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Ontario fight for decent work finds strength in numbers

By Yshmael Cabana
October 2, 2016


Thousands of Ontarians from the labour movement, alongside community partners, mobilized for the Rally for Decent Work at Queen's Park early afternoon on October 1.

“What do we want? Fifteen dollars!”

“When do we want it? Now!” cheers the crowd carrying banners and protesting the minimum wage despite the legislated increase every year.

“Now is about time and make positive change for workers and families in this great province,” says Chris Buckley, President of Ontario Federation of Labour. “It’s important to recognize good work, when good work is being done.”

Saturday’s demonstration is marked as an important day as Ontario's minimum wage goes up to $11.40 per hour, 15 cents more from 2015. But workers who get paid that hourly rate say it’s not going to cut it. Raising it to $15 is the start to make it fair.  

Workers and activists continue the fight for $15 and fairness, a rallying cry for groups like Workers Action Centre. “We can’t have some people having alot of rice and everybody not having anything else. Nobody should be left behind,” says Deena Ladd. Though that figure is enough in the right direction, she says, it is only one part of setting the agenda for the rest of the demands, including paid sick days, decent hours, overtime pay, the right to organize unions and protection.

The rally is also organized to kick off a week of action for decent work as the Ontario Changing Workplace Review is underway. The province is conducting its review with special advisors creating an outline that may change existing labour laws.

“We’re in a situation here in Ontario at a tipping point. And we have to see some big changes so that people could feel that they have life here, feel that their sons and daughters and next generations could build a good life in the province,” says Andrea Horwath, leader of Ontario New Democratic Party.

“If Rachel Notley of Alberta, considering everything that they’re facing in that province, in terms of challenges with the oil situation, if she can raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, then sure we can do that in Ontario,” she adds.

For migrant workers, the move to update the province’s employment laws underscores the need to make their voice heard and to show support.

“Filipino Workers Network and diverse networks are here in solidarity to thousands of workers in Ontario to demand a better workplace, safe environment and a decent work pay for everyone,” says Ben Corpuz, who is a former temp agency worker. Corpuz advocates for stronger regulation of agencies that abuse temporary workers.

Dressed up in aluminum costume, a migrant worker who identified as a caregiver shares “I’m tired of being treated like a robot. They are just happily able to dispose us after being abused.”

“Is it a Canadian value that you treat hardworking people unfairly?”
According to organizers, 25 cities were represented, as far as Thunder Bay to the north and Niagara in the south, in the rally. ###

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