UFCW encouraged by Ontario government’s labour law reforms; calls on province to do more

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May 30, 2017

News release from UFCW Canada on Ontario Labour Law Reform

UFCW Canada, Toronto — May 30, 2017 — “While our union welcomes the government’s decision to introduce labour law reforms that UFCW has long been calling for, we will continue to push for additional reforms that will help strengthen Ontario’s economy by better protecting those facing precarious working conditions and empowering workers who are struggling to get by,” says Paul Meinema, the National President of UFCW Canada. “Those reforms include card check certification, automatic first contract arbitration, and sectoral bargaining for all industries, and expanding the Labour Relations Act to include all workers,” the UFCW leader adds.

At a morning press conference, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that the government will be raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2019, requiring equal pay for equal work, and increasing vacation and personal leave entitlements as part of its efforts to modernize Ontario’s Employment Standards Act and Labour Relations Act. The province also plans to extend card check certification to temporary workers and employees in the home care and building service sectors, and has pledged to enact measures that provide Ontario workers with more stable schedules.

The announcement comes in response to the Changing Workplaces Review Final Report, released last week, which put forward a number of progressive recommendations aimed at improving the province’s outdated labour laws and standards. Authored by special advisors C. Michael Mitchell and the Honourable John C. Murray, the 420-page report examined ways to better protect the province’s workforce amidst a rise in temporary, contract, and low-paying work and precarious working conditions for a growing number of workers in Ontario. The report was commissioned by the government as part of its review of the province’s labour legislation, the first such review in more than a generation.

Prior to the release of the Changing Workplaces Review Final Report, UFCW Canada participated in the government’s review process by making a formal submission that called for the following reforms:

Implementing Card Check Certification

  • Enacting card check certification would make it easier for workers across the province to gain the union advantage, which includes higher wages, better health and dental benefits, and improved job security. By signing a union card, a worker is clearly indicating their desire to join a union, and when a majority of workers have signed cards, the union should be certified as their official bargaining agent.

Enacting Automatic First Contract Arbitration

  • Introducing an automatic first contract arbitration system would enable workers and employers to reach peaceful resolutions when negotiations break down at the bargaining table. When workers have exercised their democratic right to join a union, they should also have the right to a first contract, whether that agreement is reached through collaboration or imposed by an experienced and impartial third party arbitrator.

Introducing Sectoral Bargaining

  • Implementing a sectoral bargaining system would create a level playing field that could prevent low-wage competition by introducing minimum wage and work standards in various industries, such as the retail and security sectors. By taking this approach, the province could create an economy where every worker benefits.

“Our hope is that the changes announced today will be part of a broader and ongoing effort by the government to bring Ontario’s labour laws into the 21st century by providing more fairness for workers,” says Meinema. “There is still time for the province to build on these reforms and empower Ontarians with full rights in the workplace by enacting card check certification, automatic first contract arbitration, and sectoral bargaining for all industries, as well as extending coverage under the Labour Relations Act to include all workers in Ontario.”

“Today’s announcement highlights the importance of unions remaining actively engaged in the political process, as many of the reforms announced today are changes that UFCW has long been advocating for,” says Shawn Haggerty, President of the UFCW Canada Ontario Provincial Council. “While our union is pleased to see the government moving in a positive direction on labour law reform, we will continue to push for additional measures that will fully protect all workers in this province and further assist in improving their quality of life,” Haggerty adds.

As Canada’s leading union for retail and food workers, UFCW Canada represents over 250,000 workers across the country – and more than 105,000 members in Ontario – working in the food retail and processing, agriculture, health care, security, and hospitality industries, as well as other sectors of the economy.