Workers in Ontario have won important new protections against wage theft under new legislation introduced today.
The new bill introduces many changes that Workers’ Action Centre members and supporters across the province have been calling for through the Stop Wage Theft campaign. If passed the new legislation would:
- Give workers 2 years to claim unpaid wages
- Get rid of the unfair $10,000 limit on the unpaid wages that can be claimed
- Make temp agencies and client companies jointly liable for ESA violations
- End WSIB rating system loopholes that provided an incentive for companies to use temp agencies
- Ban recruitment fees for all migrant workers
The Ministry of Labour also announced that they will fulfill their 2008 commitment to $10 million for proactive employment standards enforcement. The government pledged to bring in more penalties for employers who violate the law and indicated the need to continue to make further changes to address precarious employment.
The bill will be tabled at Queen’s Park later this afternoon. We will share more analysis in the coming days.
WAC speaks out
WAC members spoke out today about the new protections:
“Wage theft is increasing across Ontario because many employers know there is virtually no cost to breaking the law. We have been fighting to make sure workers, including temp agency workers, have better protection at work. We now need the government to use stronger and more effective enforcement tools to fully protect workers on the job.” – Tom Wu
“Getting rid of the unfair $10,000 limit for employment standards claims and giving workers 2 years to file claims is a significant victory for Ontario workers, especially migrant workers. If these laws had existed a few years ago, I could have claimed the thousands of dollars of my stolen wages immediately rather than being forced to go to court. – Senthil Thevar
In a front-page Toronto Star article featuring the changes WAC coordinator Deena Ladd stated “the way things are now, a client company can have someone working for them for five years as a temp worker but never be held responsible for any of their working conditions…under this bill, these companies will now be held jointly liable – which means they would have to think about their business practices.”
We also need to make sure temp workers get equal pay for equal work and to close the gaps so that all workers covered under the law.
Recruitment fee ban just a first step
The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change and other migrant worker groups have documented how migrant workers pay an equivalent of two years’ salaries in fees in their home countries to unscrupulous recruiters and agencies to come work in Canada.
Extending the ban against recruitment fees to all migrant workers is an important first step in taking action to stop recruiter abuses. However, the Ontario government must take steps to license recruiters and make employers jointly liable for violations in order to crack down on exorbitant recruitment fees. This is just one change among other comprehensive protections for migrant workers that are needed.