Ontario labour reforms nothing to fear, some small-business owners State

Many in the business community have condemned Ontario’s vast suite of proposed labor reforms — which include increasing the minimum wage to $15 — although not all companies agree the result is bleak.

Entrepreneurs who’ve seen their businesses prosper while paying above minimum wage and incorporating additional employee perks will share words of encouragement in a Sept. 12 conference in Toronto.

“Small-business possession is a massive battle, but for me personally it has not been due to the salary,” said Jessica Carpinone, co-owner of Ottawa bakery Bread By Us, that pays its 10 employees $15 per hour.

The state’s Liberal government is proposing reforms including new restrictions on how employees are scheduled, equal hourly salary for full-time and part-time employees, more accessibility to time off and a rise in minimum wage to $15 in 2019 from $11.40 now.

Carpinone is a member of this Better Way To create the Economy Alliance, an advocacy group for business owners “championing a decent jobs strategy.”

The Alliance has partnered with Ryerson University’s Centre for Labour Management Relations for the upcoming seminar, titled “: Building a Better Economy One Job at a Time.”

The concept of success through investing in employees stands in contrast to the concerns of a lot of the business community because the labor reforms were announced in May. About discounts to slim margins, while groups like the Retail Council of Canada and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce have called the changes “.” They warn some businesses might need to lay off workers, reevaluate hires or closed down altogether.

The conference panels will cover the impacts on individual businesses, communities and the economy at large when employees are paid more and included in decisions that affect their jobs.

Better Way Alliance member Anita Agrawal is the CEO of Best Bargains, a family-run jewelry manufacturer and wholesaling company in Toronto that has been operating for nearly three decades. She raised her five workers’ salary to about $13.50 per hour in 2008 and now pays $16.25. Her employees are compensated for their lunch period, something not all companies do, and get two paid sick days each year.

She admits that it was “tough” initially to make ends meet, especially since it had been during the global financial crisis . Balancing the books intended cutting in other areas: she halved her marketing and advertising budget and centered on social networking and direct marketing campaigns . She also reduced inventory costs .

“If we made 100 units of something before, today we create 20,” Agrawal said.

Best Bargains also increased its use of subcontractors for specialized things, allowing its staff to concentrate on the areas where it was most powerful.

“The quality of our merchandise enhanced and consequently we have better relationships with our customers,” she said, adding that she’s practically no employee turnover. “I have a connection with my staff and they’re not going to leave.”

Damin Starr, a panelist at the conference, has also seen improvements in quality because re-evaluating his employee relations. His firm, Pre-Line Processing, is based in Ontario’s Niagara Region and does prefabrication of metal components for the locomotive industry. His workers are paid the local living wage, which is $17.57 based on Living Wage Ontario.

Before 2012, Pre-Line was paying just above minimum wage and has been used to churning through employees . By 2005, when Starr purchased the company, to 2008, he used between 15 and 21 people at one time and saw yearly turnover of about 75 percent.

When the financial crisis hit and sales went down, Starr pared his workforce to between five and seven workers . When company returned post-recession, the decreased staff became overwhelmed and turnover returned in precisely the exact same rate as before.

“I was burnt out. Each time I left, I was worried someone would not appear for work.”

In 2012, Starr started down the path of increasing wages and incorporating flexible scheduling and benefits. Since that time, fewer people skip work, which means fewer delays in manufacturing.

Lower absenteeism and turnover have more than accounted for the improved wages and benefits, ” he said.

Starr feels that as long as he provides a workplace that supports his workers’ personal and employment targets, they’ll be motivated to remain.

Carpinone feels similarly.

“People most often leave jobs due to poor managers, not typically due to wage issues,” she wrote in an email.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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