Hard at Work: Minister says report on workplace rules is '4 to 6 weeks away'

Hard at Work: Minister says report on workplace rules is '4 to 6 weeks away'

Ontario's Labour Minister Kevin Flynn says a final report that will outline suggested changes to workplace laws in the province is four to six weeks away.

The government is actively reviewing the recommendations as they come in and is determining next steps — which could include legislation and regulatory changes.

CBC Toronto first told you in February about the changes that could overhaul workplace rules in Ontario. Since then, thousands of people have commented on the stories and hundreds more have written to us with their workplace horror stories. 

CBC's Dwight Drummond met with the minister at Queen's Park to know where the changing workplaces review stands right now.

Dwight Drummond: The pressure is on now, since the premier started this process. It's been a couple of years now and people want to know when can we actually see this come to fruition.

Minister Kevin Flynn: We are getting down to the short strokes, there's no doubt about it and I think it's going to be exciting. I think it's going to generate a discussion we need to have.

The report, by and large, is in my hands now. It's got to be translated still, it's got to be made accessible so that everyone can avail themselves of it. That usually takes anywhere from four to six weeks — so I think that the later part of the spring. It's coming along.

The workplace I went into as a young man is so different than the workplace young people are entering. Everybody goes through this experience where you see a young person leave home, they get that contract job, they rent their apartment, they leave the nest, the contract runs out, the rent money runs out and they're back home in the basement. 

Dwight Drummond: Are there some bigger areas of concern?

Minister Kevin Flynn: It was a good time to do this. We haven't looked at the Labour Relations Act. We haven't looked at the Employment Standards Act for about 20 to 25 years. In those years, we have witnessed change like we've never seen in the workplace. We've seen technological change, we've seen global competitiveness, free trade deals open up, automation — the list goes on.

There's a sense that Ontario is doing very well. Unemployment is low, but there's also a sense that not all of us are prospering. There's a sense at the bottom that it's not trickling down, that not everyone is sharing in the prosperity. Some of that, we think, lays at the feet of the regulations that govern us when it comes to employment standards, that provide us with a sense of decency. People move to Ontario for that decent way of life, for the opportunity. 

Dwight Drummond: We've heard from thousands of people—and they tell us that some of these proposed reforms could change their lives. What's your message to these people that are out there waiting?

Minister Kevin Flynn: We understand that things have changed. We understand that life has got more stressful. Let's take scheduling... you've got to plan childcare. We've increased access to childcare, but if you don't know when you can avail yourself of childcare, if you don't know when you're working next, how do you plan that childcare? I think there's a sense of decency there, where people owe each other some advance knowledge of when they're supposed to work.

These are the points that are being raised by us, how we address them is still something that we do need to discuss with employers, with organized labour, with the chambers of commerce, with the advocates for people that are in vulnerable situations... There's still a discussion to be had, but very, very soon we will know what the recommendations are.

Dwight Drummond: It's taken two decades to do this. We;ve seen business evolve, we've seen things change. Can governments wait two decades to deal with these kind of changes?

Minister Kevin Flynn: Absolutely not. When change moved at a manageable pace, you could fix something, you could rely on that being in place for a while. Right now, I think we won't be able to wait 20 to 25 years to look at the Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act. It's something we're going to need to do on an annual basis because technological change is driving us that way. Global competitiveness is driving us that way. It's something that we need to be on top of, and we're quite prepared to do that.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more, watch our full interview.