Ontario Workers Deserve Respect and Dignity: OCASI Statement on Bill 47



November 20, 2018 / Toronto - OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants calls on the government of Ontario to treat workers with respect and dignity by withdrawing Bill 47 and restoring proactive workplace inspections for compliance with the Employment Standards Act.

OCASI is the umbrella organization for immigrant and refugee serving agencies in Ontario and the collective voice for the sector, with 234 member agencies located in communities across the province.

Strong employment and labour laws and strong enforcement are important to all Ontario workers. They are often the only protections available for immigrant, refugee and migrant workers, who are over-represented in low-wage, non-unionized and temporary work in Ontario.

Many immigrants and refugees work in factories, restaurants, farms and the service sector, typically for low pay and long hours. Often, they do not know their rights as workers and even if they do, may not pursue those rights for fear of losing the job or other forms of reprisals. Some of the rights violations immigrant and refugee workers have experienced include wage theft, lack of overtime pay, workplace injuries and death. The basic rights provided by the Employment Standards Act are critically important for such workers.

The Ontario government will now be rolling back many basic rights when Bill 47 becomes law. Bill 47 was introduced on October 23, 2018, and is set to pass in the legislature today. It has received very little public consultation.

The following are some of the basic workers’ rights the Ontario government will take away through Bill 47:

  • Minimum wage increase to $15 per hour in January 1, 2019 is cancelled, and the minimum wage will be frozen at $14.00 until October 2020.
  • Access to paid and unpaid sick leave will be reduced, and leave for workers experiencing domestic and sexual violence will be not be included.
  • Equal pay will not be provided for part-time, casual, contract and temporary agency workers doing the same work as full-time and permanent workers.
  • Fair scheduling hours will be cancelled. This provision would have allowed workers to request a change to schedule or work location, and given workers enough notice of schedule change or 3 hours pay for a shift that is cancelled 48 hours before it starts.

We urge the government of Ontario to withdraw Bill 47, strengthen the Employment Standards Act and labour laws as well as their implementation, and treat Ontario workers with the dignity and respect they deserve.