Public consultations began June 16 in Toronto as the Ontario government takes a comprehensive look at its labour laws, seeking to update the provisions of the 1995 Labour Relations Act (LRA) and 2000 Employment Standards Act (ESA).
Known as the Changing Workplace Review, this initiative will last through September in communities including Ottawa, Mississauga, Guelph, Windsor and London. The province announced in February that it would hold these consultations, with the goal of strengthening protections for workers while supporting Ontario businesses in today’s economy.
- The LRA governs collective labour relations, from certification to bargaining. It provides for recourses to employers, unions and unionized employees in the context of labour relations disputes.
- The ESA provides a complete regulatory framework governing minimum terms and conditions of employment, including minimum wages, working hours, vacation, statutory holidays and overtime. It also addresses the rights and obligations that arise from employment termination.
Workplace Trends Being Assessed
Workplace trends under examination include:
- Increasingly nonstandard working relationships; for example, temporary and part-time jobs and self-employment. These have grown almost twice as fast as standard employment in Ontario since 1997.
- The rising prominence of the service sector in the province.
- Globalization and trade liberalization.
- Accelerating technological changes.
- Growing workplace diversity.
The consultations are being led by two special advisors: C. Michael Mitchell, formerly of Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP, and The Honourable John C. Murray, former Superior Court of Ontario justice and prominent labour lawyer. Mitchell and Murray are providing guidelines and soliciting public input by participating in regional consultations, holding stakeholder meetings, and collecting written submissions. They also are examining academic and interjurisdictional research on the changing Ontario workplace. Among other issues, they are looking at:
- Whether there should be more, less or different overtime exemptions for various groups of employees.
- Whether or not additional types of leaves of absence are recommended.
- Whether the notice of termination provisions currently in place under the ESA are sufficient.
Implications of the Review
This precedent-setting review is part of the provincial government’s ongoing economic improvement plan for Ontario. Implications will impact:
- Employers: Future changes will have an effect on the exercise of their management rights. They also could impact payroll-related costs.
- Unions: The general consensus is that changes resulting from the Changing Workplace Review will make unionization easier – and are needed in order to address job insecurity throughout Ontario.
For more information, visit http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/about/pdf/cwr_consultation.pdf.
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