News in Brief

Employers unprepared for CPP, QPP changes: Survey | B.C. minimum wage rises | Phoenix class-action lawsuit approved

Employers unprepared for CPP, QPP changes: Survey

TORONTO — Most Canadian employers have yet to take action to prepare for coming changes to the Canada/Quebec Pension Plans (C/QPP), says a new survey.

The survey of 325 organizations in Canada, by professional services firm Aon, found that only 17 per cent of employers have started planning for the changes.

Thirty-seven per cent said they expect to prepare this year, and 32 per cent said they did not know when they will do so.

Beginning in 2019, the federal and Quebec governments will begin implementing changes to the C/QPP that will see contribution rates gradually increase for earnings up to the yearly maximum pensionable earnings (YMPE), the creation of a new, separate additional rate for earnings between the YMPE and a new upper earnings limit, and an increase in the income replacement level for the plans’ retirement benefits. The changes will be phased-in between 2019 and 2025.

The survey found that employers are concerned that the changes will result in higher organizational costs (68 per cent) and higher costs for employees (53 per cent). Survey respondents also cited concerns about the impact on retirement programs (46 per cent) and the potential for greater administrative demands (40 per cent).

However, few employers have developed strategies to address these concerns, said William da Silva, senior partner and retirement practice director for Aon in Canada.

“The reasons aren’t clear, but it appears that many employers might be underestimating the impact these legislated changes could have on their organizations and employees, including contributions and benefits under their current retirement programs,” he said.

The survey also found that only six per cent of employers have communicated the C/QPP changes to employees, though more than half plan to do so this year.


B.C. minimum wage rises

VICTORIA — Minimum wage rates in British Columbia rise for most categories of workers as of June 1, said Labour Minister Harry Bains.

The increases are part of a series of rate hikes planned over the next three years, in line with increases to the general minimum wage rate announced earlier this year. The government plans to gradually raise the hourly general minimum wage rate to $15.20 by June 1, 2021.

Bains also said the government would gradually eliminate a separate minimum wage rate for liquor servers over three years.

The rate will rise from $10.10 an hour to $11.40 on June 1. It will go up to $12.70 on June 1, 2019 and to $13.95 on June 1, 2020. Beginning June 1, 2021, employers will have to pay liquor servers the general minimum wage rate.

The minimum wage rates for live-in camp leaders and resident caretakers will also rise over the next three years. In addition, the government is eliminating the category of live-in home support workers since it says it covers very few or no workers. Any workers in this category will be entitled to the general minimum wage rate.

The only category of workers who will not see a minimum wage increase on June 1 are farm workers paid by piece rate. Their rates are going up by 11.5 per cent, but the hikes will not kick in until Jan. 1, 2019. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said the delay will give the agriculture industry time to adjust to higher rates.

Popham also said the government would further study pay for piece-rate farm workers, including if and how a minimum hourly wage should be implemented. A report on the findings is expected by the end of the year.

“This is a critical industry for B.C. and we want to make sure any changes made help give it the strong, sustainable future it deserves,” said Popham. “We believe everyone who contributes to this industry should have their say as we move toward making wages fair and life more affordable for farm workers.”

The minimum wage increases stem from recommendations from the province’s Fair Wages Commission, which the government set up last fall to advise it on ways to raise the general minimum wage rate to $15 and make recommendations on what to do with the other minimum wage rates.

The Labour Ministry also announced that the government is considering a recommendation from the commission to review food industry tipping practices, including determining when tips are considered wages, reviewing the practice of using tips to enhance the wages of non-tipped workers, and ensuring that tipping practices are transparent.

Phoenix class-action lawsuit approved

MONTREAL — A judge in Quebec has given the go ahead to a class-action lawsuit against the federal government for its Phoenix pay system.

The lawsuit alleges that the government failed to fulfil its obligations to its employees when it implemented the pay system and in its management of the problems that followed. It is asking for compensation for employees affected by Phoenix problems.

The government has been struggling with Phoenix since it began implementing it in February 2016. Thousands of workers have been overpaid, underpaid, or not paid at all.

The lawsuit names Ezmie Bouchard, who worked at Passport Canada from January to August 2016, as the plaintiff.

The lawsuit alleges that due to Phoenix errors, the government underpaid her, then overpaid her, then required her to reimburse the excess amount.

Lawyers with the firm Saraïlis Avocats are seeking a minimum of $500 for each person eligible to take part in the lawsuit, as well as additional amounts for some workers.

The lawsuit does not apply to individuals who can file grievances under federal labour legislation. As a result, the law firm said those eligible for the lawsuit would likely include students, casual workers, and retirees.


Ontario reviewing PEL rules for auto sector

TORONTO — The provincial government has appointed two individuals to review the rules around personal emergency leave (PEL) for the auto sector.

The review will examine how a PEL pilot project launched last year has affected the auto industry in terms of competitiveness, job security, employment standards, and growth of the auto sector in Ontario.

The pilot project originally required auto-sector employers with 50 or more employees to provide them with up to seven PEL days each year for illness, injury, or medical emergency of the employee or a specified family member, or for urgent matters of a family member. In addition, it provided employees with up to three days of PEL for the death of a family member.

The government removed the 50-employee threshold on Jan. 1 when amendments to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 came into force. As a result, the pilot project rules now apply to all employers in the auto sector regardless of the number of employees.

The pilot project rules differ from the general PEL rules, which provide employees with up to 10 days of job-protected leave each calendar year for illness, injury, death, and certain emergencies and urgent matters.

The review will be carried out by Basil “Buzz” Hargrove, former national president of the Canadian Auto Workers union, and Stacey Allerton, former vice-president of human resources at Ford Canada.


Manitoba minimum wage to rise in October

WINNIPEG — The provinces minimum wage rate will rise from $11.15 an hour to $11.35 on Oct. 1, the Manitoba government recently announced.

The increase is based on Manitoba’s 2017 inflation rate of 1.6 per cent and rounding up to the nearest five cents.

Employment standards legislation requires the government to adjust the minimum wage rate on Oct. 1 each year to reflect changes in the province’s consumer price index.

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