In the News ˙ May 22, 2018

Ontario installs minimum wage law to protect contractors

Ontario installs minimum wage law to protect contractors

In an attempt to even the employment playing field and ensure more workers are paid at a rate that improves their chances at upward mobility, the Ontario government recently passed legislation that it believes will greatly benefit individuals who work in the public sector.

May 8, the Ontario Ministry of Labor officially passed the Government Contract Wages Act, an initiative directed at workers who have contracts with the province, establishing a floor wherein contractors can't be paid any less than a specific dollar amount depending on the sector. This dollar value will be determined after consulting various official sources to discover what the prevailing wages are for the appropriate sectors. Sanctioned sources include Statistics Canada, collective bargaining agreements and other government-sponsored documents and databases.

Once the minimum rates are determined, businesses in the private sector will have to follow suit, meaning the amounts they pay must be at or above the floors set in the affiliated sectors.

Minimum wage in Ontario rose to $14 in January
Fair and equitable wages have long been a cause championed by the Ontario government, tracing back to the 1930 and updated on several occasions since then. Some of the more substantial adjustments occurred in 1995 and again last year, when through the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, the minimum wage rose to $14 per hour. It will eventually reach $15 per hour, slated to go into effect on next year on Jan. 1.

Ontario Minister of Labor Kevin Flynn noted it's high time the hard working people of the province be compensated for all their efforts so they can provide for their families without having to pinch pennies.

"Everyone in Ontario should be paid fairly for the work that they do," Flynn explained. "By updating Ontario's Fair Wage Policy, we are ensuring that the Ontario government is doing its part as an employer."

In addition to increasing the minimum wage on a progressive basis, the 2017 Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act guarantees Ontario-based employees have up to five days of paid personal leave time and 10 days of excused absence resulting from emergency situations, two of which must be paid.

Minimum wage adjustments also affects servers
Just how much more workers in Ontario are making largely depends on the industry in which they're employed. Prior to Jan. 1 when the minimum wage rose to $14 per hour, the floor was $11.60. However, some employees were making less than this rate due to the nature of their job tasks and where their compensation largely derived from, like tips from customers. For instance, the minimum wage for liquor servers and bartenders was $10.10 per hour previously, but the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act raised it to $12.20 per hour at the start of 2018. Wages will eventually reach $13.05 come Jan. 1.

Since the legislation's installation, many people in Ontario have called the Minister of Labor's Employment Standards toll-free number to get a better understanding of how the wage change affects them. This activity was especially evident in January, when inquiries more than doubled the number received the corresponding month in 2017, according to the Office of the Premier.

"No one in Ontario who works full time should worry about where their next meal is coming from," Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said in March. "The Ontario I know is a province where together, we care for each other — and that includes ensuring everyone earns a fair wage."

Wynne added that increasing the minimum wage isn't just a smart move, it's the right move regardless of what opponents to the implementation may argue.

Detractors to the minimum wage hike believe the unintended consequences of the measure are far greater than the advantages, mainly due to the speed at which it's going into effect. Dissenters contend employees will likely suffer the most by forcing businesses to reduce their staff levels to avoid losing money.