WAC joined allies from across Canada and North America to launch the “Fight for $15 and Fairness” campaign. Toronto-area workers rallied for decent work with actions at the Ministry of Labour offices on University Avenue, at Pearson International Airport and at McDonald’s Canada headquarters.
“Current employment and labour laws are so full of holes and exemptions – especially around wages and overtime – that many workers have no protection at all,” said Justin Kong, a member of the Workers’ Action Centre. “And even where existing laws are supposed to offer some protection, enforcement depends on an individual worker making a complaint, which puts the person at risk of reprisals, including job loss.” Kong had been a temp agency worker before losing his job the same day he made a deputation at a legislative committee hearing urging the government to hold temp agencies jointly responsible for all aspects of the Employment Standards Act. “We need companies to be held responsible for the wages and working conditions of the workers they deploy, regardless of whether they are temp agency workers, sub-contracted workers or directly-hired workers,” said Kong.
After freezing the minimum wage at $10.25 for four years, the Ontario government responded to public pressure from the Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage, increasing it to $11.00 an hour on June 1, 2014 and indexing it annually so that the minimum wage keeps up with rising prices. However, advocates from the Fight for $15 and Fairness say that the new general minimum wage still falls 16% below the poverty line and that the provincial minimum wage must bring full-time workers at least 10% above the poverty line.
According to Alastair Woods, Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario: “Ontario is the only jurisdiction in Canada that entrenches a lower wage for students under the age of 18. This practice discriminates against young people who are critical contributors to family income, many of whom are trying to pay for post-secondary education, and puts downward pressure on wages for all workers.” Woods points out that students under the age of 18 earn 70 cents less than their 18-year-old counterparts ($10.30) and liquor servers receive $1.45 less ($9.55) than general minimum wage earners.
Sean Smith, with the Toronto Airport Workers’ Council wants the Greater Toronto Airport Authority to take steps to improve the working conditions for the more than 40,000 employees who work at the Pearson International Airport, Canada’s largest workplace. “Years of two-tiered wages and contracting out have forced thousands of our co-workers into precarious, near-minimum-wage jobs. This is creating a high turnover rate and a lost opportunity to retain the experience needed to work in irregular operations. Many airports around the world, particularly in the U.S., are implementing decent wage ordinances in recognition that skilled, properly paid people on the ground is a matter of public safety.”
For more information and to get involved, visit the following websites:
• Fight for $15 and Fairness (Ontario)
• Fight for $15 (British Columbia)
• Fight for $15 (Nova Scotia)
• Fight for $15 (United States)