GUELPH — Ontario farmers are in wait-and-see mode on exemptions to the province’s new labour laws.
When the government approved the minimum wage hike last year, Bill 148 also made changes to other aspects of the labour law. Some of the new rules include how long breaks can be, how often, and putting a maximum number hours per day on overtime hours. Farms used to be exempt from these rules, but aren’t under the new legislation.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is lobbying the provincial government for exemptions to some of these new rules. The organization originally hoped the exemptions would be approved before Christmas when the bill was passed, but now has its sights on late February/early March. That gives the province enough time to incorporate changes in its budget, expected in late March.
This means the rules could change quickly as farmers prepare for spring planting, and could come into place in the middle of the maple syrup harvest season.
“Essentially you’ve got producers working under the new rules until we get the exemptions,” said OFA president Keith Currie. “We don’t want anyone abusing their workers, but sometimes the breaks might be shorter or less frequent when it’s time to harvest, especially when it’s a perishable crop. It’s a little frustrating. They (the province) rushed to put this in without actually having it all complete.”