$15 an hour minimum wage

April 13, 2016|Posted in: Uncategorised

2016-04-06-fight-for-15-and-fairness-day-of-action

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THE CAMPAIGN POINTS:

$15/Hr Minimum Wage:

Ontario workers are struggling to get by. More and more decent jobs are being replaced by low-wage work. We need a minimum wage that brings workers above the poverty line.

The minimum wage was frozen at $10.25 an hour for four years. Thanks to more than a year of organizing across the province by the Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage, the government was forced to increase the minimum wage to $11 an hour in 2014 and to peg the minimum wage to the cost of living. In 2015, indexation to inflation raised the minimum wage to $11.25, effective Oct. 1.

But even with indexation at $11.25, workers are left more than 16% below the poverty line – that is almost $4,000 below the poverty line per year. That’s why our fight for $15 is more important than ever!

There are still many groups of workers that are exempted from this minimum wage, and are forced to try to make ends meet on even lower wages. Students, liquor servers, farmworkers, to name just a few, are all allowed to be paid a lower minimum wage. This makes Ontario one of the few provinces in the country who has lower minimum wages for certain groups of workers, and that is unacceptable. Basic minimum standards should protect everyone equally. There should be no exemptions to the minimum wage.

A decent minimum wage is a central part of lifting workers out of poverty, but there are many other changes that need to be made to push back against low-wage and precarious work. Workers need hours that they can live on, paid sick days so they can afford to get well, better protections from reprisals and easier access to unionization, and laws that protect everyone and are enforced. A $15 minimum wage and Fairness at work is how we will build decent work from the ground up.

A decent minimum wage is a central part of lifting workers out of poverty, but there are many other changes that need to be made to push back against low-wage and precarious work. Workers need hours that they can live on, paid sick days so they can afford to get well, better protections from reprisals and easier access to unionization, and laws that protect everyone and are enforced. A $15 minimum wage and Fairness at work is how we will build decent work from the ground up.

Decent Hours for Decent Incomes:

We need decent hours of work that we can live on. A third of workers in part-time jobs want full time work but can’t get it. Involuntary part-time means workers struggle to make ends meet, and often have to cobble together several jobs to get by. But part-time, casual, and temporary agency jobs can have erratic and unpredictable hours, and employers are increasingly moving to “just-in-time” scheduling that leaves workers scrambling to organize their work, family and other responsibilities. Overtime is also serious issue for a huge number of workers – only 3 out of 5 workers have full access to overtime premium pay. It’s no wonder that part-time work is growing faster than full time work – it pays off for employers, and the law doesn’t stop it.

 

Paid Sick Days:

Almost one in three Ontario workers is without sick leave protection. Businesses with less than 50 employees are not required to provide 10 days job-protected, unpaid personal emergency leave. Most of these workers are in hotel and food services, health care, social services and construction.

The majority of workers in Ontario do not have access to paid sick leave. But most workers cannot afford to lose a day of pay when they are sick. And many employers require workers to get a medical note from a doctor to prove they are sick. This costs workers time and money, and exposes others to illness. Both the Canadian and Ontario Medical Associations have called on employers to stop requiring medical notes due to the public health risks and cost to the health care system.

All workers should have the right to take care of themselves and their families when they are ill. We need a minimum of 7 paid sick days a year for all workers, with no requirement for medical notes.

 

Respect at Work:

Rights are hollow if workers cannot assert them without being punished or fired. The law in Ontario does not require employers to demonstrate a reason for firing workers. Investigations of reprisals against workers who stand up for their rights should be fast, employers should be penalized, and workers should be able to get their jobs back if they want. This includes reprisals against workers who try to organize unions in their workplaces. If the law made it easier to unionize, workers would be subjected to less intimidation and harassment, and would be better able to defend their rights collectively rather than as individuals. Workers should be better protected from all forms of harassment and bullying in the workplace, such as what is required in Quebec.

 

Rules that Protect Everyone:

The law in Ontario currently lets employers shift their responsibilities as employers onto contractors, temp agencies, subcontractors, and increasingly, onto workers. By passing the buck like this, employers can drive down wages, make work insecure and make it hard for workers to enforce their rights. Employers should be held responsible for ensuring that minimum standards are provided to workers down the chain of temp agencies, contractors, and subcontractors, and should not be able to misclassify workers as independent to avoid employment standard responsibilities. Exclusions and loopholes, which primarily affect young, low wage, women, racialized, and migrant workers, let employers take advantage of workers. Part-time, casual, and temporary agency workers are often paid lower hourly wages than their full time counterparts for doing the exact same work. That is why all workers should be protected by universal minimum standards.

But expanding and strengthening workers’ rights will do nothing if the laws are not enforced. And yet the current system of enforcement relies on workers whose rights have already been violated to bring these violations to the attention of the government, a process that can be risky, intimidating, complicated, and can take a very long time. Enforcement should be proactive, and the costs to employers found in violation of the law should be real. There are many ways to ensure workers can be protected during the process of making a complaint. Solutions include anonymous and third party complaints, protection from wrongful dismissal, and fines for employers who retaliate against them.

 

Board president WWEC, member at large Social Justice Windsor District Labour Council, host of campus community radio program The ShakeUp on CJAM 99.1FM