Ontario’s Labour Reform: a Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force Update

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force supports employment situations that are fair, secure, safe and provide employees with a Living Wage. These are minimum standards necessary in the elimination of poverty.  We have published a Labour Reform Infographic 2018 that summarizes the recent changes and what it means for us locally.  As changes made to Ontario’s Employment Standards and Labour Relations Act come into place, it is important to reflect how these changes will impact those affected by poverty locally.

30% of employed Ontarians in non-Metro Census Divisions are paid a low wage.  That is a large percentage of people locally who may be paid a low wage and then we have to consider that some of the changes also change precarious work practices.

  • Minimum wage increase to $14/hr effective 1 Jan 2018
  • Minimum wage increase to $15/hr effective 1 Jan 2019
  • Equal pay for equal work
  • Updated regulations around shift scheduling
  • 3 hours pay for shifts cut to less than 3 hours or cancelled less than 48 hours in advance
  • 10 emergency leave days, including 2 paid sick days per year
  • Card-based voting for unionization
  • Hiring aditional employment standards officers (for greater enforcement and accountability)

What does this mean? 

  • More than 1 million of Ontario’s lowest wage employees received a big raise, the most signficant in almost 50 years.
  • Flexibility and stability through advance notice of scheduling and paid sick time will be afforded to all workers.
  • Quality of life, in the form of health and family outcomes, improves with higher income and decreased employment precarity.
  • Keeping money local. When the lowest wage workers earn extra income, they are able to spend money on necessities within their own communities. They are able to buy more and better groceries, warm clothes for their children and keep up with bills.

What’s the downside? 

We have heard from people with low-incomes, as well as from service providers that work closely with marginalized populations that they are concerned about possible negative impacts. They are anticipating lay-offs, increases in ‘under the table’ hiring, and fewer jobs overall.  Some employers have already reduced hours, raised prices or eliminated other non-mandated perks previously offered to employees.

While those for, against, and ambivalent to these changes can all cite evidence that supports their perspective, the Poverty Task Force is of the view that these changes will be beneficial overall. We also believe it will be important to measure actual outcomes closely.  We shall continue to monitor the impacts locally and will always advocate with and for lower income, precarious workers.

 

 

 

Losing Ground – Income Inequality in Ontario

A new analysis by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) – Losing Ground Income Inequality in Ontario, 2000-15  describes an increasingly “polarized” Ontario labour market that is shifting away from stable manufacturing jobs to more precarious service sector work and rewarding higher-earning families while punishing poorer ones.

The report  examines 15 years of income inequality for families raising
children in Ontario (2000 to 2015), comparing it with national data for context,
and finds several disturbing trends.

The data reveal that the top half of Ontario families take home 81 per
cent of earnings; the bottom half of families take home only 19 per cent.
What’s more, the richest families in Ontario earned almost 200 per cent of
the average family’s earnings in 2013–15.

It is a story of sustained labour market income inequality that is being
driven by slow economic growth and increases in precarious work. Simply
put, lower–middle class and working poor families are losing ground.
The Ontario data show a drop in the share of earnings for families in the
bottom half, falling from 22 per cent in 2000–02 to 19 per cent in 2013–15.
That income shifted from the bottom half to the top half of the income distribution:
the top half’s share of earnings rose from 78 per cent in 2000–02
to 81 per cent in 2013–15.

On a national level, the story of income inequality among Canadian families
hasn’t changed much since 2000. The lion’s share of earnings goes to
the richest families, at the expense of the rest. Nationally, families in the
bottom half of the earnings distribution saw their share of earnings flatline
at 21 per cent between 2000–02 and 2013–15.

Dynamics within the labour market are at issue. The experience since the turn of the century clearly indicates that Ontario needs a raise. And that proposed changes to labour market rules in the province’s Bill 148 (Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017)—which among other crucial reforms would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by January 2019—are long overdue.

It’s about fairness. It’s about changing labour laws to reflect a seismic
shift in Ontario’s labour market. It’s about requiring employers to do their
part to reduce labour market inequality.

 

 

A Rise in Living Wage in 2017

The United Way of Bruce Grey updated its Living Wage Rate 2017. It found that in 2017, a family of three consisting of a single parent, a 15-year-old and an eight-year-old would need the sole earner to work 40 hours a week making $21.01 an hour to get by.

The rate was last updated in 2015, using 2014 data. Housing costs have significantly increased total household costs. The average rent across Ontario is now $1,115 and the United Way has found that many rental units in Bruce Grey are priced over the $1,000 threshold.

The rate has been updated by the United Way Bruce Grey at a time when the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force and partners are engaged in discussions about Ontario’s minimum wage being raised to $15 an hour.

In May 2017, Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government announced its plans to raise the minimum wage from its current $11.40 to $14 on Jan. 1, 2018 and $15 on Jan. 1, 2019.  The change has been welcome by some economists and the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force who say it can help the economy by increasing people’s ability to get by and be better consumers in local economies.

The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017   (Bill 148) proposes important changes to address Ontario’s outdated labour laws and seeks to reduce precarious work.  The proposed legislation, which also includes equal pay for part-time workers, increased vacation entitlements and expanded personal emergency leave, started committee hearings on July 17th that are traveling across the province.

On July 17th, the City of Owen Sound Council approved a motion to request the government carry out an economic impact study of the increase in minimum wage within 2 years. On July 21st,  the Owen Sound and District Chamber of Commerce held a town hall meeting on the issue, held in conjunction with the Keep Ontario Working Coalition.  The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force and its partners were at both discussions.  David McLaren shared  ON Labour Reform Facts on Need  for a $15/hr minimum wage which references 7 decades of economic impact studies of raising the minimum wage.

With the increase in a living wage, this educates people on why the United Way Bruce Grey and other organizations are in favour of the wage increase.  The FairWorkplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 goes beyond cathcing up with the rising costs of living in Ontario and address practices of precarious work that are the new norm in the workplace.

Living Wage Rate 2017

$2,000 donation to help tackle precarious work

Peace & Justice Grey Bruce is a member of the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force. In partnership with the PTF’s Income Security Action Group, Public Health and United Way of Bruce Grey we are launching a campaign to work on bringing a living wage to Grey Bruce.  The article below highlights the work of the Peace & Justice and new funding from the Society of Energy Professionals to address issues of precarious work.

By Denis Langlois, Sun Times, Owen Sound

Peace & Justice Grey Bruce wants to get as many people as possible talking about what it calls the social and economic dangers of “precarious work.”

The local non-partisan coalition plans to use a $2,000 donation from the Society of Energy Professionals to continue to shine a light on the problem and lobby governments for action to address it.

David McLaren, a member of the organization, said a chunk of the money will be used to produce a report on precarious work, a term used to describe the low-wage and often part-time or temporary jobs that are on the rise in Ontario communities.

“We’re also going to be continuing our partnerships with other people. We’ll be trying to make this an election issue for the municipal election. And we’re going to be producing a lot more materials,” he said in an interview Thursday during an event and cheque presentation at the Grey Bruce Health Unit in Owen Sound.

“The idea is to go out and bring more people into the tent, if you like, under the umbrella, to talk about this. And some of those people will be in positions to do something about it as well.”

McLaren said social agencies and anti-poverty advocates cannot fix the problem on its own. Companies and businesses also need help.

“As soon as (employers) start paying higher wages, then they too become in precarious positions, so the only other place to look is to government. Government does have a mandate, they do have some authority under various legislation,” he said.

Municipalities, for example, can mandate that all of their employees receive a “living wage,” which is about $15 an hour in Grey-Bruce, he said. They can also insist that the companies they contract to provide services will pay their employees a living wage as well, he said.

The province, meanwhile, can require a higher minimum wage, while the federal government can revise its taxation system and legislation to support better-paying jobs, he said.

Peace & Justice Grey Bruce says precarious employment is work that does not pay well enough to get a person to the end of the month. Most often, the job does not include benefits. Some people are working three part-time jobs to make ends meet.

The organization says 20% of Owen Sound families are low income with a median income of $15,590 a year, which Statistics Canada says is about half of what is required for a family of four to stay out of poverty.

McLaren said Peace & Justice Grey Bruce is part of a coalition of organizations that is working to tackle precarious work. It also includes the United Way of Bruce Grey, the local poverty task force, the Grey Bruce Health Unit, municipal politicians and unions.

Dick Hibma of the Society of Energy Professionals said his local, which is made up of 1,100 Bruce Power employees, supports efforts to assist people in precarious jobs that have no voice.

He said his union wants to see all people paid a living wage.

The political decision-makers, including members of the provincial and federal governments, hold the key to fixing the problem, he said.