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Keep student jobs off the chopping block

This is not a place to cut corners.

A memo obtained by The Oshawa Express shows that city finance staff are quite worried about the potential impacts of Bill 148, and that one of the potential solutions could be putting student positions on the chopping block.

The proposed piece of legislation, optimistically titled the Fair Jobs, Better Workplaces Act, will increase minimum wage to $14 an hour in January of 2018, and $15 an hour the year after. The bill also proposes a number of other changes to increase pay for temporary and fulltime workers doing the same job, while adding provisions for on-call pay, mandatory leave and vacation pay.

With that said, the most contentious of the changes has been the minimum wage increase, and the startling impacts that could have for small businesses across the province.

However, the City of Oshawa is not a small business, and when it comes to the use of our tax dollars, providing equal pay for students and temporary workers should be a priority for all of us.

The city memo notes that the changes for student positions for matching pay to fulltime roles will “significantly reduce the city’s ability to provide meaningful employment opportunities.”

False.

The increase in wages will not reduce the city’s ability to provide meaningful opportunity, the decision to eliminate these student positions will cause that to happen, and one in effect does not cause the other.

Council would do well to note this come budget time and be sure to allocate the money to these jobs, because right now our city needs them more than ever.

In the Oshawa Census Metropolitan Area, which also includes Whitby and Clarington, the current unemployment rate for youth 15 to 24  is 15.5 per cent. The general population unemployment rate is 5.9 per cent. According to Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey, the Oshawa CMA has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the country, and since 2010, Durham has had one of the highest unemployment rates in the province.

These student jobs are the types of opportunities the city should be looking to create, not eliminate.

Even if it costs a bit more money, it would be hard to argue the significant impact of that investment on our youth and their future careers.