News / Ottawa

Advocates: Ontario plan to overhaul labour laws, boost minimum wage step in the right direction

Labour advocates applaud sweeping labour reforms and Ontario’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, but say it needs to happen soon

In this July 22, 2015 file photo, supporters of a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers rally in front of a McDonald's in Albany, N.Y.

AP Photo/Mike Groll

In this July 22, 2015 file photo, supporters of a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers rally in front of a McDonald's in Albany, N.Y.

Advocates say rumoured plans for sweeping labour reforms including a $15 minimum wage can't come soon enough to help those struggling to make ends meet.

The Ontario Liberal cabinet will decide in the next week how far it will take a package of labour reforms introduced after a two-year review, government sources have said.

Those plans include the possiblity of raising minimum wage from the current $11.40 an hour to $15 after a period of time to phase it in.  

According to details of the plan revealed over the weekend, among the proposals before cabinet, the government is considering boosting vacation pay from two to three weeks minimum, forcing employers to clearly demonstrate why a part-time position is not a full-time permanent job, and reducing hurdles to unionize for workers in small or scattered workplaces.

Amber Slegtenhorst, an Ottawa single mother with seven kids, who volunteers with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) Canada, said the minimum wage increase will make a huge difference in her life. She is currently making $14 an hour.

“All your fixed responsibilities: rent, hydro, heat, food, I have a vehicle, so insurance for my vehicle, gas, medications, those sorts of things fixed expenses that I have to pay every month and at $14 an hour, there’s just no way,” she said, saying $1 an hour more would help.

“A dollar an hour is going to make a huge difference.”

Trish Hennessy, Ontario director for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives called the new measures a step in the right direction but said they would have to be implemented quickly to make a real difference.

“I think the faster the better, but you want to give businesses a little bit of lead time to plan for it,” she said, adding she thinks phasing it in a $15-minimum wage within a year in a half would be fair, especially as Alberta has already said it will achieve that wage by Oct. 1, 2018.

But she cautioned that already $15 an hour is not a living wage in the province, saying her organization tracks living wages in 32 cities across Ontario.

Ottawa is not included in the data. But in Kingston, the closet city, a family with two working adults and two children, would both have to make $16.58 an hour to learn a living wage.

With files from Torstar News Service.

More on