The labour reforms unveiled recently by the Ontario Liberal government are creating waves provincewide, and none more than the planned jumped to a $15 per hour minimum wage.
It’s a sign that while many factors currently transforming a number of workplaces are beyond the province’s control, the government cannot simply stand by and accept that as an inevitability.
Agree with them or not, Queen’s Park still holds the power when it comes to protecting the rights of workers.
With the target set on a wage increase, the legislature is looking to rise to the challenge. The plan lays out the government’s first full-scale attempt to deal with the rising issue of precarious employment. In Ontario, more than 20 per cent of workers now find themselves in this situation — many in low wage, temporary jobs.
It comes at a time when the traditional perks of full-time employment, such as predicatable hours, pensions and even the prospect of minimum wage, are growing more and more elusive.
To this point, there’s been little government intervention.
Reforms laid out in what’s been called the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act would promote decent work by raising minimum vacation entitlements for many employees; require companies to provide fair notice before rescheduling shifts; improve emergency leave; and make it easier to form unions.
What’s drawn the ire of countless business advocates is the proposed minimum wage hike, which would take the current rate of $11.25 and up it to $14 by Jan. 1, 2018 and a dollar further a year after that. Thereafter, any increases would be tied to inflation.
It’s a good news decision for the 10 per cent of workers in Ontario currently earning minimum wage. If they are lucky enough to work 35 hours per week, it’s an annual salary of $20,748. Although, in much of the province, that’s well below the poverty line.
Small business lobbyists are already calling for their punishment to end, warning the higher costs they cannot afford will lead to job losses. That’s addition by substraction at its finest.
Others have argued that increasing the employer payout to employees will lead larger firms to rely more heavily on automation and technological features that require little human intervention.
It’s a faulty argument, however, because there’s already noted appearances of that happening provincewide. Take for instance the ability to bypass a cashier at some fast food restaurants by ordering and paying on one of several screens.
Moreover, business owners who feel they can only remain in business by paying their employees low wages needn’t be in business.
A hike to the minimum wage may seem scary to some, but it’s a welcome possibility for so many dealing with the rising costs of so much more.
Whether its a ticket to re-election or not, the Liberals finally appear to be taking action on a portfolio that’s been ignored for some time.
Precarious employment has been predictable for far too long.