The Ontario government is looking to implement a “portable benefits” program to help with healthcare costs for Ontario workers. We agree that workers need benefits as too many cannot afford basic healthcare. These workers include not only app-based gig workers like Uber drivers, but misclassified workers such as cleaners, construction workers and truck drivers as well. But Ford’s portable benefit program would let more employers avoid providing basic labour rights to workers.
This isn’t surprising if you remember that Premier Ford has never shown that he’s “working for workers.” When Ford took credit for raising the minimum wage to $15 on January 1st, 2022, he wanted us to forget that he also froze our minimum wage at $14 for 2 years once he became premier. And when Ford claimed that all Ontario gig workers would be protected by minimum wage laws, remember that the new so-called protections do not ensure that gig workers are paid for all their work hours.
So, when the Ford government says it wants to extend health benefits for precarious workers, we doubt that it will truly help workers. Especially since a portable benefit program mirrors Uber’s own Flexible Work+ plan that the app company lobbied the Ontario government to adopt. Uber claims they want to extend healthcare to their drivers, but the company spent millions fighting to exclude their drivers from basic rights like job-protected paid sick days and overtime pay. When it comes down to it, neither Ford nor Uber have workers’ backs.
The Ontario government is now asking what kind of portable benefits we want. But the real questions are: Why do so many Ontario workers not have any benefits in the first place? Why do they not make enough to get by? We can answer and act on those questions in three ways:
1. End Misclassification: Employers should not be allowed to side-step Ontario’s basic labour laws such as minimum wage and vacation pay. Being misclassified as a self-employed independent contractor also means losing access to WSIB workplace injury insurance, Employment Insurance benefits and the Canada Pension Plan.
2. Equal Pay and Equal Benefits for Equal Work: In Ontario, part time, temp and contract workers can legally be paid less per hour than full-time permanent workers. This has to end because it encourages employers to hire more part-time precarious workers who are also denied the healthcare benefits of full-time workers.
3. Universal Benefits for All: The most effective way to extend health benefits to everyone is a universal social program. A fully funded government program that provides drug and dental care will mean all workers, regardless of where they work, will be able to access these benefits now and when they retire.
All workers deserve affordable and accessible high-quality healthcare. All workers deserve full and equal protections under the law. That’s why we are against a portable benefit plan: It lets our government and our bosses off the hook for providing decent work and real benefits. For more details, please take a look at our brief entitled Portable benefits only work for employers, not workers.