Ontario Government Looking Into Significant Minimum Wage Increase

If you have a precarious job in Mississauga and you’re working for minimum wage and not sure about what protections you have as a worker in your current position, then you may be interested in proposals being announced this week about changing the labour laws in Ontario, including the possibility of increasing the minimum wage to $15 by this year.

According to a recent CBC report, the Ontario government will announce proposals to reform the laws as cited from the Changing Workplaces Review, which is the first full review of the Employment Standards Act and Labour Relations Act since former premier Mike Harris was in office from 1995-2002.

Amongst the recommendations in the report are the following:

  • Increasing the minimum wage from its current $11.40 an hour to $15, possibly by the end of the year. Currently, minimum wage increases are tied to the rate of inflation.

  • Giving all employees in Ontario a minimum number of sick days, although the government did not specifiy a number on that minimum.

  • Increasing annual paid vacation from the two week minimum.

  • Enhancing protections for workers in low paying and vulnerable jobs.

  • Ensuring that independent contractors doing the work of an employee are protected by employment laws.

  • Mandating that part-time workers be paid the same rate as full-time workers doing the same job in the same workplace.

  • Bringing some currently exempted classes of workers under the protection of the Employment Standards Act.

  • Providing workers the right to refuse shifts on short notice without fear of repercussions, while allowing employers the flexibility to make last-minute scheduling changes.

  • Expanding successor rights (requiring that a union contract remains in place when a company is sold) to unions in all sectors.

  • Stronger rules to push employers toward negotiating a first contract after a union is formed.

The report will be made public after Victoria Day. Officials said the government will announce the reforms it intends to make soon after the release, but it’s not clear whether legislation would be introduced before June 1, when Queen’s Park adjourns for the summer, or in September.

I can remember when I started working a summer job years ago, I was paid just over $8 an hour. That was the minimum wage in Ontario back then. Since that time, labour groups and various other stakeholders had advocated for increasing the minimum wage, or to go even further and institute a living wage that experts say actually allow someone to adequately support themselves with the basic necessities of life, such as food and shelter.

The movement for increasing the minimum wage has been spreading ever since, across not only in Canada but the United States. But the argument against the concept of increasing the minimum wage has also been strongly promoted by representatives of the business community. According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), increasing the minimum wage would have the following effects:

  • Job losses from minimum wage increases can take the form of hiring freezes, slower employment growth, or direct job cuts during an economic downturn.

  • Employers pay higher payroll taxes and minimum wage earners face higher payroll deductions, which reduces the value of wage increases. CFIB calculations show that a $15 per hour minimum wage earner will pay an additional $700 in provincial taxes.

  • Minimum wage increases do little to reduce poverty, since most minimum wage earners are young, live with family members, and are not from low-income households.

With the increasing of the minimum wage, as well as the Ontario piloting a Guaranteed Annual Income as an experiment in some Ontario communities, it looks like more indication of the changing nature of work in Mississauga as well as across Ontario are definitely coming to the forefront.

I feel redundant in asking whether you support a minimum wage increase (since I highly doubt a significant number of you if you’re a worker would say no to a wage increase), but feel free to share insights into the other labour reforms being proposed since they affect you as a worker (and employer) as much as hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

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