Protesters flocked to the Ministry of Labour on Oct. 24 to rally against the Premier’s plan to scrap Bill 148.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced Sept. 10 he would scrap the planned Jan. 1, 2019 minimum wage increase. The previous Liberal government introduced Bill 148 in 2017 following extensive consultations.
Bill 148 also included protected emergency leave, paid sick days, equal pay for equal work and further union rights. However, Ford pledged to abolish the rest of the bill before 2019 scheduled increase, which would have raised minimum wage to $15 an hour.
The Making Ontario Open for Business Act, introduced on Oct. 23, repeals most of Bill 148, eliminating the two paid sick days, the 10 personal emergency leave days, pay-equity for part-time and casual workers.
The PC government also froze the minimum wage at $14 until 2020.
“This government says they’re here for (the) people,” said retiree John Humphrey, a volunteer at Socialist Action, during the demonstration. “But one of the basic things is the minimum wage … if he’s really for the people he should not be touching that.”
The average minimum wage in Toronto was $11.40 before the increase in 2017. The bill raised the minimum wage to $14 on Jan. 1, 2018, and was to increase it another dollar on Jan. 1, 2019.
Despite these increases, the Ontario Living Wage Network calculated the living wage in Toronto was $18.52 in 2015.
Rena Borovilos, chief steward of the Humber faculty union, said the cancellation of Bill 148 will also affect college staff. Colleges like Humber have up to 70 per cent of their staff as part-time workers, she said.
There are two types of part-time faculty employees, Borovilos said.
Partial load faculty, those who work between seven and 12 hours per week, are unionized and could teach the same course the next term.
Part-time faculty, those who work six or less hours don’t get that same guarantee and their positions at the colleges are far more precarious.
A better quality of life is what is at stake for both students and faculty alike as the battle for minimum wage increases will continue to an issue, she said.
“Really it’s not about us,” Borovilos said. “It’s about everybody.”
York University political science doctoral candidate Sjejnoor Sjaj agrees.
“It’s about being committed to this community and the people in this city and ensuring that everyone has basic dignity and are able to ensure their basic survival needs,” she said during the Oct. 24 protest at Queen’s Park.
The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario estimated nearly 50,000 jobs would be lost due to the increases in a commentary in 2017. But a government second quarter 2018 report showed employment increased two per cent overall, or 139,500 jobs, since the minimum wage increase.
The Ontario Employment Report issued by the Ministry of Finance showed full-time jobs increased by 2.9 per cent while part-time work dropped by 2.4 per cent.
However, Ford says he has a plan to provide relief for minimum wage workers with an income tax credit.
“He is not a man of the people, as Premier, we can see it in his actions, not supporting the little man, one after another, we see the opposite, by attacking the minimum wage increases, by attacking the workers’ right, attacking student rights, democratic rights,” said Behzad Jafari, a volunteer at Fightback, a political news entity, during the rally against the freeze at Queen’s Park.
“So, we are trying to fight back,” he said.