Drummond: Doug Ford legislation takes away benefits from minimum wage earners.

opinionred 100x100By Andrew Drummond

November 24th, 2018



On Nov 21, the Ontario Government led by Doug Ford passed Bill 47, the so-called “Making Ontario Open For Business Act”, which cuts a number of worker protections in Ontario. It specifically:

– Allows an employer to force an employee to get a sick note if they take an unpaid sick day. It also allows the employer to force an employee to get a doctor’s note to explain a leave day taken to care for an ill family member

– Repeals the inclusion of step-brothers, step-sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, and nieces as people for whom you can take family leave or bereavement.

– Repeals the section of the Employment Standards Act that requires employees be paid equally for doing the same work

– Repeals the minimum wage increase scheduled for January 1, 2019

– Repeals any entitlement for employees to paid sick leave

The stated purpose of this Act is to increase Ontario’s competitiveness to attract and keep business. Premier Ford stated “Businesses tell us that job growth starts with cutting the burdensome, job-killing red tape that drives investment and jobs out of Ontario.” However, the question needs to be asked: If Ontario business is prospering so well, why do we need these changes that will fall most heavily on the backs of low income workers? From January to September 2018, Ontario has gained 122,700 jobs. Ontario’s unemployment level in 2018 has hit its lowest level since 2000. Why then do we need to hurt working people to give the corporate sector more money?

As detailed in an article in the Gazette in October, the minimum wage increase to $15/hr did not need to be halted. Burlington businesses have coped well with the increase to $14/hr and many of the minimum wage employers we have in this city are thriving with new ones opening all the time. There is no crisis in Burlington that required this draconian action.

Another key article of the Act is to remove an employee’s entitlement to 2 paid leave days a year. The Retail Council of Canada pushed Ford to do this with evidence such as “One employer noted that, as of August 31, 2018 (66% of the way through the year, calendar-wise), 57% of the yearly paid PEL eligibility had already been used by employees.” So the argument is essentially that because people are using most of their sick days they shouldn’t have them. How does that make sense? People get sick. People have sick children to care for. Ensuring that a low income mother doesn’t suffer financially for being ill seems like it should be in everyone’s interest.

Beyond stripping the two paid leave days, the government has also moved to restrict people’s ability to take UNPAID leave. Now for any leave (bereavement, Caring for an ill family member, personal illness) an employer can demand proof that the leave was required (i.e. a doctor’s note). The Canadian Medical Association among others has attacked this portion of the bill. Dr. Gigi Osler, president of the CMA pointed out “Requiring sick notes can introduce unnecessary public health risks; patients who would have otherwise stayed home may spread viruses or infection while out to get a sick note,”

Also, consider the local impact. There are only 9 walk-in clinics in Burlington and the majority of those close by 7pm with limited weekend hours. During the day, wait times can exceed 2 hours as the clinics are overloaded with people who actually need care and not just a note. Adding new people unnecessarily to those lines will hurt everyone in the city and reduce the impact of health care services across Burlington.

Then there is the cost. A doctor’s note for illness usually costs between $20-$30 at a walk-in clinic. The people Bill 47 is targeted at are workers at or around minimum wage. They typically cannot afford the loss of income with taking an unpaid day off. Now under the new legislation they will need to not only forgo that day’s wages, but if their employer demands a note, they will actually have to pay to be sick. This is not the way to help people on low incomes.

The last provision that will cause considerable hardship is repealing the requirement that people be paid equally for the same work. The RCC argues “While this sounds fine in theory, these provisions have thrown off numerous issues. The first of these is that there are very significant cost implications for retailers.”

Retailers will need to absorb a cost for paying their part time workers the same as their full time ones however, there needs to be consideration for what is fair. People should be paid for what work they are doing, and the existing rules still allowed different pay by seniority. The previous law was only protecting employees from being underpaid by arbitrary means.

In January of this year, labour law came into effect that significantly improved the lives of low income workers in Ontario. Over the time it was in place, Ontario gained large numbers of jobs and our economy is currently incredibly strong with record lows in unemployment. Despite that the Ford government felt it is necessary to change the laws in the hopes to drive job growth. In Burlington it’s clear that companies providing low wage jobs were not in crisis.

So, the question has to be asked again: Why do we need to hurt working people to give the corporate sector more money?

Andrew Drummond HeadshotAndrew Drummond was the New Democratic candidate for the Burlington seat in the provincial legislature last June when Doug Ford was made Premier and Jane McKenna was elected in Burlington.


Related news story:

Minimum wage earners  lost $1750.

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

3 comments to Drummond: Doug Ford legislation takes away benefits from minimum wage earners.

  • Eve St Clair

    Wow Mr Young !!!!!!!!!!!! So you approve of spending money we don’t have to increase our debt ? Obviously by the outcome of the provincial election ,lots of people in Burlington proudly walking with their head down ,not in shame though .

  • D.Duck

    Big business and that includes gov’t civil services, are role models for all businesses. When the aforementioned hire mostly part-time employees (posties, RNs, teachers, hydro, etc), they do so to curb their financial costs and responsibilities……….no benefits, sick leave, pension, etc.

    Because of the above, the new generation of part-time workers have no loyalty to their employers and the tax base is being eroded.

    The issue resides with the gov’t controlled enterprises and big business that put the dollar value above the value of the worker and indirectly, society. It is not always about the Stake holders.

    Without this tax base, expect “Wealth tax and Inheritance tax” to be implemented to make up for the loss of a tax base.

    Common sense is lack in the leadership roles.

  • Jim Young

    Every serious economist in the world agrees that a healthy minimum wage stimulates the economy.
    People on minimum wage spend any small increases and create local jobs.
    They have no wealth or massive tax cuts to hide in tax havens or offshore shelters .
    Doug Ford and Jane McKenna are unable to tell the difference between vindictive and productive.
    If you voted for them….and sadly, I know people who did….Hang your head in shame.