Chamber urges caution on labour and employment standards reforms

Changes could discourage investment, eliminate jobs and diminish economic opportunities

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) has sent a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne recommending that an economic analysis take place before changes are made to Ontario’s Labour Relations Act (LRA) and the Employment Standards Act (ESA), including the introduction of a $15 minimum wage.

The letter is cautioning that these reforms may have unintended consequences impacting job creation and competitiveness, as well discouraging investment in the province.

The potential reforms are coming at a time when costs for consumers and the cost of doing business is high and putting Ontario at a competitive disadvantage, says the Chamber.

Ontario has experienced slower growth in GDP and job creation than in the past, Chamber officials say, and drastic reforms to labour and employment run the risk of causing serious damage to the future prosperity of the province.

“These sweeping changes have the potential to slow job creation and impact the health of our local economy,” said Shirley de Silva, president and CEO, Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce. “The Government of Ontario should fully understand and make public how the proposed changes would impact investment, jobs and economic growth.”

‘The Government of Ontario should fully understand and make public how the proposed changes would impact investment, jobs and economic growth,’—Shirley de Silva, CEO, Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce.

The letter reminds the Premier that Ontario’s employer community is doing its part to create better jobs and working conditions in the province. Budget 2017 points out that 98% of all new jobs created since the recession have been full time, and 78% have been above average wage for their respective industries.

A news release from the Chamber quotes Statistics Canada data that part-time work has risen 22% since 2003, down from the 36% increase in the previous 12-year period. Studies also show that 76% of part-time workers voluntarily choose part-time work to better accommodate schooling or personal life.

“We are urging Premier Wynne to complete an economic impact analysis of the proposed reforms to limit potential consequences that could seriously jeopardize our future growth,” said Richard Koroscil, interim-president and CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “We support reform where and when it is needed, but we caution against change for change’s sake.”

The letter notes that the goals of economic growth and improved employee rights are not mutually exclusive. The OCC believes that what supports the competitiveness of Ontario’s economy can also help enhance quality of work. Increased education and enforcement may assist with compliance to Government regulations and can improve worker environments. Regulatory reform that raises costs for business, only to reduce the ability of business to invest in and grow the labour force is counterproductive.

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