Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario

Response to Bill 148: Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017

Response to Bill 148: Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017

Resource Type: 
Submission

Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs = A Healthier Ontario

RNAO appreciates the opportunity to provide feedback to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs on Bill 148, An Act to amend the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and the Labor Relations Act, 1995 and to make related amendments to other Acts or the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017. As nurses, we see firsthand the devastating consequences of job insecurity and its negative impact on people's health and wellbeing.

RNAO has the following recommendations to further strengthen Bill 148:

Section 23.1 Employment Standards Act (ESA) Minimum Wage

RNAO supports, in the strongest possible way, Bill 148's amendment to increase the general minimum wage to $14 per hour on January 1, 2018 and to $15 per hour on January 1, 2019 with annual inflation adjustment on October 1 of every year. Furthermore, RNAO urges you to:

Remove the proposed amendment of sub-minimum wages for students and liquor servers.

Rationale: Increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour wage with greater attentiveness to ensuring that fair legislation and enforcement of labour standards would strengthen the possibility of good jobs and serve as a pathway out of poverty. Other jurisdictions that have announced regulatory increases to a $15 per hour minimum wage include Alberta, New York City, Los Angeles County, and California. The minimum wage must apply equally without exemptions by age or sector. Ontario is the only province/territory that permits employers to pay a lower minimum wage to young workers. The vast majority of jurisdictions in Canada (except for British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec) do not allow a lower wage for those who serve liquor.

Section 50 Employment Standards Act (ESA).  Personal Emergency Leave

RNAO fully supports the amendment to extend Personal Emergency Leave (PEL) to all workers, not only employees of employers who regularly employ 50 or more employees. Furthermore, RNAO urges you to:

Amend subsections 50 (5) of the ESA to read: 

(5) An employee is entitled to take a total of seven days of paid leave and three days of unpaid leave under this section in each calendar year.

Rationale: As Ontario is the only jurisdiction to have an employee-size (50+) eligibility threshold for PEL, RNAO fully supports bringing the province in line with other jurisdictions to ensure basic fairness for employees. Currently, PEL is unpaid, job-protected leave that can be used by employees for their own personal illness, injury, and medical emergency or for the death, illness, injury, medical urgency or urgent matter concerning specified family members.
RNAO urges that the number of paid PEL be increased from two to seven days. This would support the health of individual workers and their families and help them cope with bereavement and other urgent family matters.
RNAO encourages the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs to be particularly attentive to testimony of those with lived experience of being marginalized and their advocates. Amidst predictions of catastrophe at the prospect of updating archaic labour laws, it is imperative to listen to those who can speak to the incredible human, social, and economic toll that the current legislative regime is exacting. Those who are marginalized do not have the same resources to speak as loudly as commerce but their concerns must be equally and fully considered. RNAO also urges that any unintended consequences of this legislation be swiftly addressed. For example, there is a need to ensure that injured workers not have their Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) benefits reduced when the minimum wage goes up.

Conclusion

In their introduction to the final report of the Changing Workplaces Review, the special advisors wrote:
A society where decent labour standards are observed and respected in the vast majority of workplaces, and where rights to meaningful collective bargaining are acknowledged and not undermined, would ideally result in an economy based on a sound and ethical foundation and workplaces that are productive and fair. Overall, our society would be a better place and we would all benefit.
RNAO believes that Ontario can be that healthier and better place with the passing of a strengthened and strongly enforced Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017. Please know that nurses are unwavering in our commitment to achieve this goal.
Thank you to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs for considering our comments and recommendations.

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RNAO submission Bill 148 July 21, 2017438.73 Ko