Ontario government freezes minimum wage, cuts paid sick days

GBC staff and student workers are likely be affected, says union president 

The Ontario government has passed Bill 47, also known as the Making Ontario Open for Business Act, which undoes some of the reforms made to the Employment Standards Act, including a further increase to the minimum wage.

Bill 47 comes less than a year after the previous Liberal government passed its Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act which took minimum wage in the province from $11.60 to $14, with a further increase to $15 scheduled for 2019.

Under the new law the minimum wage is frozen at $14 until 2020, when it will increase at the rate of inflation, and paid personal emergency leave days are eliminated.

“Bill 47 is a product of what we heard out there.” said Minister of Labour Laurie Scott introducing the bill on Oct. 30. “How we can have the confidence of a good job in a safe workplace in Ontario, and to give businesses the needed stability of reasonable and predictable regulations.”

Megan Carter, president of Local 557 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), said both full-time and part-time workers at George Brown College (GBC) are likely to be affected.

“Bill 47 would affect the workers, all the student workers who are making minimum wage, they’re living in the means of minimum wage thinking that in January it was going to go up,” said Carter. “They’re going to be disappointed to have to hear that it’s not.”

Catherine Fife, the NDP’s critic on jobs and employment said that it rolls back on the rights of workers.

“It allows part-time employees to be paid less than full-time employees which means we will move to a part-time economy in Ontario,” said Fife.

She contended that this move by the government will, “ensure that 1.7 million Ontarians who rely on minimum wage will remain in poverty, meanwhile they give the rich a tax break in the fall economic statement.”

The bill also eliminates paid sick days for workers.

Instead of two paid and eight unpaid personal emergency leave days there is now just three unpaid sick days per year, two unpaid days for bereavement, and three days of unpaid family responsibility leave.

“I don’t know why they did it, but it is definitely not the right thing to do,” said Carter. “People just need to be able to stay home, take a day, and get better.”

Don Sinclair, the chief executive officer of College Employer Council, who represent employers at Ontario’s 24 public colleges, views Bill 47 in a positive light.

“The proposed changes, from our prospective, with Bill 47 will help alleviate some of the cost pressures that we’re facing in our institutions and allow us to continue to deliver on educational commitment to students,” he said.

This new legislation also erased the equal work for equal pay act mandated by Bill 148.

“If you’re doing the same job, you should be getting paid the same wage,” said Cater.

Dave Maharaj, director of total rewards, payroll & HR administration at GBC, noted that the college is in consultation with the College Employer Council.

“Once we understand how it impacts the system, then we can determine what’s George Brown’s role in this, and how do we support our employees,” he said.

According to Maharaj, there are over 600 students working at GBC.


With files from Ashraf Dabie.

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Ontario government freezes minimum wage, cuts paid sick days