Ontario’s first act in office: pay workers £7.25 an hour and make them ‘clock out’

Employees in Ontario can now clock out of work after regular hours. Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford introduced legislation on Sunday to amend the province’s employment standards act to protect employees’ rights at work.

The government has promised to cut a billion dollars from provincial spending, but it has no intention of lowering wages for teachers or social workers. If the law is indeed enforced, Ontario’s law will have less bite than that of neighbouring British Columbia or Quebec, which do not allow employees to clock out. The length of its mandate may also be too short for employers to bear, as, according to Labour and Human Resources Canada, employers can’t force workers to clock out; they have to give them a reason to do so.

Employees can claim that they have been denied some benefit of the “clock out” when they clock out of the office, and will receive up to $15 per hour in compensation for that claim. The government also introduced a bill to allow workers to vote on whether to have unions at their workplace. However, workers need to pay a small amount to unions before being allowed to vote. (Businesses don’t have to pay anything to unions to negotiate their contracts, but can be ordered to do so by Labour Minister Laurie Scott.) Ontario is also considering extending vacation and sick leave to private sector employees.

Ontario’s bill is part of a wider shift across Canada towards workers’ rights, and on Saturday former Ontario Teachers’ Federation president Sam Hammond congratulated Ford on passing the legislation.

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Canada’s Labour Minister Martine Ouellet pointed out that increasing the pay minimum, as the Ontario government has already done, is not sufficient for workers to earn a fair wage. According to her, “comparing the minimum wage in Ontario and Ontario’s western counterparts, I see that Ontario is effectively paying significantly less than the average minimum wage worker in Ontario.” When compared with British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta, the pay minimum in Ontario “is still below the average minimum wage in those provinces.”

Ford is expected to introduce a 2018 budget that will be the cornerstone of the current Liberal government’s economic plan for Ontario, including deficit reduction. That’s because the Ontario election, held on June 7, will likely see Ford’s Progressive Conservatives sweep to a majority government in a victory that will kickstart much-needed spending. Ford’s government is far from the only rightwing entity to trade in its centrist agenda for conservativeism and a mandate to ease pressure on entitlements, from older workers to students.

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