Tim Hudak, leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, and MPP Randy Hillier, PCPO Labour critic and former head of the far-right Ontario Landowners Association, recently released a white paper called "Paths to Prosperity - Flexible Labour Markets". The proposals contained in the paper are a hodge-podge of anti-worker, anti-family ideas directly imported from the American Legislative Exchange Counsel, a Republican corporate think-thank, that has advanced a sustained attack on the working class in the United States over the last thirty years.
This post is going to examine the impact that Hudak's proposals would have on young workers in Ontario and the linkages to the policies being implemented by the Harper regime.
What are the proposals?
Hudak claims that the proposals are aimed at creating jobs, but an examination of the proposals exposes the plan for what it really is: a direct attack on workers. Now Magazine described Hudak's proposal as: "Flexible labour markets? That just means skimp-on-groceries paycheques and employers who get prosperous on de-commissioning unions, chopping benefits and skimping on safety measures. All the talk of “choices” and “options” for employees is just dressed-up language for a major economic heist."
The proposals cover areas such as: repealing the Rand formula, which has been a cornerstone of labour relations in Canada since the 1940s; making it more difficult for workers to organize a union; decreasing judicial oversight over labour disputes in Ontario and making it more difficult for employees to legally challenge employers; increasing the ability of government and corporation to harass unions working on social justice and political campaigns; and, weakening workplace insurance via privatization. It's also worth noting that MPP Randy Hillier previously called for abolishing the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal and although that proposal isn't in the white paper one can be sure that it would be abolished if Hudak ever attained power in Ontario.
Why are these proposals bad for youth?
The proposals being advanced by Hudak would sacrifice the next generation's standard of living so employers can save money on labour costs. This will be accomplished through driving down wages, reducing the ability of employees to negotiate the conditions of their employment, removing key statutory protections, weakening the regulatory capacity of government to regulate the labour market via further eliminating the power of the Ontario Labour Relations Board and the Ministry of Labour, and push employees into expensive Court battles when a legal dispute arises.
Hudak is following in lock-step with the anti-youth moves of Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the Federal level. Consider how Harper has explicitly attacked the economic prospects of the next generation via a low-wage, anti-worker strategy that includes: reforming the Employment Insurance system so it's extremely difficult for young people to qualify, tacitly supporting corporations using two-tiered entitlement schemes for new hires, forcing people to work longer to receive OAS, frequently forcing the end to strikes via back to work legislation, and favouring employers in interest arbitration disputes. Hudak is replicating this low-wage, anti-worker strategy on the provincial level.
Simply put, Hudak's proposals fall into a wider pattern of anti-worker, anti-family attacks that are taking place all over North America. Incredibly the proposals don't address the role of globalization, precarious work, technological change, financialization of the economy, or the impact of banking crisis. It's another sophomoric attempt by Hudak (following his racist anti-immigrant push in last fall's election) at an intervention into Ontario's labour market. Whoever authored the white paper lacked the sophistication to put forward real ideas to reform Ontario's workplace laws (the NDP and Liberals aren't exactly wowing me either).
I've culled a number of resources below discussing Hudak's proposals. See: David Doorey's Analysis; Ken Georgetti's Analysis; Hudak's New Vision: Just Blame Labour; and, Wisconsin's Disease Crosses the Border. Finally, check out this video of Hudak and Hillier discussing their proposals and judge for yourself whether this is a sustainable path forward, see: