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Ontario moves to hold minimum wage at $14 and end paid sick days

The Ontario government will hold minimum wage at $14 an hour for the next two years and get rid of the current two paid sick days.

Under current legislation, workers have up to 10 days off — receiving pay for the sick days only.

Under new legislation, workers will be allocated eight unpaid days off.

Speaking at Leland Industries in Scarborough, Jim Wilson — the minister in charge of reducing red tape for businesses — said the Ford government is eliminating the “job killing” parts of the Liberals’ Bill 148 which provided the boost in the minimum wage and another — to $15 — in January.

He said the government will introduce the Making Ontario Open for Business Act Tuesday afternoon, to be followed by a series of bills to “lower business costs and boost competition.”

Bill 148 — which was was to modernize Ontario’s labour law — also provided workers with up to 10 days off. Before the bill, 1.6 million Ontario workers did not have access to an unpaid, job-protected sick day because of an exemption on workplaces with less than 50 employees.

The government’s new leave provisions will not reintroduce that exemption. Under the PC bill, workers will have up to two sick, three personal and two bereavement days, all without pay.

Labour Minister Laurie Scott said the provision for three weeks of vacation for employees with five years at a company will remain.

She also said existing rules around time off for victims of domestic violence will remain.

Scott said she has spent the last four months meeting with businesses and employee groups and reviewed all sections of Bill 148 before the new bill was created.

She said there were calls from some to repeal the $14 minimum wage, which she felt was “immensely unfair to Ontario workers.”

Starting October 2020, increases to minimum wage will be tied to inflation.

That way, she said, it will be “determined by economics, not politics.”

She also said Finance Minister Vic Fedeli continues to work out a plan so that minimum wage earners pay no income tax.

Deena Ladd of the Toronto-based Workers Action Centre called the changes “devastating news for people in Ontario.”

“I think by these actions the government has clearly shown its not for the people and they have really clearly sided with the corporate elites which they said they were not going to do,” Ladd said.

“I find it such a mean-spirited and reckless changes by getting rid of paid sick days, scheduling, equal pay — everything that workers have shown is needed to rebalance the inequality and discrimination in the workplace. they are undoing all of that good work.”

Submissions from health-care providers to the two-year Changing Workplaces Review (CWR) that led to Bill 148 said access to paid sick days “would best advance the health and well-being of Ontarians, and help protect the most vulnerable workers.” Some 145 countries already provide some form of paid sick leave protection to workers.

In 2014, the Ontario Medical Association also warned that requiring sick notes of employees was “forcing patients into the doctor’s office when they are sick” and “only encourages the spread of germs to those in the waiting room.”

The legislation will also return to lower maximum penalties for breaking the law. In its final report to government, the special advisers leading the CWR noted that an effective enforcement system included a “strong element of deterrence in the system as those who engaged in deliberate flouting of the law would be dealt with by not only having to make restitution, but also being liable for significant administrative monetary penalties.”

Stronger protections against employee misclassification will also be scrapped. Around 12.5 per cent of workers in Ontario are classified as independent contractors, who have no protection under the Employment Standards Act. According to the CWR, the “experience of the Ministry of Labour in enforcement and significant anecdotal evidence” showed a portion of those contractors were in fact employees who had been misclassified by their employers.

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