Dan Crow | CUPE Research

The laws around labour relations and employment standards govern how we organize new bargaining units, how we bargain collectively, and how we determine minimum standards to protect workers.

Times have changed. Most labour and employment laws were implemented before the massive expansion of precarious work. The result is that many vulnerable workers are denied the ability to join a union, and struggle to access minimum employment standards.

However, workers have not been silent. To fight the rise of precarious work, workers’ organizations have demanded improvements to labour and employment law to provide greater protections and make it easier to organize vulnerable workers.

As a result of this mobilization, both Alberta and Ontario have gone through employment law reviews. Both provinces have now tabled legislation to make it easier to join a union, provide protections to newly-certified bargaining units and make several improvements to employment standards. Changes include increased access to leaves, equal pay for part-time workers and new rules around scheduling. Notably, Ontario decided to follow the Alberta NDP’s lead by announcing an increase in the minimum wage to $15/hour, something that was originally outside the scope of the review.

More needs to be done, but these changes create conditions for bargaining further gains – and they raise the floor for all workers.

These victories are the fruits of hard-fought campaigns by unions and other workers’ organizations. Proposed changes to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, in particular, are the result of a massive campaign by $15 and Fairness, a broad coalition of community and labour groups supported by CUPE and other unions through the Ontario Federation of Labour’s parallel Make It Fair campaign.

These campaigns remind us that political action of various kinds is necessary to improve standards for workers.

There is no way that improvements in Alberta would be made without an NDP government. With an NDP government taking power in BC, we could see better employment laws in that province as well.

Political action is also about building support in communities for workers’ demands, and using that organized support to put pressure on government to implement better laws. That kind of pressure is what forced the business oriented Liberal government in Ontario to make improvements. Creating similar public support in provinces under the NDP will help those governments withstand any backlash from the business sector when they implement laws that benefit workers.

This is why CUPE supports mobilizing towards the ballot box as well as in coalition with other unions and with community organizations. Together, we are stronger.