Toronto Retail Workers Call on City Hall to Save Stat Holidays

November 7, 2012, 1:45 PM EST

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Retail workers from across Toronto will call on city councillors to scrap a proposal to eliminate statutory holidays during a committee meeting tomorrow, November 8, at City Hall.

Toronto's Economic Development Committee is scheduled to debate a proposal tomorrow at approximately 10:30 a.m. that would allow city retailers to open their doors on Victoria Day. This proposal, brought forward by the city's Holiday Shopping Sub-Committee, would reduce the number of recognized statutory holidays for local retail workers from nine to eight in the calendar year.

CAW Local 414 President Christine Connor said statutory holidays provide the only guaranteed time off for retail workers, many of whom face constant fluctuations in shift schedules and other precarious working conditions.

"This is time that's best spent with friends and family," Connor said. "Ratcheting down stat holidays effectively ratchets down the standard of living from some of the most hard-pressed workers in this city. We simply can't accept that."

Subsequent to the passing of the City of Toronto Act in 2006, statutory holiday laws now fall under the City's Municipal Code (Chapter 510) - a temporary by-law that largely follows the province's Retail Business Holidays Act. 

In 2010, the City of Toronto undertook an effort to establish a long-term policy dictating the rules for holiday shopping for local retailers.  The original proposal was to eliminate all 9 statutory holidays and was billed as a move to improve the competitiveness of local businesses.

Connor said the issue lit a fire under city retail workers, resulting in the initial proposal being toned down to only include Victoria Day.

"It's good to know the City has heard the concerns of its 400,000 retail workers," Connor said. "The city is well within their right to find ways to improve business conditions, but it can't happen on the backs of its most vulnerable workers."

Connor said many retail workers earn minimum wage, or just marginally higher. Retail workplaces are comprised of a disproportionate number of women, new immigrants and young workers.  

The CAW is calling on the Economic Development Committee to maintain all nine statutory holidays. The union is also willing to issue a joint call to the Province of Ontario, along with municipal leaders and the business community, requesting a full review and modernization of current statutory holiday exemption rules, with an eye to improving the standard of living for retail workers and a fairer, more competitive business environment.

Connor will be available for comment after the Economic Development Committee vote tomorrow.

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