We have a huge economic imbalance in our province that continues to leave workers behind and the government must make the necessary changes if Ontario is going to thrive again, said CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn, speaking to the Finance and Economic Affairs committee in Kitchener-Waterloo.

“Anti-union policies brought in by the Conservatives in the late 1990’s have led to a drop in union density that all workers have suffered from. The corresponding growth in part-time, temporary and precarious work has left so many people struggling to survive. The government needs to address this disparity,” said Hahn. “We only need to look at the U.S. to see what can happen if this imbalance goes unchecked.”

Hahn was speaking at today’s committee hearing into Bill 148, government legislation introduced in the spring that proposes significant changes to both the Labour Relations Act and the Employment Standards Act.

“If our province is going to thrive, we must make sure we have a balanced economy that works for everyone and with some amendments, Bill 148 has the potential to move us in that direction,” said Hahn. “The most important fix being that the proposed changes must apply to all workers equally as opposed to only targeting particular groups of workers.”

CUPE Ontario will be submitting a full written brief outlining 13 focused amendments that would bring meaningful and lasting improvements to Ontario workers including: removal of the exemptions for equal pay for part-timers; removal of exemption of any class of worker from the Labour Relations Act; ensuring no employer can contract below the Employment Standards Act; first contract arbitration for new unions; putting an end to replacement workers; and improved protections for workers who want to organize a union in their workplace. His presentation focused on two issues – card check certification and improved sick time.

“There are many changes in this Bill that require time before they kick in or are at the mercy of things such as subjective, merit-based criteria. Without access to a union, workers will still find themselves victims to employers who exploit these loop holes,” said Hahn. “Card check is the simplest and fairest way for workers to join a union if they want to. It eliminates the ability of employers to use intimidation tactics to kill an organizing drive. The federal government just implemented it for all federally regulated workers. Building trades have it and Bill 148 will give it to three other sectors. If it’s good enough for them it should be applied fairly to all workers.”

“All workers deserve paid sick days and this is recognized in Bill 148. However, the two days set out in the bill just isn’t enough,” said Hahn. “Workers without paid sick time are usually the people who can least afford to lose a day’s pay. Working sick is not good for them and it’s not good for the rest of us.”

CUPE Ontario is proposing the sick time provision in Bill 148 be amended to allow workers to accumulate paid sick leave at the rate of one hour for every 35 hours worked. This would give approximately seven paid sick days to someone who worked 35 hours per week for 50 weeks of the year.

“People in Ontario are falling behind and they need help,” said Hahn. “I implore you to do what’s right and fix Bill 148 so that it truly meets the needs of our province.”