Ontario Chamber of Commerce pushes for repeal of Minimum Wage Bill

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With a new provincial government at the helm in Ontario, the powerful Ontario Chamber of Commerce is making a powerful case for repealing the comprehensive labour law reforms passed by the previous Liberal government that saw the province’s minimum wage hiked to $14 an hour.

But the Ontario Chamber of Commerce is making it clear that it isn’t trying to knock the current $14 an hour that is in place but is vehemently opposed to the planned next phase of the hike, which will see the minimum wage rise to $15 an hour next year.

In that quest, they have an ally in Premier Doug Ford has made a promise of his own to stop the hike to $15, however, he has yet to take any action on that file given he has lots on his plate already.
Aside from the minimum wage increases, the previous Liberal government’s Bill 148, known as the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, contains a host of changes to labour laws, most of them favourable to employees.

Among the changes the chamber objects to are rules dealing with on-call scheduling, under which employees often have very little notice of their upcoming work shifts. Critics of the policy say it impedes on life outside of work, harming employees’ ability to raise children or enjoy a social life. Several U.S. retailers have ended the practice, after pressure from state attorneys-general.

Bill 148 allows employees in Ontario to refuse a shift that is scheduled less than 96 hours before its start, with some exceptions. It also requires employers to pay for a minimum of three hours of work in case a shift is cancelled or reduced, if the employee would regularly have worked at that time.

Critics of this policy say that it has had a negative impact on the agriculture, tourism and restaurant industries. Businesses are unable to properly staff their operations, and they “pay a financial penalty” for things beyond their control, such as a weather event.

Another upcoming change the Chamber finds contentious is the expansion of emergency leave. Under previous regulations, employees at companies with 50 or more people were entitled to take 10 unpaid days per year in emergency leave. Bill 148 expanded that to include small businesses.

It is clear Premier Doug Ford will possibly freeze the minimum pay hike at $14 given that it could have a huge impact on small businesses that are already facing all kinds of challenges that could come as a result of changes in NAFTA and other economic impact. About the other changes, Premier Ford may have to do some more consultation. -CINEWS

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