Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act, became law on November 21. It takes away a number of our new protections and rights meant to stop the spread of precarious work, including the increase to a $15 minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, and 2 paid sick days. These new changes will come into effect on January 1, 2019. Another very troubling part of Bill 47 is the new provision reducing fines for employers who have broken the law by violating people’s basic employment rights!
The Ford government’s disregard for the lives of the most vulnerable workers has rocked the public. A Toronto Star article reported on a poll showing that 77% of Ontarians are against canceling our 2 paid sick days. Among even Progressive Conservative supporters, 64% supported 2 paid sick days. Yet Bill 47 was pushed through by the Ford government, with 69 votes in favour and 45 against. Premier Ford’s actions on this matter have left many of his own supporters to wonder who his party was talking about in their campaign slogan “For the People.” Despite meager public consultations, over 120 workers made sure to voice their dissatisfaction with Bill 47 inside the Queen’s Park gallery.
As more people witness the attack on basic employment rights, the movement for decent work is only growing in numbers. The increase of average workers organizing across the province in the last few months is proof. New voices recently spoke up about the public health risks of the bill that takes away 2 paid sick days, reduces unpaid sick leave and allows employers to demand doctor’s notes from workers. Dr. Gigi Osler, president of the Canadian Medical Association, says in this CBC News article that requiring doctor’s notes will force most people to go to work when they should stay home, exposing vulnerable people to unnecessary health risks. Another show of support for expanded workers’ rights came from the federal government, which tabled legislation to protect federally regulated workers. Almost 1 million workers across Canada stand to benefit from improved rights, including 3 paid sick days and equal pay for equal work.
What does the Ford government have to say for itself? They have presented the LIFT tax credit for people whose income is under $30,000. Yet two-thirds of people receiving less than $30,000 per year already pay no taxes due to existing credits. Those who will eventually see a return from the LIFT credit in the spring of 2020 will only get up to $850 instead of the $1899 extra they could make if their $15 minimum wage had not been cancelled. This tax cut doesn’t begin to make up for poverty wages, and it certainly does nothing to fix inadequate labour laws that are often violated.
The Workers’ Action Centre and our many allies in the Fight for $15 & Fairness know that it is always a battle to expand and maintain our rights at work. That’s why so many workers have geared up to do more organizing in 2019. We hope you can join us in Toronto to celebrate the amazing organizing everyone did this year. Please RSVP today for $15 & Fairness: A Celebration of Resistance! taking place on Saturday, December 8 from 7:00 – 10:00 pm at 136 Isabella St. Our fight continues, and we’re glad to have you with us!