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Passage of Bill 148 shows workers’ power is growing, OPSEU President says

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas

Toronto – The passage today of Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, at Queen’s Park is a clear sign that working people in Ontario are once again setting the agenda around fairness in the workplace, the President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union says.

“If I take anything from Bill 148, it’s that when working people get together and say what they need, they have the power to get it,” Warren (Smokey) Thomas said. “Bill 148 is a significant step forward for workers’ rights, and I think every union, community group, and individual who helped make it happen should take a bow.”

The bill, more than two years in the making, includes increases to the minimum wage, changes to make unionization easier for some workers, and a number of new protections for all workers, including language to require employers to provide “equal pay for equal work.”

“A big reason for the growth in precarious work in this province is that the law has allowed employers to pay workers less than the going wage rate if they happen to be part-time, temporary, or temp agency workers,” Thomas said. “Our union has been raising the alarm about this unfair discrimination for decades.

“We stepped up our campaign in 2009 when we put equal pay for equal work on the bargaining table with the LCBO, and we were still pushing for it last week during our strike by more than 12,000 college faculty,” he said. “I am extremely proud that our union was able to play a part in what is a huge victory for the union movement, for our community allies, and for every wage-earner in this province.”

Thomas cautioned that Bill 148 has in no way ended the union movement’s battle for better labour laws and employment standards.

“Bill 148 is far from perfect legislation,” he said. “It takes us in the right direction, but it doesn’t take us far enough. What it does do, though, is put us in a stronger position for the battles ahead.

“With Bill 148, we are further down the road, and we have more tools at our disposal,” Thomas said. “We intend to use them.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931