Getting rid of barriers to unionize is an important way to improve low-wage, precarious jobs. This is the message WAC shared today speaking in favour of Bill 77, the Fairness to Employees Act, during a deputation at the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills. Bill 77 would modernize the Ontario Labour Relations Act (OLRA), and expand protection for precarious workers by making it safer and easier for workers to organize and unionize.
Bill 77 includes amendments such as making sure that representation votes, once a union applies for certification as a bargaining agent, be held at a neutral site—which could be in or near a workplace or could involve representation votes conducted electronically or phone. Bill 77 ensures that workers whose jobs are terminated or whose work hours are changed during an organizing campaign are reinstated to their jobs and previous terms of work pending a hearing. Bill 77 also ensures that unions can obtain a list of employees in a timely fashion so that although workers these days may be spread out across different work sites or be working remotely, making it more difficult to contact each other, it is still possible to organize.
Bill 77 also provides a new route to binding arbitration for workers negotiating a first contract that would ensure that either party may apply for arbitration if, after a set period of time, a collective agreement has not been settled. This measure protects both employers and employees from bargaining tactics that do not comply with the spirit of good faith bargaining
In the contract services sector, when a business changes hands (as when service contracts are re-tendered), employees may lose the collective agreement rights they’d worked hard to achieve. Bill 77 allows for successor rights in the contract services sector and will ensure that these employees—security guards, food service workers and cleaners—can access the same successor rights that other workers in Ontario already have.
WAC supports Bill 77 and believes that it represents small but necessary changes to better protect Ontario workers, especially those working in precarious jobs. We recommend, however, that the Bill be amended to include all contract services provided directly or indirectly by or to a building owner, manager or occupant. This would ensure that other types of building contract services—such as parking lot services, or such as other services that don’t fall into this neglected category yet but that could at some time in the future. We believe protection should be expansive in scope rather than limited.
Furthermore, to make whole the goals and objectives the Bill 77 changes to successor rights, we recommend extending successor rights changes to the Employment Standards Act, so that new contractors must offer the same or similar work, based on length of service to employees of the previous contractor at the same or comparable terms and conditions for non-unionized workers.
The proposed amendments to the OLRA in Bill 77 are very modest, but they will have a significant impact for workers in low wage and precarious work.
Read the deputation: [download id=”137″ format=”2″]