Business groups lobby Ford government to repeal workplace reforms

Business groups are urging Premier Doug Ford's government to take away the new sick day and pay equity protections granted to Ontario workers this year.

Move would roll back sick days, equal pay rules that were passed under Wynne Liberals

The Ford government is being urged to repeal some of the employment law changes made in the final months of the Wynne government's time in office. (Brennan Linsley/The Associated Press)

Business groups are urging Premier Doug Ford's government to take away the new sick day and pay equity protections granted to Ontario workers this year.

Such a move would roll back reforms to employment standards and workplace law that were approved under the previous government of Kathleen Wynne.

Those reforms pushed the minimum wage up 20 per cent at the start of this year, forced employers to give workers at least 10 days off annually (two of them paid) for illness or personal emergencies, and mandated that part-time and temporary employees be paid the same rate as full-time staff doing the same job.

Two of Ontario's largest organizations representing businesses are calling for the repeal of the bill that put those changes into law, the Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs Act (Bill 148). 

Many of the changes in the bill "were ill-considered, harmful to business and to employment prospects for Ontarians," said Diane Brisebois, president of the Retail Council of Canada, in a letter to the new labour minister. The bill "was far too sweeping in its provisions, imposing a great many additional costs on business within a very short period," said Brisebois. 

"We think that it's such a mess overall that the right answer is to repeal the bill and begin anew," said Karl Littler,  the Retail Council's vice-president, in an interview on Wednesday. 

Karl Littler, vice president of the Retail Council of Canada, says the government should 'repeal the bill and begin anew.'

The group's biggest concerns are the requirements for paid personal emergency leave days and for paying part-time and casual workers the same rate as full-timers. 

"We actually think that those changes should be scrapped," said Littler. 

Employers are seeing evidence that many workers are treating the two paid personal emergency days as floater days off, said Littler. 

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce also wants Bill 148 repealed. 

The Liberal government "jammed a bunch of things into a bill that are causing significant problems for business in this province," said the chamber's president and CEO, Rocco Rossi.

"We take the (PC) government at its word that it wants to make Ontario open for business," Rossi said in an interview Wednesday. 

Labour Minister Laurie Scott says the Ford government will not go ahead with an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour scheduled for Jan. 1, 2019. (CBC)

Labour Minister Laurie Scott said Wednesday she is reviewing the employment standards law and said she expects to make decisions this fall.

Scott confirmed the Ford government will not go ahead with an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour scheduled for Jan. 1. Instead, the minimum wage will stay at $14/hour, and Scott did not give a timetable for any future increases. 

NDP leader Andrea Horwath said she disagrees with the business groups' push for dismantling the workplace reforms.

"Now these changes are vulnerable to a Conservative government that just wants to make it better for the bosses and worse for the workers," Horwath told reporters at Queen's Park on Wednesday. 

There are conflicting views on whether the employment law changes and the minimum wage hike are contributing to job losses in Ontario. Unemployment numbers swung wildly over the summer, dropping steeply in July and climbing sharply in August, according to the labour force survey by Statistics Canada. 

About the Author

Mike Crawley

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Mike Crawley is provincial affairs reporter in Ontario for CBC News. He has won awards for his reporting on the eHealth spending scandal and flaws in Ontario's welfare-payment computer system. Before joining the CBC in 2005, Mike filed stories from 19 countries in Africa as a freelance journalist and worked as a newspaper reporter in B.C. Follow him on Twitter @CBCQueensPark