Business groups claim jobs at risk from Ontario labour reforms

Analysis of Bill 148 projects potential job losses at 185,000 in first two years.

TORONTO — A coalition of business groups says Ontario’s proposed changes to labour laws will put 185,000 jobs at risk in the first two years of being implemented.

The Keep Ontario Working Coalition, which includes groups such as the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Council of Canada, has released an economic impact analysis of the labour reforms in Bill 148.

A spokesman for the coalition says the bill will have “dramatic unintended consequences,” including job losses.

The proposed legislation would, among other things, raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, require equal pay for part-time workers and expand personal emergency leave.

Business groups have repeatedly expressed concerns about the minimum wage increase and the pace at which it would be implemented.

The bill would boost the minimum wage, which is currently set to rise with inflation from $11.40 an hour to $11.60 in October, up to $14 on Jan. 1, 2018, and $15 the following year.

Data from the economic impact analysis shows:

• $23 billion hit to business over the next two years alone

• 185,000 Ontario jobs will be at immediate risk over the next two years

• 30,000 of the jobs at risk are youth under 25

• 96,000 employees at risk are expected to be women

• 50% increase to inflation for this year and the foreseeable future. The cost of everyday consumer goods and services will go up by $1,300 per household on average each and every year.

• The Ontario government would need to borrow $440 million more to cover the increases in new costs from this legislation. If the government were to provide offsets to businesses, as they have indicated, the province’s treasury will take a bigger hit.

• Municipalities will be forced to increase employee wages by $500 million without additional offsetting revenues.

The Ontario Federation of Labour does not agree with the coalition’s assertions about the economic impact of a $15 per hour minimum wage.

The labour group representing 54 unions and more than 1 million workers says the analysis fails to acknowledge increases in consumer spending from low-wage workers, the reduced demand on social services and the strengthening of household financial stability that will result from a more equal distribution of income.

It also contends predictions that raising the minimum wage in Alberta to $15 per hour has failed to produce the predicted dire job losses.

It note Alberta’s Treasury Board and Finance Department reported that, despite the recession caused by the drop in oil prices: “The service-producing sector has seen consistent gains throughout the downturn, with employment now 37,800 higher than in June 2016.

Files from PLANT Magazine

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