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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

A Note from Hugo

This has been a busy week, thanks to the news about the Ontario Changing Workplaces Review recommendations. The Ontario Government is nearing the end of its two-year-long Changing Workplaces review, and the recommendations are slated to include:

  • A bump in minimum wage from $11.40 to $15 an hour
  • Increasing annual paid vacation from 2 to 3 weeks
  • Giving all employees in Ontario a minimum number of paid sick days
  • Eliminating exemptions in the Employment Standards Act for small businesses
  • Giving union organizers a list of all employees in a business
  • Card-based certification for labour unions

And more besides – read our report here.

At the GNCC, we stand for economic prosperity, for supporting business growth and job creation, and for evidence-based, data-driven decision making. With that in mind, we have a lot of reservations about these policies, which seem to be driven not by data and studies, but by politics and an attempt to win votes in next year’s election. We are particularly concerned about the minimum wage hike given that studying the minimum wage was never in the scope of the Changing Workplaces Review to begin with, so we know that the $15-an-hour figure does not have any in-depth analysis or data behind it. We had a commitment from the government in 2014 to increase minimum wage along with inflation, which we applauded as fair to employers and employees alike, and predictable for business. Maybe the minimum wage does need adjusting, and maybe not. But we should make that decision because there is data to support it, not because of electioneering.

We’re also concerned about swinging the labour balance in Ontario too far towards unions with the reforms outlined, not to mention the privacy issues around allowing unions on-demand access to employee lists. We have also pointed out that the exemptions for small business were there for good reason – small firms, which are 88% of Ontario businesses and the vast majority of Niagara employers (in fact, most Niagara businesses are micro-businesses with fewer than five employees), do not have the same economic realities that large firms do and find it much more difficult to accommodate sweeping changes in labour law like this. Such big changes made all at once could result in closures and unemployment, and many employers who are able to retain staff will only be able to do so by cutting employee benefits programs, including not just extended health benefits but pensions, disability income protection, daycare, tuition reimbursement, legal assistance plans, transit or parking passes, profit-sharing, student loan assistance, and more. That would end up hurting precisely the same people these measures are supposed to help.

So far, the GNCC has:

  • Co-authored a letter with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to Premier Wynne expressing the concerns of the business community
  • Met and spoken with MPPs Jim Bradley, Wayne Gates, and Sam Oosterhoff (we are committed to a meeting with Cindy Forster in the near future)
  • Published our views on our website
  • Issued our thoughts in a news release, which made the front page of local newspapers above the fold (read it here)
  • Appeared on local radio to discuss the issues
  • Authored an op-ed in the St. Catharines standard (read it here)

We’ll continue working on this file, and working to ensure that whatever comes out of these recommendations supports business prosperity in Niagara.

Hugo Chesshire
Policy & Government Relations Manager, GNCC

What does your business need to succeed? The GNCC is here to help. Contact me and let me know.

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