Organizing and Advocating
/ Author: Ian DeWaard
/ Categories: Guide magazine /
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Organizing and Advocating

As the summer heats up, so too are CLAC’s efforts in Ontario to organize workers and advocate on their behalf

By Ian DeWaard, Ontario Director

Organizing

Each year, CLAC’s Ontario member centres are contacted by employees in dozens of workplaces who are interested in having CLAC represent them. Most often, these contacts come from people who know a member who has encouraged them to call or are folks who were once members themselves. Some of these interactions turn into union organizing campaigns, and on average staff in Ontario organize 24 workplaces per year.

Recently, we’ve seen an increase in activity due to the anxiety workers feel about their compensation in the face of prolonged and high inflation. But most often, workers decide to unionize when they experience management using their authority disparagingly or recklessly. More and more workers are expressing interest in our style of representation and the range of services and support we offer members.

To respond to that growing interest, we’ve created the CLAC Organizing Working Group, led in Ontario by Kevin Gates, a long-time representative. This group is dedicated to responding to workers who want to know more about how CLAC can positively impact their workplace. CLAC’s organizers will support workers considering us for their workplace and manage the application process that will lead to the Ontario Labour Relations Board’s secret ballot vote.

Members who are interested in supporting CLAC’s organizing efforts are encouraged to get involved in a campaign, which you can do by contacting your representative who will connect you to the organizing team. The Organizing Working Group is already working on several large campaigns.

Political and Industry Stakeholder Activity

The focus of our efforts these last few months has been the preparation of CLAC’s annual Ontario government prebudget submission. This year, we submitted 12 recommendations, which reflect the needs and struggles of members in healthcare, construction, and emergency services.

Of particular focus are the challenges faced by homecare workers in Ontario. Because of severe staffing shortages, as many as 50 percent of all homecare appointments go unfilled. In December and again in January, CLAC met with representatives from the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Long-Term Care to introduce ideas on addressing the problem of underpaid travel time and mileage reimbursement rates in the homecare sector. We also presented our views on long term care funding and staffing issues, and we presented CLAC’s 2023 Hospital Labour Disputes Arbitration Act (HLDAA) submission, which includes recommendations on how to improve the arbitration system for essential service healthcare workers.

In December, CLAC submitted ideas for labour policy reform, as the government lays groundwork for its fifth edition of the Working for Workers Act. Our “Improving Workplaces across Ontario” submission included six ideas for labour reform. This is the first time we’ve been invited to submit in advance of the bill being drafted, which was a welcome change.

In collaboration with CLAC’s Research and Legal Teams, we also offered written advice for a private member’s bill that is in the early stages of design. That bill would provide enhanced protection to workers who experience sexual harassment or violence in the workplace. Presently, unionized workers who are victims of violence can seek limited or no relief against their employer or against assailants, a problem this bill will address.

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