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Employment barriers will be removed, says minister.

Employment equity will become a reality for all Ontario businesses in 1993, predicts Citizenship Minister Elaine Ziemba.

Ziemba's ministry is finalizing a draft of the legislation which it intends to present to the business community and others next month for consultation. She expects that the legislation will be tabled in April or May and will become law after one year in the parliamentary process.

The goal of employment equity is to "remove the barriers that prevent the fair, equitable hiring, promotion and training for all workers." The program will benefit women, people with disabilities, visible minorities and Native Canadians.

"Everyone should have the opportunity for economic development - to work in their field to the best of their ability," adds Ziemba, who notes that the new technology is allowing people with disabilities to participate in all aspects of life.

The province presently does not have employment equity legislation. Existing federal legislation only applies to federal and provincial government agencies and corporations as well as to federally regulated industries such as banking.

Ziemba believes that federal legislation has been ineffective because it is based on voluntary compliance to quotas established by the government.

Under the proposed provincial program all businesses will be required to set targets for the hiring and promotion of people within the groups designated by employment equity.

Ziemba believes the largest barrier to overcome in achieving employment equity is the "myth" that people must be fired for employers to achieve their targets. She says the program will only relate to job vacancies.

According to the ministry, equitable hiring in any given workplace will depend on whether the employer is hiring or reducing staff, as well as on the availability of qualified workers from the designated groups.

Ziemba says she does not support the hiring of an unqualified individual in order to meet a target because it serves neither the company nor individual.

While the minister acknowledges that many small business owners will view the legislation as an intrusion, she insists that it will help them become more competitive by accommodating the diversity of Ontario's population.

According to the ministry, by the year 2001 people from the targeted groups will represent 80 per cent of the net entrants to Ontario's labor force.

Ziemba claims that employment equity will not be a burden to the business community by adding either costs or paperwork.

She maintains that she is keeping an open mind with regard to the implementation of pay equity, particularly concerning the small business sector.

"We will provide an outline with some documentation, then give employers a timetable to develop their strategies," Ziemba says, adding that implementation could be staggered similar to provincial pay equity.

The measures to be included in employment equity strategies are objective job requirements, fair selection processes, policies on sexual and racial harassment, language training, job accommodation for workers with disabilities, race relations training, flexible working conditions and access to training and apprenticeships.

Ziemba confirms that hiring targets will vary across the province, being based on the character of individual communities and areas.

"We can't say in Kenora that they must have the same percentage of visible minorities as in Toronto," she adds.

The minister says she has not yet determined how employment equity will be enforced and what penalties will be levied for non-compliance.

"I don't see it as a process that will be complaint-driven," she adds. "It must be equitable for the employer."

Because many details of the legislation have not been revealed to date, many people are speculating that it will be based on a private member's bill tabled by Premier Bob Rae while he was in opposition.

Rae's bill would have required employers with annual payrolls of more than $300,000 to set numerical targets for employment equity. It also proposed giving unions full and equal partnership in the development and implementation of the plans.

Ziemba confirms that the participation of union and non-union employees will be an integral part of the provincial program. She says "everyone must buy into the process for employment equity to work," adding that many employers will be challenged to take a non-confrontational approach.

"I hope that employers will sit down with their employees, look at the workforce and set up a plan of action - working it into their business plans."
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Ontario's Citizenship Minister Elaine Ziemba's proposed employment equity legislation
Author:Sandford, Mark
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Words:714
Previous Article:Health care in crisis: northern Ontario's hospitals operating in the red.
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