I understand that late last year, a regulation was quietly introduced to the Employment Standards Act that, effective this month, changes how much unpaid leave is available to workers in this province.
The change only impacts one sector, the automotive sector, and it particularly targets those workers who have not secured unpaid leave days in a collective agreement. The change claws back on the amount of unpaid personal leave a worker can take while also limiting bereavement leave for these workers to three days. I understand that the very next week after the change was made, the Premier was off to a trade mission in Japan and Korea where she met with auto industry executives.
Minister, I understand the importance of ensuring these very auto companies continue to invest in Ontario. I also understand the importance of making sure they expand their footprint and create jobs and fuel economic growth in the province. However, it must be a balanced approach. I'm vehemently opposed to these priorities coming at the very detriment of workers like myself. Worse, there was no consultation with any of us on the ground who have the most to lose and who are affected most by this regressive change or "pilot project".
When the Premier was asked about it in the Legislature in December, we were appalled when she responded with “…in general, that we are working to find ways to help businesses, to remove regulatory burden where it is getting in the way of businesses”.
To be clear, these “regulatory burdens” are a limited number of leave days that we depend on in emergencies to care for our personal needs and those of our families. The limited allotment of time lets us take our children to doctor's appointments, take care of our kids or family members when they fall ill. Worse, this regulation also claws back on the amount of bereavement days we're able to rely on in the case of a death in the family. To see this as a regulatory burden for business tells me you’re completely out of touch with the needs of hardworking people like myself who are often required to work 12 hour shifts, juggle strenuous hours and shift changes all the while balancing the challenging demands of taking care of a family.
For a government that claims to be progressive, this recent change just shows that’s farthest from the case. When New Democrats have asked the Liberal government whether it will commit to progressive changes like a $15 minimum wage and making it easier to join and stay in a union, the government consistently answers that it can’t commit right now, because a larger labour review process is underway. The way this particular change was made is a clear indication that change is, in fact, possible – if there is a will.
Clawing back on my bereavement days and my personal emergency leave will have detrimental impacts on myself, my family, my work and sets a very dangerous precedent to labour standards across our province.
I'm writing today to urge you to repeal this harmful regulation immediately.
cc: Hon. Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario
Hon. Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development, Infrastructure and Employment
Cindy Forster, MPP Welland Riding
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