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Auto workers cut off from labour law improvements

Posted on 04 January 2018 by admin

A change mandating 10 personal emergency days won’t apply to employees in the automotive industry, leading to outcry.

Auto work‎ers are feeling Scrooged after learning a new law giving most employees across Ontario a minimum of 10 personal emergency leave days annually — two with pay — doesn’t apply to them.

Employees in the automotive industry, including assembly plants and parts suppliers, are entitled to a minimum of seven emergency leave days under a special exemption in Bill 148, the recently passed legislation on workplace changesthat includes a $2.40 rise in the hourly minimum wage to $14 on January 1 and $15 in 2019.

Those seven days can be used for sickness and family emergencies, with another three days for bereavement leave. The requirement has been in place since last January as part of a pilot project with the government.

“For some reason the Ontario auto industry feels that we are not to be treated equal to the rest of the province, like we are lower class,” a Toyota autoworker from the company’s Cambridge assembly plant told the Star.

“Don’t get sick, don’t have family members that get sick and need personal days,” added the worker, who was granted anonymity for his comments. Toyota workers are not unionized.

Labour Minister Kevin Flynn downplayed worker concerns, saying the auto sector “has, in many cases, earned a reputation as an employer of choice and often exceeds the minimum requirements of the Employment Standards Act . . . when it comes to leaves, vacation and sick pay.”

Toyota, for example, said full-time employees get more than the legal minimum and workers hired on contract will be able to take two paid sick days once the legislation takes effect.

The union representing workers at Fiat Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, has set up a meeting between its president, Jerry Dias, and the labour minister to seek a “clarification” on personal emergency leave.

 “Unifor is concerned over reports of changes to Regulation 502 of Ontario’s Employment Standards Act that may negatively impact workers in the auto sector,” the union said in a statement Thursday.

Flynn said the minimum standard of seven days is lower for the auto industry because it operates in “a particularly competitive global sector.”

“The auto sector is tremendously important to our economy. It employs thousands of people in well-paying jobs across the province,” Flynn added in a statement.

The pilot project was recommended by advisers who conducted a broad government review into workplace changes, and noted any auto sector worker with deaths in their close families are entitled to a minimum of three bereavement days in each case.

The pilot project will be evaluated next year “to make sure we’re achieving fairness for all Ontario workers,” Flynn added.

New Democrat MPP and labour critic Cindy Forster (Welland) said the treatment of auto workers is “incredibly disappointing.”

“It’s time for this unfair regulation to change, immediately. Treating auto workers worse than all other workers is just plain wrong,” added Forster, whose party has promised to mandate five paid days for illness or personal emergencies if it wins next June’s provincial election.

“These people work hard, often in physically demanding roles, and they certainly deserve treatment that’s equal to what everyone else in the province is getting.”

Workers at auto parts plants have also raised concerns about the seven-day limit.

There are about 124,00 auto sector workers in Ontario.

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