Paid Vacation: Brought to you by the Labour Movement
Over sixty years ago, Clarence Darrow, famous defence lawyer for the underdog and for radical causes, wrote;
“With all their faults, trade unions have done more for humanity than any other organization of men that ever existed. They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the development of character in man, than any other association of men.”
But if you listen only to the media, which is owned by big business by the way, it would appear that most people disagree with that statement. The Labour Movement takes a constant beating in the news because businesses only care about their profit margins, certainly not the underdog.
The Employment Standards Act (ESA) covers basic standards such as minimum wage, overtime, hours of work, vacation with pay, public holidays, termination and severance pay, and more. All of these standards are in place thanks to the efforts of the Labour Movement and its hard-won battles at the bargaining table and through political action over the years.
As Union members, perhaps we take all of this for granted. We forget in our day-to-day lives that workers fought tooth and nail for the things we see as a given. Many workers lost their jobs, some even lost their lives. We need to remember how far we’ve come.
At one time in Ontario’s history, the idea of giving a worker vacation time off with pay was unheard of. It wasn’t until 1944 that legislation provided a worker one week off after one year of employment at a minimum pay of 2% of annual earnings. Today, the minimum standard is two weeks’ vacation with pay after one year of service at a minimum pay of 4% of annual earnings. (Hasn’t changed much in 70 years, has it?)
Now take a look at your Collective Agreement. More than likely you enjoy better than the minimum standard. Likely, your minimum vacation pay is above 4%. And chances are that as your years of service increase, your vacation entitlement increases over and above the basic two weeks provided by the ESA. Some members enjoy four weeks and more of paid vacation a year.
Workers who don’t belong to a Union are governed by only the basic employment standards legislated in the ESA. And while thankfully there is at least a minimum standard, these workers still do not have seniority rights, a grievance procedure, the right to strike, or any input into their working conditions. And they’re not guaranteed any more than two weeks paid vacation a year.
While workers are protected by the bare minimum provided by the ESA, Unionized workers start with that and build upwards through their Union and Collective Bargaining to create strong contracts with provisions that go over and above to create a better quality of life.
When workers unite, as history has shown us, anything can be accomplished.