An open letter to Ontario workers: Tell Doug Ford “Hands off our rights!”

This Labour Day, workers in Ontario are preparing to defend their hard-earned rights in the workplace and beyond.

In the coming months, Premier Doug Ford will continue to make changes that will hurt Ontarians by lowering the quality of public services, leaving more of us facing poverty whether we have a job or not, reducing the quality of education in the province and taking away workplace rights. 

The new government is no friend to Ontarians. It has already shown that it is willing to reduce payments to people receiving Ontario Disability Support, to families on welfare, and for funding to mental health programs. It denies children needed health information by cancelling a well-researched curriculum, and undermine democracy by meddling in municipal elections and by cutting the city council of Toronto nearly in half with Bill 5. In short, our government is leaving Ontarians without the support they need. 

This must stop.

Our government must change course to ensure quality public services for all Ontarians, create good-paying, steady jobs where workers are treated fairly, and make sure that no Ontarian falls deeper into poverty. Ontarians need this government to improve quality of life in this province rather than making cuts that leave so many Ontarians struggling. Now is the time to demand better from our government. 

We know that when we organize together, we win.

We won significant changes when we stood with community partners Fight for $15 and Fairness to demand changes to the outdated Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act in 2017. Together, we fought hard and won changes that are making life easier for working Ontarians including fairer scheduling, personal emergency leave, equal pay for substantially similar work by 2020, and a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour in 2019. 

Our message to the workers of this province is this: together, we can take on the challenges ahead.

Workers will make life easier by protecting public services, by demanding an end to the discriminatory practice of carding, and by making sure that the legislated increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour happens when it is supposed to: January 1, 2019.

More than 1.7 million Ontarians earn at or near the minimum wage, and are trapped in low-wage, part-time, contract and subcontract jobs without union representation. We’ve already seen the results of an insufficient minimum wage: workers juggling several jobs along with their family schedule but still unable to earn a living; young workers who delay planning their families because their jobs pay poorly and don’t offer stability. 

Most Ontarians support a higher minimum wage, including 42 per cent of PC supporters. Premier Ford is ignoring the voice of the people when he says Ontario will scrap it. If it is cancelled, workers who already face barriers in the workplace will be deeply affected: young workers, women workers, racialized workers, Indigenous workers and workers with a disability.  Shamefully, some workers are even excluded from the current general minimum wage: liquor servers and students. 

The labour movement has long advocated for changes to improve the lives of working people and their families, from bargaining for greater rights in the workplace, making it easier to join a union, and protecting public services, to taking on social issues like racism, domestic violence and LGBTQ* rights. When we stand together, we can build a better Ontario.

Doug Ford’s government has shown how little it values working people and vulnerable Ontarians. His is a government driven by ideology, set on privatization and rolling back rights for the people of Ontario. What we see from Doug Ford and his party is cronyism that promotes the interests of insiders: big business and the richest in the province, the millionaires who, each second, make more than a minimum wage worker does in an hour.

Doug Ford’s government works for only some people, not all the people. 

It’s us who will stand up to Ford. Now is the time to join our growing movement, unite in solidarity.

We won new rights under the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act of 2017, but we stand to lose them if the new government continues on the path it has set in its first summer. 

We must tell Ford “Hands off our rights.”

Make sure you know your rights in the workplace. Visit myrights.ca, then talk to your friends, family and colleagues about what Ontarians have won and why we need to tell Doug Ford “Hands off!” Get involved at $15andfairness.org and myrights.ca.

Join the movement for decent work. 

Have a safe and happy Labour Day. 

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Chris Buckley
President, 
Ontario Federation of Labour

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