This is the first independent report in Canada to consider, as a unified exercise, the need for specific legislative changes to two separate but related pieces of workplace legislation, namely, the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) and the Labour Relations Act (LRA). By the terms of our mandate, we have considered the need for reform through the lens of changes that have been occurring in the workplace over a lengthy period of time.

Previous reviews in Ontario and Canada have considered the desirability and necessity for change from the perspective of what might be required to improve the labour relations system at a particular point in time, or to improve minimum standards, which affect mostly non-unionized workplaces. By simultaneously considering how the changes that have occurred, and are still occurring, in workplaces across Ontario are giving rise to the need for reform in both statutes, we have been mandated to bring a unique and original perspective to the issues.

Our recommendations are aimed at creating better workplaces in Ontario, where there are decent working conditions and widespread compliance with the law.

A society where decent labour standards are observed and respected in the vast majority of workplaces, and where rights to meaningful collective bargaining are acknowledged and not undermined, would ideally result in an economy based on a sound and ethical foundation and workplaces that are productive and fair. Overall, our society would be a better place and we would all benefit.

Certainly, employees will benefit from a better workplace. Employers, too, stand to benefit from happier and more productive workplaces, more robust enforcement of the law and more education of employees and employers with respect to the rights of employees and the obligations of employers. Responsible and law-abiding employers, who are in the vast majority, are entitled to know that they can compete on a level playing field with those who might otherwise gain an unfair advantage by not playing by the rules.

These goals of a culture of decency and compliance will be advanced by all the individual measures we are urging be adopted here, measures that are a combination of substance and process, decency and enforcement. Foremost among our recommendations is a new Workplace Rights Act, to herald a new era of workplace decency and compliance with the law.