Rally for Decent Work and the Changing Workplace Review

Tomorrow, thousands of workers across Ontario will rally at Queen’s Park to tell the government what Ontario workers need, from paid sick days for all workers to ending contract flipping and making it easier to join a union.


WHEN: October 1, 1:00 p.m.
WHERE: Queen’s Park, Toronto, ON

MORE: makeitfair.ca

In the spirit of this rally, we’d like to share a piece written by Bob Wood of the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic. This piece discusses part of the Changing Workplace Review that is particularly relevant to the Rally for Decent Work – and that is the new and changing definition of ‘Employee’. Read Bob’s piece below:

“The changing nature of work and the workforce in the 19th century motivated workers to advocate for a shorter work week.  Their efforts eventually resulted in a shorter work week and the creation of a national holiday – Labour Day.

Change is upon us again.   Appropriately, then, the Ontario government appointed C. Michael Mitchell and John C. Murray to look at the 21st century work world and how legislation should be brought up to date.  In July, they released an interim report called the Changing Workplaces Review. This report lays out 50 issues with 225 Options for public input that have been identified during public consultation.

It is a massive and thorough report and we won’t claim to have read it all.  We have taken a deeper look at the 5th Chapter which deals with the Employment Services Act (ESA) and would encourage readers to as well. 

As the authors point out the “old definitions (of employees) are not well suited to the modern workplace.” Currently 12% of Ontario’s workers are, by their own account, self-employed.  An unknown portion of these workers are thought to be misclassified.  That is, they are actually employees as set out in the ESA.  Their misclassification is a serious problem for them, their employers and the economy.   

In Ontario, misclassified employees miss out on 4% vacation pay, approximately 3.7% of wages for public holiday pay, overtime, termination and severance pay.  Many of these employees work in sub standard working conditions.

The report puts forward options including maintaining the status quo, increased education of workers and proactive enforcements.

We like this option: In disputes about whether a person is an employee, the employer has the burden of proving that the person is not an employee as covered by the ESA.

Going hand in hand with the misclassification issue is the fact that many companies have moved away from direct employment.  Sub contracting, outsourcing, franchising and other methods are now quite common.

Compliance with employment standards becomes more of an issue as a result of this shift.  Other jurisdictions are ahead of Ontario in addressing the problem.

It seems obvious to us that those who profit from worker’s labour must have some level of liability for employment standards compliance. Making franchisors liable for employment standards violations of their franchisees is one idea that has merit.

The Changing Workplaces Review is an important initiative.  Input on most issues is open until October 14th.”

– Bob Wood, Community Worker, Hamilton Community Legal Clinic


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