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June 7, 2017 - Ontario’s foray into a $15 an hour minimum wage has sparked varied opinions province- wide and it’s no different in Oshawa.

The increase of the province’s minimum wage to $14/hour in 2018 and then $15/hour in 2019 are part of the many potential changes for workers and employers in the Liberal government’s proposed legislation, The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, which was formally announced by Premier Kathleen Wynne recently.

John MacDonald, president of the Durham Region Labour Council, said he was pleased with the announcement.

“It’s a good boost for workers and a great boost for the economy,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald explained he would have preferred to see the increase implemented immediately, as he feels it would have shown “what they [the Liberal government] stand by and what they are committed to.”

A number of organizations representing the business community are forecasting increased wages will lead employers to hire less and cut existing jobs.

The Keep Ontario Working Coalition, a group of business-sector representatives including the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and The Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce, released a statement in response to the Premier’s announcements claiming “The Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs Plan, commits to unproven sweeping reforms without ensuring protection against unintended consequences, including job losses, rising consumer costs, and economic hardship.”

Representatives of the coalition are asking that an “independent third party” conduct a “comprehensive economic impact analysis” of the proposed changes within the legislation.

Nancy Shaw, CEO of the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce, said the government needs to analyze more “factual information” on how wage increases will impact businesses.

According to Shaw, employers won’t be the only ones affected as she believes employment opportunities for young workers will decrease dramatically.

Shaw said studies from the Minimum Wage Advisory Panel appointed in 2013 suggest that teen employment rates decline anywhere between three to six per cent when minimum wages are raised by more than 10 per cent.

However, MacDonald disagrees with the perception increased wages will affect businesses and workers negatively.

“It will have the opposite effect,” MacDonald said, adding that he believes extra money in the pockets of workers means more buying power, in turn increasing revenue for businesses.

“The business sector has to realize that workers need some income to spend,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald said prices of goods and services have continually climbed, regardless of wage increases, and many people are in difficult situations financially.

Shaw contended that higher wages doesn’t necessarily equate to more investment in local businesses.

“They [workers who will see wage increases] might save more instead of spending,” she said.

Shaw said the timeline of the wage increases is additionally harmful.

“It could have been done over three or four years – slowly take it up and it won’t impact business as much,” she said.

Shaw encouraged business owners to contact their local MPP, whether Liberal or opposition party, to let them know how they will be impacted by the changes and that the chamber will continue to be “the voice of businesses and advocate what is best for them.”

Beyond raising minimum wage, MacDonald praised a number of other changes proposed within the Act, such as the modernization of creating unions, including extending card-based certification to temporary workers, building service workers and community-care workers.”

He said this will restrain employers from using “intimidation” tactics to stop workers from unionizing.

“Companies should recognize the rights of workers,” he said.

It is also proposed that employers would be required to provide 10 personal leave days, a minimum of which two would be paid – although the labour council had called for that figure to be seven days, MacDonald said it would to help people from falling behind when they face an emergency in their life.

Overall, MacDonald called the proposed Act an “incredible achievement” that will benefit workers all of ages.

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
See the original story here: http://oshawaexpress.ca/minimum-wage-increase-receives-mixed-reviews/

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