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Labour Code Changes Mean More Paperwork for Employers

TORONTO, Ont. - Private carriers are disappointed with recent amendments to Ontario's Employment Standards Act dealing with overtime hours, says Bruce Richards, head of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada.

TORONTO, Ont. – Private carriers are disappointed with recent amendments to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act dealing with overtime hours, says Bruce Richards, head of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada.

Recently announced changes make it mandatory, as of Jan. 1, 2005, for Ontario employers to obtain a Ministerial permit, in addition to written agreement from employees in order to allow employees to work more than 48 hours per week.

But the government amendments failed to address the discrepancy between drivers working for private carriers and those working for for-hire carriers, Richards said.

“Once again the ministry missed its opportunity to review the overtime thresholds discrepancy between for-hire and private carriers,” he said.

“While for-hire carriers only have to pay overtime after 50 or 60 hours, private carriers have to pay overtime after 44.”

Richards said he’s disappointed the government has failed to make the change.

“I’d like to know why they think it’s fair that a truck driver working for a for-hire carrier should be treated differently than a truck driver working for a private company,” said Richards.

“Ministry officials keep telling me they’re reviewing the issue, and in my view they had the opportunity to make the changes along with this recent amendment.

“They haven’t yet told me why they haven’t done anything about it, but I’ll keep pursuing them to find out why.”

Meanwhile, the changes that were made probably won’t prove very disruptive to the industry in general, said Richards.

The new rules basically overturn changes made by the previous government in 2000, by restoring the previous Ministerial permit requirement. The amendments also contain provisions for overtime averaging but there are no changes to overtime thresholds.

Ontario’s Labour Ministry is aiming for proclamation in January 2005. The amendments mean employers will be able to apply for permits as of Oct. 1, 2004.

Ministry officials have announced they hope to have an on-line application form available at that time. Ministry sources also indicated that a draft employee agreement form could even become available online.

The Ministry has also stated its desire to harmonize Ontario’s rules with the revised federal hours of service standard, expected later this year (or next spring?).

Richards views this as a step in the right direction.

“If, in fact, the government realizes there are already very detailed and stringent rules in place when hours of service rules kick in, that would be the cleanest way to handle it. They should just exempt the trucking industry from the Employment Standards Act altogether and apply hours of service instead,” said Richards.

For the time being, however, truck drivers are still subject to the Employment Standards Act.

Carriers will have plenty of time to get their permits however, as they can start filling out applications in October and the rule is expected to kick in in January.

The only drawback is that an employee can claim to be willing to work overtime and then change his or her mind, pointed out Richards.

“But I haven’t seen much indication of that happening,” he added.

Whether the new rules apply also depends on whether a carrier, for-hire or private, is interjurisdictional and therefore regulated by the federal labour code instead, pointed out Doug Switzer, manager of government relations for the Ontario Trucking Association.

“Nothing changes for anyone operating extra-provincially,” said Switzer.

And there aren’t a lot of carriers operating solely within the province, although there are some.

Carriers in the agricultural sector, especially during harvest season, are among those most likely affected by Ontario overtime laws.

The OTA has also been lobbying to have the government exempt carriers from Ontario labour laws, in favour of the new HOS requirements, said Switzer.

“They keep saying they’ll do it, but they haven’t done it yet,” said Switzer.

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