MEDIA RELEASE - Letter to Ontario's Premier- Labour Relations and Employment Standards Changes Too Much, Too Fast
For Immediate Release
July 10, 2017
Letter to Ontario’s Premier: Labour Relations and Employment Standards Changes Too Much, Too Fast
Coalition of Chambers of Commerce and business groups call for Ontario Government to give employers more time to adjust to sweeping reforms
Toronto, ON / Sault Ste. Marie, ON – Today, the Keep Ontario Working group, a coalition of Ontario’s leading industry and sector associations, sent an open letter to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne which urges the Government of Ontario to slow down the implementation of Bill 148. The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act will bring about major changes in less than six months, and Ontario’s employer community is concerned that the pace of change will seriously injure our economic growth. The Keep Ontario Working (KOW) coalition is calling on the provincial government to give businesses more time to better prepare.
In their letter, the Keep Ontario Working group calls on the government to consider the timing of implementation. As it stands now, Ontario’s minimum wage will increase by 32 per cent in only 18 months.
“To demonstrate true fairness and compassion for workers, we must ensure Ontario has a strong economy to help create jobs and increase economic growth,” says Karl Baldauf, Vice President of Policy and Government Relations at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and spokesperson for the Keep Ontario Working Coalition. “To plan effectively and protect jobs, employers need predictability and time to adjust to these changes. There is no way to absorb and adjust to a 32 per cent hit in less than 18 months.”
Chambers of Commerce from across the province along with the OCC and other industry and business groups have repeatedly called on the Ontario government to ensure that the recommendations of the Ontario Workplace Review are implemented under a cost-benefit analysis process in order to ensure that the changes don't do more harm than good.
Due to the Government of Ontario’s unwillingness to appropriately test the economic impacts of the legislation, the Keep Ontario Working coalition has commissioned its own thorough and comprehensive assessment to fully evaluate the damage these changes will generate. The results of the coalition’s economic analysis will be shared in August.
Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce (SSMCOC) President Paul Johnson reinforces the letter’s assertion that Ontario’s small and medium sized businesses are the lifeblood of communities, creating local jobs and increasing economic growth. He notes that the SSMCOC Chamber recently surveyed its members and asked them to rate their level of concern on a number of the recently-announced labour and employment changes. “More than 90% of the almost one-hundred respondents expressed a high level of concern about the minimum wage increase,” says Johnson.
To meet the added business costs that are anticipated under the increased minimum wage and other proposed changes to employment legislation, 64% of local respondents indicated that they expect to lessen the number of overall workers, while 40% indicated that they plan to reduce the number of workers on certain shifts. Almost 60% indicated that they will redistribute responsibilities among current workers as opposed to hiring new staff.
The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce has been encouraging its members, and other local businesses, to urge the Ontario government to work together with employers to modernize and improve Ontario’s workplace standards. Concerned businesses and Ontarians can send a letter to the Ontario government at the KOW website at www.keepontarioworking.ca
. Businesses can also contact the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce at 705-949-7152 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The SSMCOC’s concern surrounding the pace of change is not isolated to the minimum wage in Ontario, but encompasses all aspects of the legislation. Changes to other areas, such as equal pay for temporary and part time workers, scheduling and emergency leave days will carry significant new costs for employers, costs that must be contended with in order to avoid maximum job losses.
The SSMCOC is also expressly concerned about the timing of the proposed changes as they come at a point when the province’s businesses, small businesses in particular, are still coming to terms with the effects of a 300% increase in hydro rates. Locally, the cost of Ontario’s cap-and-trade program is expected to remove $25 million from the Sault’s economy, while businesses will also be contending with increased property taxes and ratios. Sault Ste. Marie employers simply cannot pass all of these increased costs on to the consumer, especially in a market that must compete with online and cross-border competition.
Rory Ring, CEO of the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce notes that while the agency and its membership of 700 plus local businesses recognize that social economic prosperity needs to be addressed, doing so through rapid increases to wages and legislation that drives up employer costs is not going to result in a positive economic outcome. Ring notes that, “the public must be prepared to pay more for everything because a minimum wage of $15/hr will result in higher prices across the board, including everything from cost of goods to rent to taxes; and those prices are going to increase for everyone, including those that will not be benefiting from increases in salary, pensions other subsidies.”
Ring adds, “the minimum wage increase and the Workplace Review legislation will ultimately result in less economic activity and will reduce the number of job-generating entrepreneurs who build businesses that employ people. That is the message coming from those individuals and business that actually create Ontario jobs.”
About the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce
The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce has been the voice of the Sault's Business Community since 1889, representing more than 700 local employers. Visit www.ssmcoc.com
About the Keep Ontario Working Coalition
The Keep Ontario Working coalition (KOW) is a broad-spectrum group of business sector representatives concerned with sound public policy to help produce jobs and grow Ontario. The group includes: the Association of Canadian Search, Employment and Staffing Services; the Canadian Franchise Association; Food & Beverage Ontario; the National Association of Canadian Consulting Businesses; the Ontario Chamber of Commerce; the Ontario Forest Industries Association; the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel & Motel Association; Restaurants Canada; the Retail Council of Canada; the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario; and other employers and employer groups. For more information on the Keep Ontario Working coalition please visit www.keepontarioworking.ca
Ontario Chamber of Commerce
Rory Ring, Executive Director
Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce
Don Ferguson, Communications Officer
Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce