NDP bill to create better jobs, better wages, better benefits

MPP Forster’s bill includes Card Check Certification and First Contract Arbitration

Today, Welland MPP and Ontario NDP Labour Critic Cindy Forster, will table legislation that would give Ontario workers access to better jobs, better wages and the ability to secure benefits. 

Forster’s bill, Fairness in First Contracts and the Right to Representation Act 2017, would make it easier for workers to achieve union representation in a workplace, and to quickly and fairly attain a first contract.

Forster’s approach has the support of workers like Erin Warman, Suleman Basharat, and Samia Hashi, all young workers who shared their experiences of difficulties accessing union representation and reaching a first contract. They shared personal accounts of how these measures would significantly improve the quality of work for hard working Ontarians.

“The nature of work is changing at a significant pace and people – including so many young people and racialized women – are finding their work less and less stable,” said Forster. “People can’t plan their lives if they don’t know how many hours of work they’ll be scheduled for next week. They have a harder time caring for their families without benefits. And, without some basic protections, I hear some say they’re worried about being punished for calling in sick. That’s why Ontario’s New Democrats are tabling legislation that would make it easier for workers across the province to join a union, and get that first fair deal.”

The bill, tabled Tuesday, would bring back card check certification and first contract arbitration legislation – functions that allow employees to choose to have a union, and help the employer and union arrive at a first, fair deal. Card check certification was the law in Ontario for over 40 years between 1950 and 1995, before it was abolished by the Conservatives. It is now only used in the construction sector. Current legislation allows for binding arbitration when a first agreement can’t be reached, but the existing rules too often lead to unnecessary conflicts. For Ontarians seeking representation through a union, Forster’s bill protects them from intimidation, and prevents a prolonged, unstable limbo if there are challenges in negotiating a first contract.

“The hospitality sector especially is rife with cases of intimidation and harassment before a union vote,” said Basharat. “I’ve seen colleagues be threatened, be so terrified of losing their jobs that they go silent.  I’ve even seen people be followed off site.  It’s just not right. This is why we need better access to union representation in the first place. We just want to be respected and valued for our hard work.”

Hashi, a Unifor member who recently organized her own workplace, echoed the need for card check certification to support young workers and racialized workers who are often employed in part-time, unstable jobs.  

“Bringing card check certification back to Ontario is about restoring a fair system for workers to make a democratic choice without intimidation or interference,” Hashi added. “Joining a union would go a long way to improve the livelihood of workers and give us the dignity we deserve in our place of work.”

“Unstable work is a roadblock to building a good life here in Ontario – and we know there’s a better way,” said Forster. “That’s why the NDP has called for a $15 minimum wage; it’s also why we believe temporary workers deserve the same wages and benefits as permanent workers doing the same jobs; and finally, why we think it essential to protect the rights of people to join a union, and have access to fair pay and better benefits,” said Forster.

The Ontario New Democrats have repeatedly tabled legislation calling for card check certification and first contract arbitration. The Liberal government has refused to support it in the past.