In 2017, after many years of struggle, workers’ rights advocates succeeded in convincing the governing Ontario Liberals to implement progressive changes to Ontario’s labour laws that would better the lives of all working people. The most publicized improvement happened as the minimum wage was fast-tracked for significant increases culminating at $15 an hour beginning in January, 2019. Other significant changes to Ontario’s labour laws included:
- Equal pay for part-time, temporary, casual and seasonal employees doing the same job as full-time employees; and equal pay for temporary help agency employees doing the same job as employees at the agencies’ client companies
- Expansion of personal emergency leave to 10 days per calendar year for all employees, with at least two paid days per year for employees who have been employed for at least a week
- Ban on employers requiring a doctor’s sick note from an employee taking personal emergency leave
- Provision of up to 17 weeks off without the fear of job loss when a worker or their child has experienced or is threatened with domestic or sexual violence, including paid leave for the first five days
- Alignment of vacation time in Ontario with the national average by ensuring at least three weeks’ vacation after five years with the same employer
- Fairer scheduling for employees, including a requirement that employees be paid for three hours of work if their shift is cancelled within 48 hours of its scheduled start time
In the 2018 provincial election campaign, Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford spoke out against the scheduled increase of the minimum wage to $15 an hour. After he became premier, he announced that the 2017 law, introduced as Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, would be reviewed by the Minister of Labour.
Rather than waiting for the results of this review, however, Ford leapt to his feet in the Legislature in response to a question and declared, “We’re going to make sure we tell the world Ontario is open for business. We’re going to make sure we’re competitive around the world. We’re getting rid of Bill 148.”
With those words, the premier announced his intention to kill Bill 148, along with the move to a $15 minimum wage. Bill 148 was a major victory for the labour movement, for workers’ rights advocates and for working people in Ontario. When it is repealed, Doug Ford will have succeeded in pulling the rug out from under the most vulnerable of those working people in favour of maximum profitability for low-wage employers.