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Manitoba Election 2019: Labour and Training

Outside red tape, there are some rules and regulations that stifle business growth in Manitoba. For example, many business owners like you believe there needs to be more of a fair and equitable partnership between employers and employees to ensure safe working environments.

Similarly, there are programs in place that do not work to recognize the realities for running a small business in the province. For example, many owners do not believe students are graduating high school with enough soft skills to be adequately prepared to enter the workplace.

Training:

Shortages of skilled and semi- or unskilled labour have increased over the last two years in Manitoba. This becomes especially problematic for small businesses, which have higher job vacancy rates than larger businesses. One important solution to this growing problem is to better train prospective employees. According to CFIB’s Hire Education report, there are gaps between the skills and training that employers expect, and what students are graduating with from high schools, colleges and universities. These gaps can and must be addressed to ensure students graduate prepared to meet the needs of employers.

When it comes to youth hiring, small businesses are placing greater emphasis on “soft skills” like attitude, professionalism and flexibility. In contrast, not having these soft skills can also be a significant barrier to hiring. However, most educational institutions, from high school to post-secondary, do not place as much emphasis on these skills, despite their importance in ensuring youth are job-ready.

CFIB challenged Manitoba parties to:

  • Introduce a mandatory, comprehensive financial literacy course at the high school level;
  • Encourage more soft skills and workplace literacy in high school curriculums to better prepare youth for the workplace. Work with local small businesses to identify what skills are relevant;
  • Provide more networking opportunities and access between local small businesses and students; 
  • Better emphasize the importance and value of a career in the skilled trades so that a greater number of students consider it as a viable career option; and
  • Say “no” to any provincial changes to employment and labour standards legislation to allow for leaves and job protection related to the new Canada Training Benefit (CTB) until it is re-targeted to allow employees and employers to jointly agree on training plans.
Holidays:

The regulations around statutory holidays in Manitoba are confusing and outdated. As it stands, there are questionable differences between which employers can remain open and on what days. For example, some public sector employees can work on July 1st, but general grocery stores cannot.

New CFIB research reveals that the majority (62%) of Manitoba small business owners agree that all businesses in the province should have the choice to remain open during statutory holidays.

CFIB challenged Manitoba parties to:

  • Change existing statutory holiday rules to allow businesses the choice to remain open on all statutory holidays, regardless of size or business type. Employees should maintain a right to not work on statutory holidays;
  • Ensure all changes to statutory holiday rules are clear, written in plain language, and have fair associated penalties; and
  • Say “no” to introducing additional statutory holidays.
Help for Low-income Earners:

Manitoba’s small business owners support helping low-income earners, but know there are better ways to do so than simply increasing the minimum wage. Minimum wage is a blanket policy that doesn’t always help those it is designed to help. When it increases, inexperienced youth are often the first ones to lose their jobs, while the government benefits from receiving higher personal income taxes and payroll taxes. 

This is not surprising when you understand the costs associated with minimum wage increases. In 2019, the cost to employers of raising the wage of a full-time employee from $11.35 to $15.00 per hour would amount to $8,198, or a 32 per cent increase. For a business with just 10 of these employees, like your neighbourhood restaurant, the cost would be $81,977 annually! It is clear that past minimum wage increases have added significant costs to Manitoba’s small businesses and had negative impacts on them and their staff.

It is essential that the Government of Manitoba focuses on better ways to help low-income earners including: targeted tax relief such as adjusting the Basic Personal Exemption (BPE) amount or introducing low-income reduction tax credits; improving workforce development such as making training more accessible; and/or improving social programs. For targeted tax relief, several provinces have introduced policies to lower the tax burden for low-income earners including the Nova Scotia government who introduced a tiered BPE amount as incomes rise. Several provinces have also introduced low-income reduction tax credits to help in these cases.

CFIB challenged Manitoba parties to:

  • Say “no” to a $15 minimum wage in Manitoba. Keep minimum wage increases predictable and in-line with inflation; and
  • Focus on better tools to help low-income earners such as increasing the BPE, introducing targeted tax credits, improving training, etc.
     
Labour Law Fairness:

In some cases regarding labour and safety laws, small business owners do not feel that they are being treated as fairly as employees by the Manitoba government. For example, when it comes to working on some major public infrastructure projects, contracts may use Project Labour Agreements (PLAs). PLAs require that all workers to join a union and/or pay union dues to ensure the business qualifies for the project at hand.

Another area that requires more fairness for employers is with ensuring safe workplaces under Workplace Safety and Health (WS&H) and the Workers Compensation Board. Manitoba’s small business owners place a priority on keeping their workplaces and employees safe. However, nearly all responsibility to maintain safe working environments falls on the employers’ shoulders. For example, an employer can purchase safety equipment for staff, require them to wear it, but takes full responsibility if an employee is caught without required safety equipment or causes an accident with unsafe work. 

To ensure our workplaces are as safe as possible, we need to hold both employers and employees responsible.

CFIB challenged Manitoba parties to:

  • End Project Labour Agreements; and
  • Improve workplace safety by ensuring that both employers and employees play a key role in safety and reducing accidents, that penalties are applied fairly, that rules are more clear and consistently applied, and that the employers’ and employees’ workplace experience is better incorporated in WS&H rules.

For more information, read CFIB’s Manitoba Election 2019: Small Business Platform, or visit CFIB’s Manitoba Election website

To find where the Government of Manitoba stands on small business priorities, visit CFIB’s Party Leaders’ Survey on Small Business Priorities

Do you have stories to share about how labour laws or training programs have negatively impacted your business? Call CFIB today at 1-888-234-2232 or send an email to [email protected]

2019 Manitoba Statutory Holiday Closures