Ottawa chambers of commerce join opposition against potential Ontario labour reforms

Coffee shop employee

Three of the city’s largest business organizations have joined a campaign seeking to pre-emptively scuttle changes to the province’s labour laws.

The Toronto Star and CBC, citing unnamed government sources, recently reported that the Liberal government is considering reforms that include raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, increasing paid vacation beyond the current minimum of two weeks per year, giving all workers a minimum number of paid sick days off and removing barriers to forming a union.

On Monday, the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, the West Ottawa Board of Trade and the Orléans Chamber of Commerce added their voices to a lobbying effort led by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce that urges Premier Kathleen Wynne against making major changes to the province's labour laws.

The business group wrote a letter to Wynne today about the province's Changing Workplaces review, a top-to-bottom look at the province's labour laws that is expected to usher in major changes.

Issues covered by the review include the process by which workers can unionize, work scheduling, sick time and sick notes, emergency leave and leave for those who experience domestic violence, and the issue of misclassifying employees as independent contractors so that they're exempt from labour laws.

Chamber of Commerce vice-president Karl Baldauf says employers are particularly concerned about potential changes to unionization.
He warned that allowing unions to use a card-based certification process to let employees to form a union, without holding a vote on the matter, could see workers unionized against their wishes.

He says businesses likely could absorb some minor changes to labour laws, but a major overhaul could have unintended economic consequences that ultimately could lead to job losses.

He also says raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour could put some businesses in jeopardy.

Labour Minister Kevin Flynn says a $15 minimum wage isn't part of the review – but he didn't rule out making that change down the road. He says the government will make the Changing Workplaces report public in the near future, with plans to act on it shortly thereafter.

– With reporting by the Canadian Press