Submission to the Ministry of Labour Consultation on Employment Standards Act (ESA) Exemptions and Labour Relations Act (LRA) Exclusion
We, PSAC local 901, are writing to endorse the submission to this review made by the Workers’ Action Centre and Parkdale Community Legal Services. While workplace protections and access to unionization will be improving for many workers in our community as a result of The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 (Bill 148), we are aware that these changes will not affect as many people as they should unless many exemptions and loopholes are removed from the ESA and LRA. In particular, the exclusion of Domestic Workers from the LRA, and so from the constitutional right to unionize, is unjustifiable. Furthermore, we hope that this review process will eliminate all exemptions to the minimum standards set by the ESA. We are concerned by the feminized and racialized dimensions of these exclusions. It is worrying that forms of work in which women of colour are disproportionately represented are also workplaces in which many of the minimum standards outlined in the ESA do not apply.
The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 (Bill 148) provides a good start to address precarious work and to deal with changing workplace practices. However, many workers will not have access to the new rights under this Act because of existing special rules and regulations that exempt employers from complying with the most basic employment standards and exclude workers from their constitutional right to unionize.
During the two-year long Changing Workplaces Review, the government heard from workers across Ontario that employer exemptions to labour laws are a key component of precarious employment. The Phase 1 review of exemptions is an important first step to ensure that all employees, with limited exceptions, should be covered by the ESA and LRA.
The ESA is intended to provide basic minimum terms and conditions of employment that are applicable to all. Exemptions are contrary to the principles of universality, minimum standards and fairness, and should be removed. Similarly, entire sectors of workers, such as domestic and agricultural workers and some licensed professionals, are excluded from their constitutional right to collective representation and bargaining.
As it stands, the ESA contains more than 85 complex exemptions and special rules that permit some employers or industries to not comply with minimum standards of minimum wage, vacation pay, public holiday pay, overtime and hours of work rules, severance pay and other provisions. Currently, only 24 percent of Ontario employees are fully covered under the ESA. Part time, temporary, low wage, women and young workers are much less likely to be fully covered by the ESA.
We are calling for amendments to the process for review of exemptions to ensure it can close the gaps and raise the floor of minimum standards for the highest possible number of workers in Ontario. In particular, we call on the government to expand the principles guiding the review, amend the conditions and criteria for the review and to ensure substantive fairness in the review process that addresses the power imbalances between employers and employees.
PSAC local 901 fully supports the recommendations on the exemption review process and the specific exemptions under review put forward in the submissions by the Workers’ Action Centre and Parkdale Community Legal Services.
PSAC local 901
Vice-President, Community Relations
PSAC local 901