Broad Amendments to Ontario Labour Laws Proposed

Proposals include implementing changes to the union certification process and increasing fines for non-compliant employers

On June 1, the Ontario government introduced Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 (Bill 148). Bill 148 makes numerous recommendations for amendments to Ontario's Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) and Labour Relations Act, 1995 (LRA) in accordance with the recommendations put forward in the final report of the Changing Workplaces Review.

This bulletin provides an overview of the proposed changes to the LRA. If passed, Bill 148's proposed changes to the LRA would come into force six months after the day it receives royal assent. A bulletin on the proposed changes to the ESA will follow in the coming days.

What You Need To Know

If passed, Bill 148 will have significant implications for employers in Ontario, particularly those who are unionized or subject to the union certification process. Some highlights of the proposed changes to the LRA include the following:

  • Implementing new union certification rules: Bill 148 proposes making certain changes to the union certification process, including: allowing unions who can demonstrate that they have the support of at least 20 percent of an organization's employees to access employee lists and certain contact information; requiring the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) to address first contract mediation-arbitration applications before dealing with displacement and decertification applications; and empowering the OLRB to conduct votes outside the workplace, including electronically and by telephone.
  • Protecting employees from discharge during bargaining periods: Bill 148 will prohibit an employer from disciplining or discharging employees without just cause in the period between certification and the conclusion of a first contract, and between the beginning of a legal strike or lock-out position and the new collective agreement.
  • Providing an alternative process for certification: Bill 148 proposes establishing card-based union certification for employees in specified industries (building services, community services, home care and temporary help agency).
  • Allowing OLRB discretion to restructure bargaining units: Bill 148 will allow the OLRB to change the structure of bargaining units within a single employer where the existing bargaining units are no longer appropriate for collective bargaining, and to consolidate newly certified bargaining units with other existing bargaining units under a single employer, where the bargaining units are represented by the same union. Currently, a voluntary agreement between a bargaining unit and the employer is generally required to change the configuration of bargaining units.
  • Establishing new rules for the reinstatement of employees: Bill 148 will remove the six-month return-to-work "waiting period" and instead require employers to reinstate employees at the conclusion of a lawful strike or lock-out (if certain conditions are met), and provide access for employees to grievance arbitration to enforce that requirement.
  • Increasing maximum fines: Bill 148 will increase maximum fines under the LRA from $2,000 to $5,000 for non-compliant individuals and from $25,000 to $100,000 for non-compliant organizations.

The government has proposed a broad consultation process as the next step in order to collect feedback from stakeholders on the draft legislation. We will provide information on any further updates.

To discuss these issues, please contact the author(s).

This publication is a general discussion of certain legal and related developments and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require legal advice, we would be pleased to discuss the issues in this publication with you, in the context of your particular circumstances.

For permission to republish this or any other publication, contact Janelle Weed.

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