February 4, 2016
The Honourable Kevin Flynn
Minister of Labour
400 University Avenue
Dear Minister Flynn:
In February 2015, you appointed us as Special Advisors to lead the Changing Workplaces Review. As part of our appointment, we committed to report back to you on our progress. We are pleased to provide you with an update.
The objective of this review is to recommend changes that will improve security and opportunity for those made vulnerable by the structural economic pressures and changes being experienced by Ontarians. We are focusing on how to amend the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and the Labour Relations Act, 1995 within the mandate given to you by the Premier to better protect workers while supporting business in today’s evolving economy.
We will be submitting our Final Report and recommendations when the review concludes later this year. We will also be releasing a public Interim Report in the near future. The Interim Report will identify what we have heard during the review process and various proposals that we have been asked to consider.
A simultaneous review of both Acts is unprecedented in Ontario. The review process requires us to examine academic and inter-jurisdictional research, and solicit feedback from the general public and stakeholders. Since the launch of the review, a substantial amount of work has been completed. We undertook pre-consultation meetings with stakeholders and academics, released the review’s “Guide to Consultations” paper to commence public consultation, commissioned multiple academic research projects to aid in the review process, and met with interested stakeholders. We have held 12 public consultation sessions across the province. We have spoken at eight conferences and meetings to a large cross-section of employers, unions and worker advocates in order to inform them of the issues that are before us and to encourage their participation in the review process. In total, we heard over 200 presentations and received over 300 written submissions from employers, unions, employee advocacy groups, and other interested parties. We have completed our review of these submissions and an overview will be included in our public Interim Report that will outline many of the issues and options for change that we have been asked to consider.
We have asked the community for its views on the principles that should guide us in this review and we heard many submissions on that subject. In the Interim Report we are pleased to outline the principles and objectives that will guide us in making our recommendations.
As indicated above we have commissioned research on the pressures and changes that have shaped the working conditions of many workers in Ontario. In our Interim Report, we have attempted to summarize these changes and to identify those who are vulnerable workers in precarious jobs in Ontario.
We have stated in the Interim Report and confirm to you that we have an open mind on all the issues before us, with one exception. With respect to exemptions to the Employment Standards Act, 2000, we have said in the Interim Report that - given the large number of exemptions - it is not practical for us to consider the merits of all of these in the course of this review. However, our recommendation will be that the Ministry should conduct a thorough review of most of the current exemptions, the purpose of which is to assess whether they ought to be maintained, modified or eliminated taking into account the bona fide interests of employers and employees. Accordingly, we have invited submissions with respect to a few specific exclusions that may be the subject of recommendations in our Final Report but, for the rest of the exclusions, we are asking for submissions on a process for review.
To date, the review has attracted significant interest and high expectations among the general public and stakeholders. However, we remain concerned that not all interested parties are well-informed about the scope of the review and the issues and options for change that have been raised. In large part, this concern has informed our judgment to release a public Interim Report.
We feel it is important for the general public and stakeholders to have an opportunity to comment on the various issues and options contained in the Interim Report. The second phase of consultation will provide this opportunity. In the Interim Report, we ask interested parties to provide us with their views on the issues and options for change within three-months from the date of the publication of the final section of the Interim Report. During this three-month period, we will not only receive written submissions but also, within reason, we intend to make ourselves available to meet with interested stakeholders. After the completion of the second phase of consultation, we will prepare our Final Report and recommendations to you on how the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and the Labour Relations Act, 1995 could be amended to better reflect the changing nature of work.
Given that we are now finalizing our public Interim Report - which was not specifically contemplated at the time of our appointment - it is likely that later this year we will be requesting an extension of time to make our final recommendations beyond August 2016, but we do not anticipate that it will be beyond November 2016, and hopefully sooner.
Finally, we would be remiss not to mention to you how much we have appreciated and benefitted from the hard work and dedication of Ministry staff. They have been of immense assistance to us.
We look forward to submitting our Interim Report to you and to our continuing participation in this important project.
C. Michael Mitchell
The Honourable John C. Murray