The need to update labour laws and employment standards to meet the needs of today’s increasingly precarious workplaces dominated much of the discussion at the recent Ontario Regional Council.
Unifor Economist Jim Stanford said poor job growth has only made things worse. With few jobs available, workers are too often forced to choose between unemployment and precarious jobs with little prospect for building a decent life for their families.
“Job creation should be a priority, so workers don’t feel compelled to take these kinds of jobs,” he said.
Unifor is calling for changes to the Employment Standards Act, including stable scheduling and more opportunities for full-time work, access to benefits for part-timers, a pro-active approach to enforcing standards, and making employers responsible for the actions of temp agencies.
“Right now, if there’s a problem, employers just say it’s the agency’s fault. They should not be able to say that,” Stanford said.
Unifor is also calling for electronic voting on union certification, certification votes in neutral locations, and first contract arbitration, plus improved union and job security when contracted services are flipped. Stanford said many employers flip contracts to cut costs by denying workers a decent living.
“This is one of the most horrible and exploitive techniques that employers use these days,” he said.
Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn said Ontario’s laws around work have not been updated in 20 years.
“The laws we wrote back then simply don’t apply to the realities of today’s workplace,” Flynn told council. “We need to properly protect those who need protection, and we need to make sure that employers know what the standards are.”
As well, Unifor National President Jerry Dias, who was part of a labour delegation to the Paris climate change talks, said Unifor will play a vital role in such discussions.
“If there is going to be a transition, then we are going to be part of the discussion to make sure that none of our members are left behind,” Dias said.
And Unifor Local 200 member Tracey Ramsey, newly elected an NDP MPP, pledged to stand up for workers in her role as NDP trade critic, and thanks Unifor members for their help during the election – calling out volunteers Terry Weymouth and Jodi Nesbitt.