Phase in the Fair Workplaces bill
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | August 17, 2017|
According to the most up-to-date figures from Stats Can, Haliburton County has a 9.3 per cent unemployment rate.
Unfortunately, ”up-to-date” in this case means 2011, so it’s difficult to know where we are, six years down the track.
However, it's safe to say that Haliburton County can’t afford any more job losses or jobs placed at risk.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and the Keep Ontario Working Coalition (KOWC) recently contracted the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis (CANCEA) to measure the potential economic impact of the province’s Bill 148 – that's the proposal to raise minimum wage, among other things. The centre revealed its findings this week.
As reported in today’s Highlander, it says proposed changes in the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act could put nearly 2.7 per cent of jobs across all sectors in Haliburton County at risk. That’s above the provincial average and included in the 185,000 jobs that would be at risk across Ontario.
Autumn Wilson of the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce told us the estimate, which equates to 190 jobs, includes both current and potential new jobs. In other words, that 185,000 figure isn't just referring to job losses, but jobs that will not be created by businesses worried about the impact of the changes.
Lots of folks are focusing on the minimum wage increase in this bill. The plan is to raise it to $14-an-hour this coming January and $15-an-hour a year after that. But there are a number of items in the bill that will cost employers even more, such as an extra public holiday and new rules around holiday pay: a minimum of three weeks’ vacation for employees who have worked for five years or more. There's also “equal pay for equal work” and additional leave provisions.
We’ve heard from a number of businesses in Haliburton County who say these extra costs will be onerous and will affect jobs and prices. They say they may be forced to lay people off, won’t hire as many and will have to raise prices to cover the additional payroll costs.
As an economy of small businesses, no wonder the changes will hit Haliburton hard. Paul Smetanin of CANCEA says small businesses will be affected by a factor of five times more than larger ones. Food service and manufacturing jobs seem especially vulnerable.
The message from everybody this week –the OCC and the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce – is that nobody is against labour reform – they just want it phased in.
The Ontario government has so far opted not to slow things down. Why? One can speculate the Wynne government is looking for Brownie points going into next summer’s provincial election. And while that will work for many unions and workers’ rights groups, she risks alienating the business community, the engine of Ontario's economy.
It will be interesting to see how the province responds to all of this. Labour Minister Kevin Flynn has said the province isn’t backing down from the bill. He says they’ve heard from employers who think the changes will help them attract employees, reduce turnover and get employees more invested in the businesses they work for. However, he has acknowledged concerns from others in the business community.
The most prudent thing for the province to do now is sit down with stakeholders – both for and against the bill - to plan a phase-in that is amenable to all parties.
To date, the OCC has not provided an alternative timetable for implementation. This should be their next step now that they’ve determined the economic risks of rushing through these changes.
Lisa Gervais is the editor for The Highlander.