The Ontario Progressive Conservative (PC) government passed Bill 47 — also known as the Making Ontario Open for Business Act — on November 21, repealing workers’ rights changes brought in by the previous Liberal government.
As a result of this new bill, minimum wage is now capped at $14 until 2020 and will no longer increase to $15 an hour on January 1. Workers will also no longer have two paid sick days and employers are allowed to require sick notes from their employees’ doctors.
The new bill also states that scheduling provisions, which were to come into effect by the new year, have been repealed. This includes the right to request scheduling changes if an employee has been employed for at least three months, a minimum of three hours’ pay for on-call workers, and the right to refuse requests to work if the employee was not notified at least 96 hours in advance.
The bill was expected to go through royal assent following its third reading Tuesday afternoon. However, legislators motioned to adjourn the vote due to protests from Fight for $15 and Fairness, which is a labour lobby group that has a chapter at U of T among its membership.
Protesters were escorted out of the Queen’s Park gallery, shouting chants directed at Premier Doug Ford and the PC Party, primarily airing grievances about freezing minimum wage and taking away workers’ rights that would have been made available under Bill 148.
Naomi Litwack, a fourth-year architecture student at U of T, was in the galleries protesting the changes the moment security escorted members of the public out.
“I started chanting and then the guards started to try to quiet us down… Eventually, they started being a little bit more forceful in that they were… really grabbing people’s attention. Eventually, one guard got a whole row out. The guard for my section… said, ‘You can leave or you can be arrested.’ So we decided it was time to leave.”
Members of the opposition showed disappointment following the bill’s move to royal assent.
“We just saw workers’ rights be torn out from under them. We just saw the lowest-income workers lose $2,000 in increased pay because of the decisions that the government made today in passing legislation,” said New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath following the vote.
“Our government should make it easier for businesses to employ people,” said Labour Minister Laurie Scott, in support of the bill. “We need to keep regulation and payroll taxes reasonable and manageable. We need common sense to inform good policy. Our PC government understands that regulatory burdens make it harder to do business and harder to employ workers.”
The PC government has faced major criticism regarding the bill since its introduction last month. Ford reportedly received death threats and Scott’s constituency office was vandalized.
“Passing Bill 47 shows that this government is not considering the real-world effects of decent work laws, which have helped the Ontario economy,” stated Ontario Federation of Labour President Chris Buckley in a press release. “It also ignores the voices of the people who will be most affected by these laws — women workers, racialized workers, Indigenous workers and workers with a disability.”
“That [protest] just shows you the number of people that are extremely disappointed and shows you the large gathering at Queen’s Park yesterday to voice their displeasure with the government,” said Buckley in an interview with The Varsity.
Simran Dhunna, President of Fight for $15 and Fairness UofT, wrote that the group was disappointed with the bill’s passage.
“We were able to delay the vote on Bill 47 by a day because the Ford government can’t bear to sit there and slash our labour rights as we, the people, watch,” wrote Dhunna.
“By passing Bill 47 this week, they made it clear — once again — how much disdain they have for workers in the province. We will remember this moment, and we will continue to fight for better labour protections.”
The Varsity has reached out to CUPE3902 for comment.