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Labour Day Message from Kevin Flynn,
Minister of Labour

  • Issued: September 2, 2016
  • Content last reviewed: September 2016

As we enjoy our last long weekend of summer with friends and family, it is important to also take some time to recognize what we sometimes take for granted - the hard-won rights and benefits that all workers enjoy today because of the efforts of organized workers well over a century ago. Labour Day is our opportunity to remember the part that labour has and continues to play as a partner in Ontario’s prosperity.

During the second half of the 19th century workers could easily be replaced if they complained or dissented, and so were often unable to speak out against low wages, long work weeks and deplorable working conditions. As conditions deteriorated, calls for change came from trade unions, many of which struggled to organize workers and provide a collective voice for change and social justice. As industrialization expanded, so did the number of unions and the number of workers who went on strike to demand better pay and better working conditions.

As unions sought – and achieved – improvements for their members, their improvements came to benefit all workers. The many gains that have been achieved include the eight-hour workday, fair pay and overtime pay, workers’ compensation for injured workers, health and safety laws, human rights laws, pay equity, vacation pay, sick leave, parental leave and unemployment insurance, to name just a few.

We know that hard working Ontarians are our greatest resource and the foundation of our province’s economic competitiveness. That’s why our government is working to build Ontario up and deliver on its number one priority - to grow the economy and create jobs, providing opportunities for all to succeed. Labour has on many issues, most notably health and safety, built a productive relationship with government and business to achieve shared goals and improve the lives of workers.

While workers’ rights have improved fundamentally, we need to remain on the job. As our economy and its workplaces evolve, the powerful partnership of government, labour and employers needs to continue to ensure employees are treated fairly in the workplace, stand up for workplace safety and fight against workplace harassment.

That is why we’ve raised the minimum wage, and set a consistent, transparent and fair approach that ensures workers receive annual increases that keep up with inflation. This helps to build a more prosperous economy and a fairer society for all.

On September 8th new sexual violence and harassment provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act will come into effect. Labour and business have partnered with government to create practical effective solutions to the prevalence of sexual violence and harassment in the workforce.

We are continually updating workplace and labour legislation so it reflects workplace standards befitting a modern society and shared goals of safety and fairness for all Ontarians. An important initiative now underway is the Changing Workplaces Review, which is a review of the labour and employment laws in the context of today’s changing economy and its workplaces. The Changing Workplaces Review is the first comprehensive review of Ontario’s Labour Relations Act and the Employment Standards Act and we are grateful to our critical partners, including unions and other labour groups.

Building on the progress we’ve already made, we are committed to start work immediately on a plan to close the gender wage gap in order to strengthen our economy and create equal opportunities for prosperity by eliminating barriers that prevent women's full participation in our labour force. When we create the opportunity for women to have economic security, we create prosperity for all workers and their families. We need to close the gender wage gap. It’s the right thing to do, and I look forward to moving forward with this important work in partnership with labour, equality advocates and employers.

As we celebrate the tremendous contribution of workers in our province, I would like to wish all Ontarians a very happy Labour Day.