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Municipalities seek changes to "Fair Workplace Act"
November 24, 2017
BY TERRY GILLIS
On October 31, 2017 the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) sent out a call to action to all member municipalities asking them to talk to their MPPs about estimated fiscal impacts of Bill 148 (Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017).
The letter sent by the AMO stated the AMO President Dollin presented to the Standing Committee considering Bill 148 to ask for changes so that municipal governments could provide effective and affordable public safety responses.
On behalf of its members, the Association was, and is, looking for three key amendments:
1. An exemption for municipal and local board employees who are required to be on call to provide statutory public safety services. This needs to include supervisory and managerial staff as well.
2. An exemption for volunteer firefighters for matching pay to full-time firefighters.
3. Specific reference that Bill 148 requirements do not override other statutory obligations that municipal governments are required to provide for public safety.
The Standing Committee accepted submissions until Friday, November 3.
In response to the AMO’s call to action, the Municipality of Trent Lakes crafted a letter outlining their concerns with respect to Bill 148. In the township’s letter they emphasized their reliance, as a small, rural municipality, on their volunteer firefighters, public works and all municipal staff to provide effective and affordable public safety responses.
Trent Lakes wrote that the municipality fully supports the key amendments to the proposed legislation that the AMO presented to the Standing Committee on October 31, 2017.
A copy of the letter was sent to MPP Jeff Leal, MPP Laurie Scott, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Mayor and Council of the Municipality of Trent Lakes.
On November 14 Trent Lakes agenda, under Correspondence, a letter from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and the Ministry of Labour was listed.
The provincial letter stated that “The submission from AMO, and input from the municipal leaders, has helped us find common ground toward addressing your concerns.”
As a result, the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Bill Mauro) and the Minister of Labour (Kevin Flynn) said they have “brought forward amendments that, if approved, will ultimately make the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act (Bill 148) stronger for the people of Ontario and the municipalities where they live.”
Mauro and Flynn are proposing that the Standing Committee add exemptions to the on-call pay and the 96 hours’ scheduling rules. Specifically, an employer would not be required to provide on-call pay to an employee who was on call, and not required to work, if the reason for the on-call shift was to ensure the continued delivery of essential public services such as fire, utility and snow removal services. Similarly, an employee’s right to refuse an employer’s request to work or be on call would not apply if the reason for the request is to ensure the continued delivery of essential public services.
It is also Mauro and Flynn’s intention, according to the correspondence received by Trent Lakes (and other municipalities) on November 14, to bring forward a regulation that, if approved, would exempt firefighters from the equal pay for equal work provision with respect to employment status. This would provide clarity that volunteer firefighters will not be entitled to the same pay as full-time firefighters.
Trent Lakes Council received the letter for information.