Ford government prepares to drop the axe on labour reforms

By News staff

Premier Doug Ford says his government will be scrapping Bill 148, and that could impact Ontarians who are part-time workers.

The bill, which was passed under the previous Liberal government, includes rules that mandate part-time employees be paid the same rate as full-time employees for the same job.

The bill also forced employers to give workers at least 10 ‘personal emergency leave days’ — two of them paid days.

“We’re getting rid of Bill 148. We’re going to make sure we protect the front-line workers because 60,000 people lost their jobs under Bill 148,” Ford said the legislature on Tuesday.

The premier said the existing bill “put us in more debt that we’ve every had, the largest subnational debt in the entire world … thanks to the Liberal government.”

“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.”

After Question Period, when Jim Wilson — the minister of economic development, job creation and trade — was asked if the province will be cancelling all parts of Bill 148, he said a final decision has yet to be made.

“We’re consulting on that piece of legislation. As you know, my party voted against that when the Liberals introduced it … and it’s no secret that everywhere we go … Bill 148 is top of mind, top of issue,” Wilson said.

When pressed on the fact that Ford said in the legislature that he is getting rid of the bill, the minister replied: “Well, we’re reviewing it, and we’ll have more to say about that later.”

The bill was passed in November 2017. It was responsible for raising the minimum wage to $14 an hour.

“There’s some things we want to keep. For instance, the $14 an hour. We’re definitely going to keep that,” Wilson said.

“There are parts we will keep, and there are parts that probably will go, but we’re consulting on that.”

Later, while speaking to reporters, Ford wouldn’t confirm if his government would scrap part or all of Bill 148. He said it would be figuring that out over the next few weeks.

“We want to make sure that Ontario is open for business,” he said.

“We have to make sure that we take care of the people of Ontario, and the way you take care of the people of Ontario? Make sure they have good-paying jobs.

“Bill 148 … is a job killer. Bottom line: it’s an absolute job killer. We want to create more jobs right across the sector.”

Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) released a statement responding to Ford’s announcement in support of the move.

“Our position has always been clear: Bill 148 was too much, too fast. We hold the Premier at his word to make Ontario open for business and reverse Bill 148,” he said.

“We have been persistently urging the government to take immediate action and repeal Bill 148 due to the compounding labour reforms which come at too high a cost to the economy and workers. The very real unintended consequences have forced our members to decrease product offerings and increase the price of products being sold, hire fewer employees, reduce services and hours of operation, cut back on employee benefits, and halt capital investment – all in an effort to stay afloat.”

He added that the OCC supports keeping the minimum wage at $14 an hour.

CityNews reached out to the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) and they provided a statement from September that asked the Ford government to repeal Bill 148.

CEO and President of the RCC Diane J. Brisebois said the organization was always opposed to the bill.

“Our position from the get-go was never to support these changes!,” she writes. “RCC and its members believe that many of Bill 148’s changes were harmful to business and to employment prospects for Ontarians. Rather than attempting to solve these many problems piece-by-piece, RCC believes that the best course of action would be to repeal Bill 148. Scrap it and start over!”

She added that the RCC applauds the Ford government’s plan to avert the minimum wage increase to $15 an hour in January.

Chris Buckley, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) tells CityNews scrapping minimum wage hike in January was “very offensive and very disrespectful” to workers.

He said he is very concerned that the government is “catering to the business community” and rolling back the “significant gains made to benefit workers” across the province.

“The increase of min wage was designed to help lift over 1.7 million workers out of poverty in the province of Ontario,” he said. “Mr. Ford campaigned on a promise that he was there for the ‘little guy’ across the province. Well the ‘little guy’ is those workers earning minimum wage, the ‘little guy’ are those workers where we made improvements for their rights in their workplaces and now we’re learning that the government is not going to give the ‘little guy’ the raise or improvements that were gained.”

Buckley said he requested a meeting with Ford back in June and is yet to receive a response. He still hopes to meet with the Premier to discuss the concerns of over a million workers represented by the OFL.

“For those workers who are about to be disadvantaged, the labour movement has their back and we will do whatever we can do within our power to make sure their rights are protected,” he said.

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