Fair Workplace Legislation Disaster
by Frank Fulton
Originally published in Glass Canada Magazine, August 2018 Issue
The former Liberal government and unionized labour had a torrid love affair.
For those of you fortunate enough to live outside of Ontario, you may have heard that we’ve recently had a change of provincial government. Voters were so enamoured with the job done by the previous ruling Liberal party that they did not elect enough candidates to even maintain official party status.
Maybe this happened because people became just a little bit concerned that the Ontario government debt had ballooned to almost $350 billion with no end of deficit spending in sight, hadn’t forgotten the $1.9 billion blown on starting construction and then scrapping two electric generating plants, or didn’t believe that the cap-and-trade carbon tax introduced in the province last year would be anything more than a cash grab to fund further frivolous politically motivated causes. Or maybe people and particularly businesses didn’t care all that much for the “Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017” that set the highest minimum wage in the country.
I have to tell you that deciding how to vote in this election was no easy task. Two parties promised voters freebies galore paid for by just a little extra tax on the rich. The Conservatives, led by the Trump-inspired brother of our former drug addicted, drunkard, national embarrassment mayor of Toronto, had no clear platform except for a vague promise to reduce wasteful spending. He won with a landslide majority.
Anyway, on changes to the minimum wage, there have been legislated increases going on pretty much across Canada and personally I think it’s about time something was done to improve the lives of the working poor. Here in Ontario the minimum wage became $14 at the beginning of the year and is slated to increase to $15 in 2019, unless overturned by the new government. For the sake of McEmployees everywhere, I hope the increase goes through. As it relates to workers in the glass and metal industry, I don’t believe the increased minimum has much of an effect.
Where I take issue with the legislation is as it applies to paid and unpaid leaves from work, and with changes that make it much easier for unions to certify many new types of workplaces by implementing a card-based versus vote-based certification process. The former Liberal government and unionized labour had a torrid love affair so long as they were scratching each other’s backs.
Employers must now grant a myriad of leaves to employees. “Parental leaves” must last up to 63 weeks. “Family medical leaves” have been extended to 28 weeks per year. Thirty-seven weeks are given for “critical illness leave.” But the killer that most affects our industry and businesses across the province is the “personal emergency leave.”
Under the PEL provisions, an employee is entitled to take off 10 days per calendar year with two of those days being fully paid. If a worker changes jobs, she is entitled to 10 more days off with the new employer. If you work for a company for just a week, you are then entitled to your two paid days off. If you start a job in December, you can take your ten days off and then be able to take another ten days in January. The icing on the cake is that employers are banned from requiring an employee to provide any proof of the reason for taking the leave.
The fallout from this benefit may not mean much to government offices where there is no urgency to get any work done, but consider what it will do to you as a manufacturer or glazing contractor with deadlines to meet where every one of your employees can take up to two weeks off at their discretion. Also consider that as a union glazing company hiring workers from the union hall on a job-to-job basis, you will now have to grant each new hire a 10-day package of days off. Lobbying of the new government is already underway to overturn this ludicrous and short sighted provision, but for the time being you’ll have to grin and bear it.
Frank Fulton is president of Fultech Fenestration Consulting. He has been in the industry for 30 years and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.