Oct 25, 2018
Ontario government proceeds with amendments to Bill 148

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government plans to repeal chunks of the previous government’s Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act amid pushback from business owners who argued many of the changes were too costly, forcing them to raise prices and cut staff.

According to news reports, Premier Doug Ford was elected last spring on an “open for business” platform that included a promise to freeze the minimum wage at $14 an hour instead of hiking it as planned to $15. On Tuesday, his government confirmed the freeze and followed up with a recently promised plan to scrap or amend other changes in the legislation, known as Bill 148.

The government said it will maintain the current minimum wage at $14 an hour until 2020. Labour Minister Laurie Scott said it would be “immensely unfair” to workers to roll back wage increases that they’ve have already received. The government also said it will implement annual increases to the minimum wage, tied to inflation, starting in 2020.

The government also said in an Oct. 23 release that it will replace the previous government’s personal emergency-leave rules. Workers will be able to take up to three days for personal illness, two for bereavement and three for family responsibilities. The days will be unpaid.

The current act allows employees to take up to 10 personal emergency-leave days a year, two of them paid.

The government will also cut the section that forces employers to pay part-time and casual staff at the same rate as full-time workers doing the same work, but said it will maintain the requirement for equal pay on the basis of sex.”

The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) welcomed the announcement made by the Ontario government outlining its plans for Bill 148.

“Since its introduction in 2017, Bill 148 has been a significant concern for Ontario’s fruit, vegetable and greenhouse vegetable farmers,” OFVGA stated. Labour represent a substantial portion of the cost required to produce quality fresh fruits and vegetables for Ontario consumers and export markets. The increase from $11.60/hour to $14/hour on January 1, 2018 was a significant blow to the competitiveness of the sector, which competes with low cost imported produce.

In addition, requirements for scheduling and emergency leave created additional administrative burdens, promoted an unreliable workforce, and did not work well with the unique needs of outdoor, weather dependent production. These provisions increased the cost of growing fresh fruits and vegetables in Ontario, beyond the additional $111 million per year cost created by the increase in minimum wage.

The OFVGA has been working hard to ensure the Ontario government understands the impact Bill 148 has on the competitiveness of Ontario’s fruit and vegetable farmers.

“While it is important that all workers have the opportunity to earn a living wage, Bill 148 put jobs, and more importantly, our domestic food security at risk,” says Jan VanderHout, chair of the OFVGA board of directors. “I know fruit and vegetable farmers are looking forward to a return to predictable labour policy and reasonable minimum wage increases tied to the consumer price index.”

Ken Forth, chair of the OFVGA Labour Section and the Labour Issues Coordinating Committee says “the impact of Bill 148 is not yet fully known, but we have seen some farmers exit the business, and there will likely be more in the future.” Forth went on to say “pausing minimum wage at $14 until 2020 will at least allow farmers to adapt their businesses to current labour costs and prepare for future increases, meaning more farmers can afford to remain in business.”

The OFVGA looks forward to seeing the amendments to Bill 148 implemented and appreciates the Ontario government’s commitment to keeping Ontario open for business.”

The OFVGA is the leading voice for Ontario’s fruit, vegetable and greenhouse vegetable farmers. Our sector includes more than 3,500 family run farms that employ over 30,000 people directly on- farm. For every on-farm job, it is estimated there are 2.2 jobs created downstream, or approximately 96,000 jobs combined. Fruit and vegetable production drives Ontario’s rural and urban economies by generating more than $4.2 billion in economic activity annually, along with $600 million in combined tax revenues for all levels of government. Ontario fruit and vegetable farmers compete with global producers for domestic and export markets that demand low cost quality produce.

More information about the OFVGA can be found at www.ofvga.org

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