Majority support Ontario's $15 minimum wage, labour law reforms: poll

Majority support Ontario’s $15 minimum wage, labour law reforms: poll

The Liberal government’s proposed labour law reforms seem to be working for most Ontarians.

That’s the upshot from a  Forum Research survey, released Tuesday and provided exclusively to QP Briefing, that suggests the majority of people support the move to significantly revamp Ontario’s employment laws for the first time in about two decades. The reforms are aimed at tackling the increasingly unpredictable and unstable nature of work, which has left one-third of the labour force in a vulnerable situation.

“In most cases, a considerable majority of voters support the Ontario Government’s recently introduced labour reforms,” said Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum Research, in a release.

Among other things, the proposed Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act will increase the minimum wage for most workers to $15 an hour by 2019, up from $11.40 currently, increase paid vacation leave from two to three weeks annually, after five years with the same employer, and guarantees 10 days to deal with personal emergencies, at least two of which must be paid. It also eases the path to unionization, guarantees card-based certification in a handful of sectors, establishes equal pay for equal work regardless of whether you signed a full-time or part-time contract, and requires that employers pay three hours’ wages if they cancel a worker’s shift with less than 48 hours’ notice.

A slim majority of the 1,003 people Forum surveyed, 53 per cent, said they approved of a $15 minimum wage. It received a lot less support compared with a Forum poll earlier this year that showed 70 per cent of Torontonians were for it.

The most popular provision appears to be extended vacation leave – 74 per cent said they were on board, while 18 per cent said they disapproved. Eight per cent weren’t sure what to make of it.

Another 67 per cent gave a thumbs-up to equal pay for equal work, regardless of employment status. Twenty-four per cent turned it down, and nine per cent said they weren’t sure.

More than half, 57 per cent, supported the requirement to compensate employees who aren’t given ample notice of a shift cancellation, with 27 per cent disapproving and 16 per cent unsure.

But no matter how well-liked, it doesn't seem the changes are enough to woo voters back tot the Grit camp, as suggested in another Forum poll, reported on by the Toronto Sun Tuesday.

Along political lines, respondents most likely to favour the labour reforms skewed Liberal and New Democrat, while those opposed backed the Progressive Conservatives, the poll said. That will likely come as no surprise – whereas the NDP have long called for a $15 base wage, Tory Leader Patrick Brown recently suggested it's too steep.

“The government receives a wide measure of support on their reforms both from their own supporters and from the those of the NDP,” Bozinoff said.

Meanwhile, Premier Kathleen Wynne has trumpeted a $15 minimum wage, the main fixture of the reforms, as a "fair" manoeuvre that “will make a world of a difference” in workers’ lives.

The changes are part of Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, which will override the current Labour Relations Act and Employment Standards Act. Much of the legislation was informed by the two-year Changing Workplaces review, headed up by government-appointed labour law experts C. Michael Mitchell and John C. Murray, who made 173 recommendations after lengthy consultation with the public and stakeholders.

Wynne took the rare step of putting Bill 148 on the fast track to public hearings at the committee stage after first reading, so people can weigh in this summer. According to parliamentary convention, the bill would normally be debated in the house at second reading and then, if passed, move to the committee stage where the public can provide input and MPPs can put forward amendments.

It's expected to pass before the end of this year, likely because the governing Liberals boast a majority. Stage one of the minimum wage phase-in would take effect Jan. 1, 2018, hiking it to $14 an hour.

Thus far the reviews have been mixed, but the bill is generally cheered by organized labour and jeered by business.

While some unions and worker advocates laud the changes, others wanted to see the government go one step further, such as extending card-based union certification to all and beefing up ministry-led enforcement measures. Businesses on the other hand, have come out swinging against increasing the base wage without first doing a formal impact analysis, warning $15 is unaffordable and could cause them to lay people off, or hire less employees.

Forum surveyed 1,003 Ontarians over the phone from June 12 to June 14, and the results are considered accurate within three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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To contact the reporter on this story:
Twitter: @sabrinananji


Sabrina Nanji

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