Queen’s Park catch-up: Ontario government updates

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Liberal government addresses college strike, minimum wage increase

Queen's Park in Toronto.
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Supplied via Wikimedia Commons

Last week, provincial lawmakers were busy debating legislation to end the five-week Ontario colleges strike. This week, Kathleen Wynne’s government enacted plans to raise the minimum wage to $15, as revised labour legislation passed Wednesday. 

Ontario Liberals legislate college faculty back to work

The Ontario Liberal government legislated college faculty back to work on Sunday, ending a five-week-long strike. Classes resumed on Tuesday. 

After the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) failed to reach an agreement with College Employers Council (CEC) back in October, Ontario college faculty chose to strike. Since then, 500,000 students and 12,000 faculty members were out of the classroom.

The Liberals first introduced a back-to-work bill on Thursday evening after the OPSEU overwhelmingly voted in favour — 87 per cent — to reject the CEC Nov. 6 offer. 

Last Thursday’s legislation was blocked by the NDP, who voiced support for Ontario college faculty’s right to fair negotiations. However, with support from the Progressive Conservatives, the government tabled legislation Friday, which passed Sunday.

In the process, the provincial government also ordered colleges to create a fund to support students who choose not to finish the condensed semester, or who experienced financial hardship because of the strike. Some colleges have proposed extending the fall semester as late as Dec. 22, and into the new year.

Queen’s Park passes $15 minimum wage hike

On Wednesday, lawmakers at Queen’s Park passed a series of revised employment laws that will raise the minimum wage in Ontario to $14 by 2018 and $15 by 2019.

The changes to Ontario’s labour laws also makes it mandatory for employers to pay part-time workers the same rate as full-time workers for the same job. As well, employers will be required to compensate employees for three hours of work when shifts are cancelled with less than 48 hours notice. 

When asked about the proposed minimum wage hike in September, Kingston and the Islands MPP Sophie Kiwala told The Journal “in other jurisdictions we haven’t seen quite the doom and gloom that’s being predicted.”

“The fact is that we need to make sure that everybody has a fair chance at earning a fair wage. When you are working full time or you are working part-time in the summer to support your studies, you need to know that you will be able to pay the bills at the end of the day,” Kiwala remarked.

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