The world of work is changing and so must our laws

By MPP Toby Barrett

The world of work is obviously shifting quickly, and to protect workers our laws need to keep up. Workplaces are drastically different than they were two years ago, but some things have not changed. We know people need to feel confident they can support their families and provide for their future.

The world of work has been changing for decades, but the pandemic has dramatically accelerated the rate of change here in Ontario and everywhere around the world. Changes that were happening slowly, or that that had not yet become a reality, happened all at once.

Millions of office workers adapted quickly to working from home while we saw accelerated automation in workplaces. New technologies have been adopted to allow for social distancing in many sectors.

Over the past few months, I have been involved in deliberations of Bill 27 – Working for Workers Act. This bill amends various statutes with respect to employment and labour and will rebalance the scales and put workers in the driver’s seat.

Getting goods delivered on time is paramount so we are ensuring truckers and delivery drivers will always have access to bathrooms along their route.

We are breaking down the barriers immigrants face to continuing their careers in Ontario by removing unfair requirements for Canadian work experience.

The legislation, if passed, would allow for a significant portion of the WSIB’s current reserve, currently valued at $6.1 billion, to be distributed to safe employers. This will give employers a hand up to reinvest these funds as they work to recover and grow their businesses. Hundreds of millions of dollars can be reinvested in new jobs, technology, and health and safety protections without affecting the benefits and services workers and their families rely on.

As we also announced, the WSIB is reducing workplace premiums by $168 million. This is another tax cut for safe employers across Ontario. With this rate reduction, premium rates have now dropped more than 50 per cent since we formed government, leaving more than $2.4 billion in local economies across Ontario.

We also introduced paid sick days for workers so people who needed to self-isolate, be tested or get vaccinated can call in sick and help stop the spread while still being paid. We collaborated with the WSIB to deliver a program to reimburse employers up to $200 per day for each worker.

Ontario is also facing a generational labour shortage, with 300,000 jobs going unfilled. Each of these jobs is a paycheque going uncollected and a family going another day without. Our government is strengthening our efforts to help workers learn the skills they need to fill new, in-demand roles in their communities. We are doing this by investing more in training programs and employment services.

To close the gap, we are investing in skilled trades and apprenticeship programs. Our government’s skilled trades strategy aims to break the stigma some people attach to the trades, simplify the system to make it easier for apprentices to navigate and encourage more employer participation in apprenticeships.

Since the start of this pandemic, we have supported workers and businesses – from introducing paid sick days to hiring the largest team of inspectors in our province’s history – and we will continue to have their backs long after the pandemic ends.

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk