Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2019, known colloquially as Bill 66, has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Bill 66 amends the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (‘ESA’), the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (‘LRA’), and the Pension Benefits Act (‘PBA’).
Highlights of the changes in the Act to Restore Ontario’s Competitiveness are set out below.
Employment Standards Act, 2000
Posting ESA posters
Employers are no longer required to post in the workplace a poster providing information about the ESA and its associated regulations. However, employers are obliged to provide the most recent version of the poster to their employees.
An employee’s weekly hours can exceed the limits set out in the ESA if the employee has made an agreement with the employer that he or she will work up to a specified number of hours in a work week in excess of the limit. The employer is no longer required to seek approval of the Director of Employment Standards for such an agreement.
Employers are no longer required to seek the approval of the Director of Employment Standards to enter into overtime averaging agreements with their employees.
Duration of overtime averaging agreements
Under the previous terms of the ESA, averaging agreements applicable to unionised employees cannot be valid for more than one year after they take effect. Bill 66 allows these agreements to be effective until a subsequent collective agreement applicable to the employees comes into operation. Note: If the employee is not represented by a trade union, the averaging agreement’s expiry date shall not be more than two years after the start date.
Labour Relations Act, 1995
Deeming non-construction employers
Bill 66 amends the LRA to deem municipalities and certain local boards, school boards, hospitals, colleges, universities, and public bodies to be non-construction employers. When this section comes into force, any construction trade union that represents employees of these entities will no longer represent such employees in the construction industry and any collective agreement will cease to apply.
This amendment would effectively strip bargaining rights held by construction trade unions with certain public sector entities and allow these types of public sector entities to perform construction work free of any obligations imposed under the construction trade union’s collective agreement.
Since the initial release of the Bill, the list of deemed organisations has also been expanded to include:
The LRA has also been amended to clarify that a ‘local board’ is one which is defined as such in the Municipal Act, 2001 or in the City of Toronto Act, 2006.
Bill 66 provides a procedure for certain existing organisations to ‘opt-out’ of these rules by filing an election with the Ministry of Labour. An entity which opts out can later apply to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to seek designation as a non-construction employer, despite previously electing to opt-out. However, to be successfully declared a non-construction employer, the entity would then need to pass the traditional tests set out in section 127.2 of the OLRA, which has presented a significant hurdle for many applicants in the past.
Amending the bargaining unit
Some of the entities affected by the amendments regarding non-construction employers may have bargaining units that include construction and non-construction employees. These entities are now able to apply to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to have the composition of the bargaining units redefined.
Pension Benefits Act
Bill 66 amends the PBA to allow private-sector single employer pension plans to more easily merge with jointly sponsored pensioned plans.
Entry into force
Most of the changes to the ESA, and PBA are now in effect. With respect to the amendments to the LRA pertaining to non-construction employers, those amendments will come into force on a day named by a proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor.