Big changes considered for Ontario workplaces

Big changes considered for Ontario workplaces

Report could trigger the most sweeping reforms to employment and labour laws since the 1990s

CBC News
By Mike Crawley
February 27, 2017

Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government is about to get advice that could lead to a significant shakeup of the laws governing work in Ontario.

The Changing Workplaces Review is examining just about everything related to labour law in this province, including sick pay, overtime, how workers can join unions and employers’ responsibilities to contract workers.

It could trigger the most significant reforms to the Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act since Mike Harris was premier.

“The world of work that I went into as a young man is not the world of work that young people are going into today,” Labour Minister Kevin Flynn said in an interview with CBC News. “We need to make sure that the regulations are protecting the most vulnerable.”

The review is focusing on the new realities of the millennial workforce, including the spread of part-time and contract work. Noting that the province’s current employment laws were drawn up in the 1990s, Flynn said they “need to be updated for the world of 2017.”

‘Once-in-a-generation opportunity’

The review has been in the works for nearly two years, since the government appointed a pair of special advisers to recommend changes to Ontario’s workplace laws.

Last July, the advisers laid out more than 200 options for reforms to protect vulnerable workers in precarious jobs. They include such ideas as requiring employers to give workers a minimum number of paid sick days, and to give workers advance notice of their shift schedules.

Their final recommendations are due to be handed to Flynn in the coming days.

The scope of the possible changes has the business community worried and the labour movement excited.

“It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” said Ontario Federation of Labour president Chris Buckley.

“When you look at the change in the employment landscape across the province, it’s well overdue,” Buckley said in an interview with CBC News. “Doing nothing is not an option.”

The recommendations “could fundamentally change the relationship between every employer and employee in the province,” said Karl Baldauf, vice-president of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “We’re challenging whether such sweeping reforms are necessary.”

Flynn promises that any changes will strike a balance.

“What we need to achieve in this is to make sure that precarious and vulnerable workers have the protections they should have, at the same time ensure that Ontario still has a very competitive economy,” Flynn said.

Here are some of the options that the government’s special advisers are considering:

Sick pay, overtime, vacation pay, minimum wage

  • Making paid sick days mandatory.
  • Boosting the minimum required paid vacation to three weeks per year from the current two weeks.
  • Lowering the threshold at which overtime pay must kick in to 40 hours, down from the current 44 hours.
  • Abolishing the lower minimum wage for students under 18 and people who serve alcohol.
  • Requiring employers to pay their part-time workers the same as full-time workers doing similar jobs.

Casual and contract workers

  • Forcing employers to post employees’ schedules in advance.
  • Compensating workers for last-minute schedule changes.
  • Limiting the proportion of an employer’s workforce that can be from temp agencies.

Unionizing

  • Banning or limiting the use of replacement workers during a strike.
  • Making it easier for the employees of franchises to form unions.
  • Allowing domestic workers employed in private homes to form unions.

Employment Standards Act exemptions

Under Ontario’s employment laws, some rules, including those governing overtime, don’t apply to certain types of jobs. The advisers are considering whether to lift any of these exemptions that currently apply to managers, janitors, IT professionals and residential care workers. They’re also considering whether interns and trainees should be covered by the Employment Standards Act.

Source: Big changes considered for Ontario workplaces

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GRT Strike Vote Results

GRT Strike Vote Results

All Unifor Local 4304 Members,

The results of the GRT Strike Vote held on Sunday, February 26th are as follows:

98% of the ballots cast are in favour of strike action if necessary to support the negotiations between YOUR union and the Region of Waterloo. This is a amazing show of solidarity for your Bargaining Team, your Bargaining Committee and your Union Brothers and Sisters thank you!

Posted in: GRT Negotiations 2017

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Enhanced gas tax program coming in 2019

Enhanced gas tax program coming in 2019

570 News
By Amanda Hewson
February 3, 2017

A boost to the existing gas tax program in Ontario will have municipalities seeing more money coming from the pumps to put towards transit projects.

Currently, municipalities receive two cents per litre, but starting in 2019, will an increase to four cents per litre by 2021.

The Region of Waterloo has received an average of about $9.6 million per year in gas tax funding, but could see its funding increased to $12 million in 2019-20, $14.4 million in 2020-21, and $19.2 million in 2021-22.

This funding as well as additional funding, goes directly towards transit projects.

“The Province committed last year to a $43 million transit hub that’s going in at King and Victoria. We’ve committed to all day, two way GO Train service that’s going to start in 2024,” says Kitchener-Centre MPP Daiene Vernile.

“Other transit announcements, we have a new highway that’s being built between Kitchener and Guelph, the new Highway 7. So there has been $1.1 billion in transit investments in Waterloo Region alone since 2003.”

Good news for drivers, as the enhancement to the gas tax program will not see taxes rise at the pump.

Source: Enhanced gas tax program coming in 2019

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February 2017 edition of the uXpress is now available!

February 2017 edition of the uXpress is now available!

The February 2017 Edition of the uXpress, Unifor Local 4304’s Official Newsletter, is now available in hard-copy at the workplace and on the Unifor Local 4304 website under ‘Your Union > Newsletter’ (you must be logged in).  Pick-up or download your copy now and get the latest news and information from your union, including information on the current contract negotiations between your union and Grand River Transit.

Posted in: Union Newsletter

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D’Amato: Oversubscribed transit services leave some riders stranded

D’Amato: Oversubscribed transit services leave some riders stranded


Waterloo Region Record
By Luisa D’Amato
February 1, 2017

Able-bodied people would never stand for it.Chantal Huinink is in a wheelchair. She can ride regular buses, which have ramps. She can use a door-to-door service called Mobility Plus, which is offered by Grand River Transit for disabled people.And if Mobility Plus can’t help her, she can use half-price coupons for taxi rides that Grand River Transit also provides.

It adds up to a thoughtful array of options, on paper. But in real life, the services are oversubscribed and difficult to use. She’s left feeling frustrated, wondering if her rights are being disregarded.

The month of January has been difficult for Huinink, who works at a social agency and is also a student at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo.

Here’s what happened:

•On Jan. 5 she tried to book a ride to work with Mobility Plus. Despite booking six days in advance, she was told there weren’t enough vehicles, so they could only drop her at work two hours early and pick her up two hours after her shift ended. That would have meant 12 hours at work for an eight-hour shift.

•On Jan. 9, she decided to take the regular bus to meet a friend in uptown Waterloo. Two buses stopped, but their ramps were frozen shut. She couldn’t get on. The buses continued without her.

The third bus had a working ramp and she could board. But when she got off, she couldn’t move. Her wheels were buried in snow clogging the sidewalk. She had to call her friend to help. It was an “emotionally denigrating” experience, she said.

•The next morning she called Mobility Plus for a ride to the Via train station. A taxi was sent, but it came late because of an error at the cab company’s end. Huinink missed her train.

“These issues make it extremely difficult for citizens of Kitchener Waterloo who have disabilities to function within the community,” she said.

Eric Gillespie, director of transit services for the Region of Waterloo, said it’s “very disappointing” to hear this story. “We want to provide an excellent experience,” he said.

If ramps on buses are not working, the driver is supposed to report it. There is no record of that having happened, he said. The company clearing snow from bus stops gets a grace period of 72 hours after a snowfall. That deadline wasn’t up when Huinink was trying to use the sidewalk.

Gillespie said officials have worked hard to improve the service while staying within budget.

There are successes. In the last week of November 2016, 5,409 door-to-door rides were given, and there were 424 requests that couldn’t be accommodated. Compare that with the last week of this month: 5,374 door-to-door rides were given, and only 165 requests were denied.

But soaring numbers of people are asking for Mobility Plus. About 7,700 now are entitled to accessible transit. Of those, 1,343 first signed up in 2016.

Gillespie isn’t sure why the numbers are rising. But “we’ll be requesting additional dollars to meet that demand,” he said.

It’s a painful choice to raise taxes. But it’s even harder to make people, who already face so many challenges in life, feel even more powerless.

ldamato@therecord.com

Source: D’Amato: Oversubscribed transit services leave some riders stranded

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