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Changing Workplaces

June 29, 2015

The Society is taking a proactive role in the Ontario government’s new consultations on how two key pieces of legislation that set out the laws that govern work could be changed. Examining the Labour Relations Act and the Employment Standards Act, the Changing Workplaces Review is aimed at adapting Ontario’s labour laws to the realities of 21st Century employment, including the number of precarious workers, the rise of the service sector, and technological change.

Through its participation, The Society is advocating for the government to address the gaps in Ontario’s labour laws that disadvantage Society members and workers in general. Collaborating with the broader labour movement through the Ontario Federation of Labour and labour councils, The Society also hosted a forum with more than 20 union and community groups to discuss shared priorities in the Changing Workplaces Review.

While The Society will join with labour and community groups to call for protections for precarious workers – those workers that are part-time, temporary, casual or involuntarily self-employed – there are also areas of specific concern to The Society as a union of professionals. Two areas of emphasis for The Society are exclusions and successor rights.

Exclusions refer to jobs, such as lawyers, that by law are barred from being in a union unless their employer consents, or that management claims have management or confidential labour relations responsibilities. Just like engineers used to be barred from unionizing, The Society is looking for the government to change the law so that all professionals that want to be in a union have the right to join one, unless excluded for legitimate reasons. This would make a big difference to workers like the Legal Aid Ontario lawyers who have been seeking the right to join The Society for more than two years but prevented from doing so by their employer.

The Society is also advocating for better successor rights laws. Successor rights kick in when a unionized workplace is sold off or transferred to a new employer. These rights mean that if the workers were already unionized, they generally go to the new employer with their terms of work and union representation in tact. Workers that are not unionized have no protection at all, which is something The Society also believes must change.

Over the summer, a secretariat of Society staff, including Labour Relations Staff Officers Sonya Pylyshyn and Andy Todd, External Relations Officer Mike Belmore, and IFPTE Organizer Bill Fitzpatrick, will be preparing The Society’s submission to the review. As dates and materials are available, The Society will also encourage members to participate in the consultation process as private individuals.

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