To the Editor:
When the NDP found themselves forming government in Ontario after the 1990 election, no one was as surprised as they were. Nevertheless, they put together the most progressive bundle of labour legislation since Canadian governments had started to copy FDR’s New Deal some 50 years previously. Their Bill 40 opened the door wide for workers who wanted to protect themselves in the workplace.
In 1995, Mike Harris formed the government and promptly repealed every progressive bit of the NDP legislation. Unionization dropped dramatically, wages stagnated, hiring scabs was legal again, and decertification of unions rose significantly. At least Harris was honest with his hatred for unions. Doug Ford is not.
With the dirty work done, Mr. Ford began to whittle away at what was left of workers’ rights. He legislated nurses to a 1% raise and abrogated their right to negotiate a collective agreement. He is returning ‘surpluses’ from the mean-spirited Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to employers, leaving many injured workers impoverished. He, along with the Liberal rump, voted down an NDP motion to replace his miserly $15 an hour minimum wage with a yearly increment of $1 an hour to a living wage of $20 an hour.
But his most cynical measure is the government’s proposal to come to the rescue of gig workers.
Gig workers are perhaps the most precariously employed group of workers in Canada and the US. They work for Uber or Lyft or the many quick delivery companies, like DoorDash and GrubHub and UberEats. And, increasingly, they are the truck drivers that are part of our delivery chains. They are classified as ‘independent contractors,’ but they are completely at the whim of their employer through the company’s phone app. Algorithms determine their pay rates, manipulate their working conditions and, sometimes, take their tips.
Mr. Ford has bragged that he will enshrine gig workers’ rights in legislation – but that will just trap them in a second-class category from which they can’t escape. Mr. Ford has said he will oblige gig companies to put workers’ wages into an account from which they can withdraw money at any time, even between paycheques – but what good is that when their poverty pay isn’t enough to live on anyway. Mr. Ford has said he will guarantee they make minimum wage – but only if they are making a delivery. That’s like telling police they won’t be paid for the time they wait for a call.
This is a con. It’s coming less than 100 days before the next Provincial election. Mr Ford is not ‘Working for Workers.’ He’s working for the gig companies whose ideas these are.