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Proposed labour law is “dreadful”, auto jobs will be gone

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 14:07 -- Chris Cooke
Karl Baldauf

There won’t be any auto manufacturing in Ontario by 2022.

That’s the prediction from Karl Baldauf, the head of policy and government relations for the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

Speaking at a Town Hall in Sarnia last month Baldauf described proposed amendments to Ontario’s Labour Laws as “dreadful” and suggested they will destroy an over regulated economy already shackled by “outrageous” power costs.

Under the new laws, Ontario’s minimum wage will soar 32% to $15.00/hour and Baldauf predicts “nothing good will come of it”.

He added “no jurisdiction has rushed into this with such speed without considering the impact”.

Baldauf was on stage at the Royal Canadian Legion on Front Street with Susan Houston, a labour lawyer and Jason McMichael, president of the Sarnia and District Labour Council.

Baldauf was blunt and to the point noting Magna International Inc., one of Ontario’s largest employers issued stern criticism of the Province’s labour legislation.

Magna is saying proposed changes threaten future investment and jobs and will make auto parts companies less competitive, Baldauf says he believes them.

Houston suggests employers need to be acutely aware of the implications. “It isn’t just the $15.00/hour by January 2019 it is the details contained in other parts of the legislation”.

Employees on call but not called in must be paid three hours. All employees will get two personal emergency leave days with pay and without a doctor’s note. Family medical leave is being extended from eight weeks to 27 and if a child dies an employee can take 104 weeks off.

Houston also noted there will be 175 new enforcement officers, all complaints will be investigated and there will be a name and shame list posted on the Ministry web site.

Baldauf reminded about 100 Sarnia Chamber members that the workplace changes come on top of uncompetitive power rates, cap – and – trade, increased payroll and pension costs and personal income rates that are among the highest in the G7 countries.

The legislation has broad support among labour and social groups but businesses, especially in the auto sector have argued against the changes amid fears of rising costs and a more stringent regulatory burden.

McMichael supports the legislation because “raising people out of poverty has never hurt business”. He added that “domestic consumption drives the economy and increasing the minimum wage provides more money for necessities”.

He suggested Chamber members shouldn’t fear businesses shutting down. “The general consensus is in other jurisdictions like Seattle employees got a better wage, prices increased just slightly above the cost of living and productivity went up”.

However, McMichael’s argument didn’t sit well with several suggesting their employees will now be making more than the employer. “On a bad month I don’t even make $15.00 an hour,” suggested one retailer.

Julian Portelli, a senior policy advisor to the Minister Responsible for Small Business says he is hearing the same discussions across Ontario. Businesses are concerned about the speed with which the legislation is being implemented, reduced competitiveness, hydro costs and the need for “tax relief in a world where all this goes forward”.

Baldauf noted “when auto makers are saying it doesn’t make sense to make cars in Ontario anymore that is a shot over the bow for Kathleen Wynne and her government”.

The first increase from $11.60 to $14.00 an hour is scheduled for January 1, 2018. The remainder of the increase is predicated on whether the Liberals are re – elected next year.

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