Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has announced a plan to increase the provincial minimum wage to $15 an hour by Jan. 1, 2019.
The increase would be phased in over the next 18 months, rising to $14 an hour on Jan. 1, 2018, and then to $15 the following January.
After that, it will rise annually with inflation.
“People are working longer, jobs are less secure, benefits are harder to come by and protections are fewer and fewer,” said Wynne. “In a time of change like this, when the very nature of work is being transformed, we need to make certain that our workers are treated fairly.”
Other workplace changes proposed
Wynne announced several other proposed changes to workforce rules:
- Equal pay would be mandated for part-time workers doing the same job as a full-time workers.
- After five years with the same employer, the minimum vacation entitlement for workers would rise to three weeks per year.
- Employers would be required to pay a worker three hours of wages if the employer cancels a shift with less than 48 hours notice.
- All workers would be given 10 personal emergency leave days a year, and a minimum of two of those days must be paid. (Currently only employees of large companies are entitled to this.)
Wynne also announced a plan to modernize the rules for creating a union, including the extension of card-based certification to temporary workers, building services workers and community care workers.
Currently, Ontario’s minimum wage is $11.40 an hour. It had been set to rise to $11.60 in October.
Proposed changes response to report
Across Canada, the current minimum ranges from $10.72 in Saskatchewan to $13 in Nunavut. Alberta became the first province to pass a $15 hourly wage in September 2016, but it doesn’t go into effect until October 2018.
Wynne made Tuesday’s announcement in response to a government-commissioned report released last week that included 173 recommendations addressing precarious work.
The Changing Workplaces review concluded that new technology, a shrinking manufacturing sector and fewer union jobs, among other factors, have left about a third of Ontario’s 6.6 million workers vulnerable.
The report didn’t examine the minimum wage, but Wynne says raising it will make a difference in millions of people’s lives.
Wynne addresses opposition
The move to raise wages in Ontario has faced stiff opposition from small business operators and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, who argue that the move will lead to layoffs and fewer employees being hired.
Wynne touched on that opposition in her announcement, saying the province will work with small businesses “from now until Jan. 1 to make sure they are supported as these changes come into effect.”
In an interview with CBC Toronto on Monday, Wynne said the provincial economy is doing well enough to handle a significant wage boost.