Give workers together more rights, transparency and benefits, recommends Ontario committee

TORONTO – Ontario should develop a non-employer-linked benefits package, set up a job board for concerts and impose more transparency in employment contracts, recommends a new report on the changing landscape of work in the province.

TORONTO – Ontario should develop a non-employer-linked benefits package, set up a job board for concerts and impose more transparency in employment contracts, recommends a new report on the changing landscape of work in the province.

The report of an expert committee tasked by the government to deal with labor market disruptions due to COVID-19 also recommended creating a “dependent entrepreneur” category for app-based concert workers with rights. guaranteed employment, including severance pay and minimum wages.

The Ontario Workforce Recovery Advisory Panel’s final report, including 21 recommendations, is expected to be released on Thursday.

“The recommendations are about designing a political regime that takes into account how technological changes and COVID, which coincide, are changing the workplace,” said Rohinton Medhora, chairman of the committee, which began its work in June. .

Labor Minister Monte McNaughton said he was impressed with the recommendations and would consider all of them.

Of particular interest, he said, was the recommendation that the government consider developing a transferable benefit plan directly linked to workers and not to their employers.

“It’s a priority for me and I really want to move forward and take this seriously,” McNaughton said in an interview on Wednesday.

The report says a transferable plan could see benefits administered by “an independent body, through government, the private sector or a combination”, and would support the mobility of workers, give certainty to their future and help potentially businesses to attract more workers.

McNaughton said he was “excited” by the concept, which he said could cover concert workers and other restaurant and retail employees who lack health, vision and health benefits. or dental care.

The minister did not explicitly commit to other specific homework reforms on Wednesday that made up several of the report’s recommendations.

Medhora, the committee chairman who is also chairman of the Center for International Governance Innovation, said the idea of ​​transferable benefits “goes hand in hand” with advice to better secure the rights of concert workers, and also addresses the nature changing careers as people hold more jobs throughout their lives.

The committee recommends appointing an expert to study how the program would work best.

The group’s short consultation period over the summer and the membership of the committee, which did not include any worker or union representatives, raised concerns among workers’ groups that the recommendations lack in-depth research and could skew the interests of workers. large employers like Uber, leaving workers together more vulnerable.

The Ontario Federation of Labor wrote in its submissions to the committee serious concerns about what it called a “rushed and deeply flawed” consultation process that did not include public hearings.

McNaughton said he wanted the work to be completed quickly because “there is an urgent need to act” in response to economic changes due to the pandemic.

He also highlighted consultations with concert workers and said he would welcome more comments now that the report is released.

Among its 21 recommendations, the committee suggested piloting a virtual platform “that matches the supply and demand for various types of contract and contract work”, which could start with certain types of professions and s’ expand to cover more if it proves effective.

He said concert platform companies that operate in Ontario should be required to provide basic, clear and transparent contracts with information about payouts, penalties, suspensions or payroll deductions, noting that workers had raised issues with densely drafted and frequently updated contracts.

He also addressed the lack of basic employment protections for app-based workers and recommended the creation of a category of “dependent entrepreneur” workers through the “Employment Standards Act”. or elsewhere “. The recommendation stipulated that these workers should have basic employment rights, such as severance pay, minimum wage, fringe benefits, pay stubs, regular wage payment and notice of termination with compensation. departure.

Stakeholders like the group of delivery drivers Gig Workers United had previously expressed concerns that creating a separate class of workers could allow companies to underpay employees and bypass other labor rules. .

Another recommendation proposed a committee of cabinet ministers to deal with workforce issues, and others recommended creating more on-the-job learning opportunities.

The report also states that contracting companies should be required to declare that they comply with employment standards, especially with regard to the classification of workers, so that there is no ambiguity over liability.

He also recommended a dedicated communications strategy promoting the province as a desirable place to work and further clarifying the definition of “independent contractors”.

The Progressive Conservative government has already acted on some of the committee’s recommendations, which it saw in an interim report.

Labor laws passed this month require mid-sized workplaces to have policies on after-hours employee digital disconnection and limit non-compete clauses. It also requires companies to give delivery drivers access to washrooms – something that was not explicitly recommended by the committee but came up on several occasions during consultations, McNaughton said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 9, 2021.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

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