Ontario to go ahead with $15 an hour minimum wage

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has announced a plan to increase the provincial minimum wage to $15 an hour by Jan. 1, 2019.

The increase would be phased in over the next 18 months, rising to $14 an hour on Jan. 1, 2018, and then to $15 the following January.

After that, it will rise annually with inflation.

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"People are working longer, jobs are less secure, benefits are harder to come by and protections are fewer and fewer," said Wynne. "In a time of change like this, when the very nature of work is being transformed, we need to make certain that our workers are treated fairly."

Currently, Ontario's minimum wage is $11.40 an hour.

Across Canada, the current minimum ranges from $10.72 in Saskatchewan to $13 in Nunavut. Alberta became the first province to pass a $15 hourly wage in September 2016, but it doesn't go into effect until October 2018.

Part of larger proposed legislation to provide more worker security

The wage increase is part of a larger piece of proposed legislation: The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, which aims to better protect part-time or contract workers.

Among the proposed changes are the requirement that after five years with the same employer, the minimum vacation entitlement for workers would rise to three weeks per year.

All workers would also be given 10 personal emergency leave days a year, and a minimum of two of those days must be paid. (Currently, only employees of large companies are entitled to this.)

Employers would not be allowed to request a sick note from an employee taking personal emergency leave.

Many of the changes address shift work in particular. The proposed legislation says employers would be required to pay three hours of wages to an employee whose shift is cancelled with less than 48 hours notice, and that employees would be able to refuse shifts without repercussion if given less than four days notice.

The proposed legislation also says:

Equal pay would be mandated for part-time workers doing the same job as a full-time workers.
Employers would be prohibited from misclassifying employees as "independent contractors."
Rules for creating a union would be modernized, including the extension of card-based certification to temporary workers, building services workers and community care workers.
The act also lays out a plan to hire 175 more employment standards officers, and launch an education program for employees and business owners to help them learn about their rights and responsibilities.

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