Minimum wage: London business owners and advocates addressed Ontario politicians Monday during a public-consultation session on a proposed hike

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A travelling panel of politicians arrived in London Monday for public consultation on the Ontario Liberal government’s plan to hike minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2019 and update a slew of other labour laws.

The Delta London Armouries was packed with local businesspeople and advocates ready to present to the crew of MPPs, some in favour and others adamantly opposed to the changes.

The day began with a presentation from Kevin Langs, owner of Langs Bus Lines, which is based in Strathroy and provides school bus service to kids across the southwest.

He argued that keeping bus drivers’ wages a few dollars above minimum wage, where they are currently, is vital to keeping and attracting his company’s employees.

Langs said his fear is that with no further provincial funding to school transportation, wages will remain in line with current levels, pushing drivers out of the industry to other positions with less responsibility and training.

“It will be perceived their work isn’t being appreciated,” Langs said.

But lawyers from legal aid clinics across the region fired back, noting in their presentation that rates of eviction are increasing as more and more workers find themselves unable to pay their rent.

“They get stuck in a cycle and eventually their housing gets threatened,” said Justin Chong.

Vulnerable workers need protections around scheduling, equal pay for equal work, and other changes reflected in the proposed Bill 148, they told the panel.

When Chong suggested to the panel that low-wage workers are being taken advantage of by large corporations, a voice from the gallery piped up “hear, hear.”

A full lineup of speakers is scheduled for Monday’s meeting, which is one of a series of public sessions across the province.

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