Advocating for the right to Unionize

Published on January 01, 2018

Ontario Government reviews rules that exclude Domestic Workers

The Ontario government announced on May 30, 2017 that it would conduct a review of Employment Standards Act (ESA) and the Labour Relations Act (LRA) exemptions and special rules. The ESA exists to maintain a basic floor of rights in the province for all workers, while the LRA exists to provide access to the constitutionally protected right to organize collectively into unions. Phase 1 of the review was launched October 18, 2017 to review eight occupations with exemptions and special rules under the ESA and Labour Relations Act (LRA), including Domestic workers.

Exemptions disproportionately affect racialized, migrant and women workers. Limits on access to employment standards are a feature of precarious employment and compound existing labour market disadvantage. Caregivers, and particularly those who come to Canada under the former Live-In Caregiver Program, under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, or on other restrictive work permits, need access to full labour rights. This will not only protect this group of primarily racialized, poor and working class women; it will also improve the standards of the caregiving sector, the work that makes all other work possible.

CAC has consistently heard from caregivers across Ontario that access to unionization and to all of the same employment standards as other workers in the province are necessary steps towards being able to live and work in dignity. Caregivers see these as two key steps toward the recognition of caregiving and other Domestic work as real work.

CAC broadly recommends that the Ministry strike both the ESA and LRA exemptions for Domestic Workers. CAC further recommends that the Ministry work closely with workers and advocates to develop a model of broader based bargaining for Domestic Workers. We urge Ontario to eliminate these exemptions and to take the necessary steps to ensure that caregiving work is free of exploitation and abuse, including by implementing the kinds of “broader based bargaining” strategies that would make collective action and worker power a reality for caregivers.

In the next phases of this exemption review, we would also recommend that the Ministry of Labour prioritize those industries where workers are most vulnerable, including sectors that rely heavily on migrant labour. In particular, we urge Ontario to ensure that the agricultural sector is included in the next phase of the review.

See below for our full submission:

CAC Submission ESA LRA Exemptions