Bill 148 won't apply to firefighters
By Chad Ingram
Published Nov. 23, 2017
The financial implications of Bill 148, the province’s Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, won’t be as extreme for local governments as municipal leaders had feared.
The bill, most publicized for the increase it will make to Ontario’s minimum wage, contains numerous clauses pertaining to employment standards. In its initial form, this included a clause dealing with on-call employees, and dictating that those employees be paid for three hours of each 24-hour period they are on call.
Were that clause to apply to volunteer firefighters, who are essentially on call at all times, the cost for the townships of Haliburton County would have been staggering.
In Algonquin Highlands, it was estimated the on-call payments for volunteer firefighters would amount to more than $1 million a year. In Minden Hills, that figure was $630,000.
After passing second reading, amendments were being made to Bill 148 in Queen’s Park last week. One of those changes was that the on-call provisions would not apply to volunteer firefighters.
On social media on Nov. 14, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario thanked the government for changes that will exempt municipal public safety workers and emergency responders from the on-call provisions.
Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt thanked AMO for its lobbying efforts. “Whew!” she wrote on Twitter.
Minden Hills Mayor and Haliburton County Warden Brent Devolin was also pleased with the changes, but noted that Bill 148 will still increase the cost of doing business for municipalities.
“From where I’m sitting, it appears three quarters of the liability is removed, from what is known,” Devolin said.
In Minden Hills, the bill is still likely to increase costs by some $200,000 a year. The “equal pay for equal work” provision of the legislation demands that part-time staff be paid at the same rate as full-time staff for completing the same work. Since seasonal employees have traditionally been paid less than full-time staff, this change is anticipated to increase costs in the community services and roads departments by some $40,000.
The increase in minimum wage will increase expenses in the community services department by nearly $10,000, changes to paid vacation time and personal emergency leave could result in increased annual costs of approximately $4,200 and the on-call provision could still increase costs in departments such as community services and property and environmental operations by tens of thousands of dollars.
“The dust hasn’t settled on all of that,” Devolin said, adding he was hoping for further revisions. “This still isn’t chicken feed.”
In Algonquin Highlands, the increase in minimum wage will increase costs for student employees and staff at the Dorset tower by some $5,500 a year. A vacation pay increase from four to six per cent is expected to cost an additional $6,000.
Under the act, minimum wage in Ontario will increase from $11.60 an hour to $14 an hour as of Jan. 1, 2018, and to $15 an hour in 2019.