisions that provide employees with at least two weeks’ notice of work. The government announcement includes provisions that would protect employees from last-minute scheduling changes and being “on call” without any pay.
  • OCUFA recommends that the use of discontinuous contracts should be eliminated. The government announcement does not address this issue directly.
  • OCUFA recommends that the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) should be empowered to consolidate bargaining units. The government announcement proposes that the OLRB be allowed to change the structure of a bargaining unit where the existing units are no longer appropriate for collective bargaining.
  • OCUFA recommends that labour law ensure workers can organize collectively to improve their conditions of work and join a union, including a return to automatic card-based certification, a requirement that employees punitively disciplined during organizing drives be reinstated, and making first contract arbitration more accessible. The government announcement suggests returning to card-check certification in specific sectors (home care, community services, building services and temp agencies) and making first contract arbitration easier to access.

After two years of focused advocacy work on improving employment and labour law to address the rise of precarious work, OCUFA is pleased the government is taking action on this issue. This announcement follows the release of the final report of the Changing Workplaces Review on May 23, and represents a major step forward in efforts to support decent work for all workers in Ontario.

OCUFA will participate in the upcoming committee hearing process to provide input on the proposed legislation, and looks forward to working with our partners in the Fight for $15 & Fairness and the Ontario Federation of Labour to encourage the government to implement positive legislative changes as soon as possible.

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