By Rick Telfer
More than two dozen activists convened in front of Conservative Jeremy Roberts’ constituency office on Sep. 15 in the provincial riding of Ottawa West–Nepean. The group rallied under the banner of the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign to demand that the PC government maintain the minimum wage increases and other employment improvements legislated by the previous Liberal Wynne government.
On Jan. 1, the regular minimum wage increased to $14 from $11.40. The Liberal’s Bill 148 provides for another increase to $15 on Jan. 1 of next year. It requires ongoing wage adjustments on Oct. 1 of each year to protect the value of wages from inflation.
The point of today is to send a message to the Conservative government that we won’t stand for any rollback of workers’ wins in Bill 148.
The legislation also provides new protections for part-time, casual, and temporary workers, an easier pathway to unionization for all workers, 10 days of emergency leave, additional vacation entitlement, and fairer scheduling.
Already, in a guest column appearing in the Financial Post on Sep. 14, Ontario Minister of Labour Laurie Scott called the minimum wage increase a “burden” for businesses.
Yet the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign reports on its website that public opinion “polls show that two out of every three people in Ontario support a $15 minimum wage and decent work” and that “60% of smaller business owners… support a $15 minimum wage.”
The Ottawa action was one of more than 15 similar actions undertaken in towns and cities across Ontario, to kick off a “15 weeks to $15” campaign. More actions are planned in the weeks and months leading up to the scheduled increase to the minimum wage on Jan. 1.
Roberts, having won his seat by a margin of just 176 votes over New Democratic candidate Chandra Pasma, is seen by the activists as especially vulnerable to grassroots pressure.
Karen Cocq, an organizer with the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign, told the gathering of activists that “the point of today is to send a message to the Conservative government that we won’t stand for any rollback of our wins in Bill 148.”