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LETTER: Scrapping Bill 148 hurts working Saultites. Bill 47 fails to help

Many more Sault families live in poverty than the provincial average, says concerned local community activist
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SooToday received the following letter to the editor from Mike McCleary:

In a recent press release, acting president of the Sault Chamber of Commerce, Carlo Spadafora, praised Doug Ford and the Ontario Progressive Conservative repeal of Bill 148. Spadafora goes as far as to say “there’s a lot of aspects of Bill 148 that were good, aspects that continue to stay in place”.

This is completely dishonest and misleading to the citizens of Sault Ste Marie. For starters, let’s take a look at some of the benefits Ontario workers will lose.

Personal Emergency Days: Under Bill 148 employees were guaranteed 10 “personal emergency days for illness, injury, or other emergencies. Two of these days were paid. This will be replaced with three sick days, two bereavement days, and three “family responsibility days”, all unpaid.

Employee misclassification: To prevent exploitative practices, Bill 148 prevented employers from classifying their workers as self-employed independent contractors. Doug ford is removing the requirement for an employer to prove an individual is not an employee.

Equal pay for equal work: This one is especially important to Sault Ste Marie, as Bill 148 protected workers from precarious work, ensuring workers were paid the same amount if they are doing the same job. The exception to this rule would of course be seniority or bonus/performance pay. Under Bill 47, Doug Ford will allow employers to use cheap, precarious labour to do the same work as full-time employees for less pay.

Scheduling: Another piece of particular importance for Sault Ste Marie workers, Bill 148 required employers to pay three hours wages if a shift was cancelled last minute, creating more scheduling predictability, ultimately allowing for a greater work-life balance for Ontario workers. Under Bill 47, Doug Ford wants to remove this compensation. Doug Ford also wants to remove the Ontario employee’s right to decline last minute shift changes, and will allow employers to require workers to be on-call even on their days off.

Unionization: Bill 148 repealed the restrictions on card-based union certification across several industries. Doug Ford wants to end these provisions, removing barriers put in place which will make it harder for employees to unionize.

Are these the good parts Spadafora is referring to? Spadafora also goes on to say there was no formal polling of local businesses, which seems to echo the recent dialogue, or lack thereof, between CBC Queen’s Park reporter Mike Crawley and several PC cabinet ministers regarding Bill 148. Both Minister of Labour Laurie Scott and Economic Development Minister Jim Wilson were asked by Mike Crawley to name any companies that shut down or moved south of the border because of Bill 148. Neither of them could.

I find it troubling that the previous Ontario government is being criticized for introducing legislation less than 10 days after the changing workplaces review, yet our local Chamber of Commerce has not even conducted a proper poll of local businesses before supporting the repeal of Bill 148.

Not only this, Ford’s own cabinet ministers are apparently unable to answer very basic questions about Bill 148. It seems an awful lot like both the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Ford government are relying on anecdotal evidence when trying to push this bill through.

To help local residents understand the real impact Sault Ste Marie might feel by supporting workers rights, please consider the following facts before supporting Ross Romano, Doug Ford, and the Ontario PC government as they continue to appease lobbyist organizations, such as the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

According to our most recent census, 23.6 per cent of Sault Ste Marie's population live in low income families vs the Ontario average of 18.4 per cent.

Also according to our census, of a total workforce of 36,610 in Sault Ste Marie, 9,765 are in the service/sales industry - an industry in which minimum wage is the norm.

According to over 11,000 Sault Ste Marie residents are considered at risk for homelessness.

According to several pro-business lobbyists businesses are turning to automation due to Bill 148. Yet the process of automating jobs began well before the implementation of Bill 148 last year, and did not originate in Ontario.

The protections provided to workers by the bill are not those businesses’ motivators in moving to automation - protecting their multi-million (or multi-billion) dollar bottom lines are the motivators.

For too long organizations, such as the Ontario Chamber of Commerce have been able to successfully lobby our government in the interest of big business. This is what's hurting the small business owners, or the little guy as Doug Ford likes to say. This not only allows big business to hold a monopoly over the industries themselves, it allows big business to hold power over the workers.

Anybody willing to fight for your rights as a worker in Sault Ste Marie, please call or email our local MPP Ross Romano and demand answers - who does he speak for in supporting Bill 47?

Does he speak for the nearly 1/4 of our youth population living in low income families, keeping in mind the Sault is facing a high rate of youth outmigration?

Does Ross Romano speak for the one third of our local workforce currently working in sales/service?

Does Ross Romano speak for the 11,000 Sault residents considered at risk for homelessness, or the thousands of children facing food insecurity because their parents struggle to find stable employment?

Or does he speak for Doug Ford, who is so out of touch with workers that he believes getting out of poverty is just as simple as getting “something called a job.”

Please join me in contacting Ross Romano regarding his position on Bill 148. We as a working class community deserve fair and honest representation. Please also feel free to join the local effort to established sustained accountability from our MPP at our Facebook page

Ross Romano:
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 705-949-6959
Twitter: @RossRomanoSSM

Mike McCleary


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