The Changing Workplaces Review and Agricultural Workers

The recent announcement that the minimum wage will increase to $14 by January 2018, then $15 by January 2019 was an exciting one for workers and advocates.

The announcement follows the final report of The Changing Workplaces Review.

The report features excellent analysis and puts forward many vital and timely recommendations. Read it at https://www.ontario.ca/document/changing-workplaces-review-final-report/

Unfortunately, this new minimum wage will apply to almost all adult workers including caregivers but not farm workers.

Agricultural Workers

The Review looked at the Agricultural Employees Protection Act (AEPA), 2002.  While most workers in Ontario are covered under the Labour Relations Act (LRA), the AEPA applies to most farm workers.  That is a problem for these workers and our province as a whole.  Here is why:

Just a Few of the Things Wrong with the AEPA According to the Changing Workplaces Reviewfarm workers

The Agricultural Employees Protection Act (AEPA);

  1. doesn’t clearly state that employees have the right to join a trade union and participate in its lawful activities.
  2. doesn’t prohibit an employer or employers’ organization from participating in or contributing financial or other support to an employee association or trade union.
  3. doesn’t adequately protect employees against employer misconduct.
  1. contains no right to collective bargaining since there was no intention to create any right to collective bargaining when the bill was drafted.
  2. doesn’t require the employer to recognize the exclusive agency or bargaining authority of the union or employee association.
  3. neither prohibits nor provides a right for agricultural workers to strike nor provides for any alternate dispute resolution if discussions reach an impasse.
  4. makes no distinction between the family farm and agribusiness
  5. has no mandatory dispute resolution mechanism for enforcement of collective agreements so any negotiated collective agreement would be difficult if not impossible to enforce.

No collective agreements have been signed in the agricultural sector since this the legislation came into effect fifteen years ago. That is because the intent in passing the act was not to implement collective bargaining legislation.

Not surprisingly, then, The Changing Workplace Review concludes that the continued exclusion of agricultural workers from the Labour Relations Act is unjustified.

Migrant Workers

The Review had little to say on migrant Workers.  We and others have argued that migrant workers deserve the same rights as everyone else. https://opicco.org/2016/10/13/help-make-meaningful-changes-to-ensure-justice-and-dignity-for-migrant-workers/

There should be no special rules and exemptions by occupation.  In fact, Labour Minister Flynn has said that, “Fairness and decency must continue to be the defining values of our workplaces.”

The province avoids dealing with the fundamental issue of fairness. It hides behind jurisdictional matters as migrant workers are primarily covered by federal regulations.

Find out what you can do at about this injustice at http://caregiversactioncentre.org/breaking-news-we-just-won-a-15-minimum-wage/

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