THUNDER BAY – Workplace legislation in Ontario needs to move back towards protecting workers, says a local labour activist.
Thunder Bay Injured Workers Support Group treasurer Steve Mantis presented to a Ministry of Labour public consultation session in the city on Wednesday, outlining his concerns about current employment regulations.
“We’ve seen over the last 25 or 30 years the gains we’ve made as regular workers in the 1960s and 1970s has really deteriorated,” Mantis said in an interview before his presentation.
“As a result we’re really seeing an increased gap in income inequality in our country which means for all of us there are poorer outcomes for our health, health status and our health care. We’re not really planning to value and support workers in the workplace.”
Public consultation sessions have been held throughout Ontario as the provincial government reviews the Labour Relations Act and Employment Standards Act.
John Murray, a former Ontario Superior Court justice and management labour lawyer who has been overseeing the sessions as a special advisor to the Ministry of Labour, said it’s about realizing conditions are different now than in 1995 and 2000 when the two laws were implemented.
“They think there have been substantial changes in the nature of work, more precarious work and less standard work,” he said. “They have felt the legislation should be reviewed in light of changed circumstances to see if it can’t be modernized or brought into sync with the workplace as it is now.”
The consultation sessions have involved meetings with key stakeholders such as labour relations groups, trade unions, private employers as well as concerned citizens.
Through those sessions a number of common themes have emerged such as lack of regulations governing scheduling of part-time employees, compensation and benefits for part-time employees and a need to reform the collective bargaining process for unions.
Recommendations from the advisory panel will be presented to the government in 2016.