Ontario legislation ensures fair pay for government contractors

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

On April 17, Ontario introduced legislation that will ensure that people working in construction, building cleaning or security jobs under government contracts will be paid the fair, prevailing wage in those sectors.

The proposed Government Contract Wages Act, 2018, will, if passed, allow Ontario to establish minimum rates of pay for workers in the fields of construction, building cleaning and security services, requiring contractors and subcontractors to pay according to those rates. This fair wage policy would be protected in legislation. This proposed legislation builds on actions the province has already taken to create more opportunity and security for workers in the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, which was passed last fall.

The province is also increasing opportunity and fairness for workers through its Women’s Economic Empowerment Strategy, which is the first of its kind in Canada and aims to make workplaces fairer for all women. The strategy includes landmark pay transparency that would require certain employers to report on differences in compensation among their workforce based on gender and other prescribed characteristics; mandate that publicly advertised job postings in Ontario include a compensation range; and prevent employers from asking a job applicant about past compensation or seeking that information through other means.

“This legislation paves the way for protecting workers’ wages by establishing an enforceable requirement that contractors who bid on government-procured construction work must pay their workers fair wages that reflect trade-specific, prevailing rates in each region of the province,” said Patrick Dillon, business manager of the Ontario Building Trades Council, in a press release. “If enacted, the legislation will lead to a significantly weakened underground economy in construction, better worker health and safety, protection of vulnerable workers, and increased productivity gains in the workplace, which will benefit employers and workers alike.”

This refreshed Fair Wage Policy would apply to contracts with all government ministries, and with specified government agencies and Crown corporations. It would cover building security and cleaning services in government owned and occupied buildings, and four construction sectors: roads; heavy engineering; sewers and water mains; and industrial, commercial and institutional.

“Every worker deserves to be paid a fair wage. And every business bidding for a government contract deserves a fair shot. We’re taking action so that employers won’t be able to win a competition by unfairly lowering workers’ wages,” said Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, in a press release issued by the province.

“Restoring the provincial fair wage policy sends a strong signal to the construction industry, that workers who pay taxes and contribute to the well-being of our province should not, and cannot be exploited by the very tax dollars that they (and all Ontarians) contribute. It’s about fairness for workers and about tackling the underground economy in construction,” added Dillon.

If enacted, the Fair Wage Policy wage schedules will be developed through consultation with partners and stakeholders to ensure they are evidence-based.

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