(Shelby Harper, Queen’s University)
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has recently announced the decision to freeze minimum wage at fourteen dollars an hour (which was set to increase to fifteen dollars in January) and the decision to revoke the ability for workers to take two paid sick days as part of Bill 147.
This bill is counterproductive to Ford’s promise of sticking up for the ‘little guy,’ as freezing minimum wage and repealing sick days harms workers who need a ‘living wage’ to ensure their own economic security, health, and the health of others.
Pam Frache, coordinator for the Fight for 15$ and the Fairness campaigns, stated that “Millions of workers voted for Ford because they believed him when he said he would stand up for the little guy, […] by attacking our new labour laws, Ford has betrayed the voters of Ontario and they will not forget.”
This decision will do nothing but benefit corporate interest and not help the everyday worker at all, as those fighting to make ends meet and those forced to working more than one job will continue to struggle financially.
Sick days and an increase in minimum wage have been an intense topic of discussion in provincial politics over the past couple of years. The Liberal provincial party’s decision to grant two paid sick days to workers at the beginning of the year gave many struggling employees the option to recover from health problems away from work without requiring a doctor’s note, which would have helped prevent the spread of diseases throughout their workplaces.
While Ford does plan on freezing minimum at fourteen dollars an hour, his campaign Plan for the People promises to spend 558 million dollars per year on tax credits for these minimum wage workers. This number may at first sound impressive, but it isn’t as perfect as the campaign presents it. Chris Buckley, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour, argues that these tax credits are not the same as a rise in hourly income, stating that this plan is “a bit of a false hope.” And that he “would bet workers would much rather have that increase in their paycheque they can live on and they can spend.”
The fact that mandatory sick days and the minimum wage increase being considered for revaluation and possibly repealed leaves many questions remain about the potentially dangerous effects this could have within Ontario workplaces. For example, if workers no longer have paid sick days they are either required to acquire a doctor’s note from a family doctor or they are must show up to work sick.
Following the introduction of two paid sick days earlier this year, the Ontario government introduced a ban on employers asking employees for doctors notes following sick leave. This was highly beneficial for the people of Ontario because doctors’ offices were no longer clogged with people requesting sick notes for a day off work and medical professionals could instead focus on patients who needed more pressing treatment. With the repeal of paid sick days, workers are again going to be required to provide a doctor’s note for taking time of work, continuing to negatively impact the medical system by wasting doctors’ time.
Similarly, the inconvenient need to go to a doctor and obtain a note means workers are more likely to just go to work ill, even though they should be at home avoiding spreading their illness within their workplace. If you were ordering pizza from a company that was currently operating with multiple sick workers, how appetizing would that pizza seem to you? Sick days are important not just for the worker, but the entire community that worker interacts with.
It is important to be critical of this proposed act by the Ford government, as it comes on the heels of the hiring of Fords campaign advisor and friend, Dr. Rueben Delvin on a contract of 348,000 dollars a year. While his party calls Delvin’s hiring “worth every penny”, opposing political parties such as the NDP disagree, calling the hiring a “patronage appointment.” From this decision it is clear that the Ford government has made a statement about how it will use its own power, which is exemplified in its lack of action sticking up for the working class.
Ford’s party has made a lasting impression over the past couple months. When given the choice between voters and friends, the protection of the ‘little guy’ will always come last.
Crawley, Mike. “Doug Ford gives $348K a year job to former PC party president.” CBC News, 6 July 2018.
D’Mello, Colin. “Ontario Federation of Labour asks Ford to keep $15 minimum wage.” CTV News, 13 June 2018.
Labour, Ontario Federation of. “Emergency actions to be held across Ontario, in protest of Doug Ford’s attack on decent work laws.” Ontario Federation of Labour, 24 October 2018.
McGillivray, Kate. “Ontarians now have paid sick days — the challenge is making sure they take them.” CBC News, 8 January 2018.
Molyneaux, Sarah. “Asking for a Doctor’s Note in Ontario: Can An Employer Demand a Sick Note?” Molyneaux Law, 18 May 2018.
Smalley, Kristen. “ontario’s labour laws: what’s changing in 2018?” randstad, 1 February 2018.