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Small business bracing for big labour law changes

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Toronto, March 7, 2017 – Ontario’s small businesses are on pins and needles awaiting the final report of the sweeping Changing Workplaces Review – a two-year examination of the province’s Employment Standards and Labour Relations acts. The review’s recommendations could lead to a radical transformation of Ontario’s workplace environment, including pro-unionization reforms, more red tape, and increased costs of doing business.

While small firms are still awaiting the final recommendations, CFIB has identified some of the worst proposals for Ontario’s small businesses and their employees, which could kill jobs and economic growth in the province:  

  • Stripping away the secret ballot vote in certifications, taking away the employee’s democratic right to choose whether they wish to join a union.
  • Destroying the franchise model in Ontario by tying individual franchises to corporate headquarters.
  • Forcing employers to hand over employee lists to unions, compromising employee privacy.
  • Restricting scheduling flexibility for youth, seniors and others seeking non-standard and part-time work.   
  • Legislating business owners to document workplace conversations about employee hours, sick leave, and schedules by setting them at least two weeks in advance.
  • Hindering access to temporary employment agencies and stalling the hiring process for small businesses seeking to meet changing staffing needs.
  • Providing more prescriptive minimum standards for time off work, completely ignoring that the vast majority of small- and medium-sized employers already provide flexibility and accommodation to employees, when needed.
  • Eliminating farmers’ long-standing Employment Standards and Labour Relations act exemptions, along with the Employment Standards Act exemptions of numerous other professions ranging from architects to veterinarians, thus failing to recognize the unique needs and realities of these sectors.

“We are very concerned that almost all options for change outlined in the review’s interim report put the interests of big unions above those of Ontario’s small business owners,” said Dan Kelly, CFIB’s president. “If the reviewers are truly serious about modernizing Ontario’s employment and labour laws, their final report will include options to enhance – rather than limit – employer-employee relationships.”

The special advisors’ report with final recommendations for the Minister of Labour’s consideration is expected to be publicly released this spring.

“The government is not on the floor of every factory, or in the cubicle of every office: They need to recognize the realities of running a small business. The only way to keep Ontario competitive is to ensure that the employer-employee relationship stays strong,” said Julie Kwiecinski, CFIB’s director of provincial affairs for Ontario.

“After the reviewers’ final report is handed in, we expect the Minister of Labour to engage the small business community in extensive consultations on the final recommendations, before any are adopted,” added Kwiecinski.

CFIB met with the special advisors on two separate occasions and provided three submissions on the review in September 2015August 2016, and October 2016. CFIB also met with the Minister of Labour in December 2016.

To arrange an interview with Dan Kelly or Julie Kwiecinski, please contact Ryan Mallough at 416-222-8022, or [email protected]

CFIB is Canada’s largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses with 109,000 members across every sector and region, including 42,000 in Ontario representing approximately 500,000 employees.