Ontario Assembly on Workplace Democracy

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PDF iconPRESS RELEASE - July 4, 2022
THE CONVERSATION OP-ED - December 11, 2022


The benefits of collective voice in the workplace, where workers’ concerns are adequately represented, are significant: enhanced job satisfaction, decent wages, safer workplaces, greater productivity and increased civic participation. These benefits improve the lives of workers, increase the bottom lines for firms and enrich Canadian society as a whole.
Yet, in recent decades, research has pointed to a significant “voice gap” where workers do not have their expected say, or influence, at work, along with longstanding concerns about organizations falling short of addressing this gap effectively. These shortcomings affect long-term workplace productivity, mental health, and a host of other critical factors that, if considered and addressed thoughtfully, can positively affect workers and the organizations they work in.
The CIRHR convened a special Ontario Assembly on Workplace Democracy where a representative group of Ontarians discussed the current options available for workers to vocalize themselves at work, and established recommendations to amplify their voices and influence decisions in their workplaces. More details, including a full report is now available!
The project was led by CIRHR Director, Rafael Gomez, visiting researcher, Andrew Gibson, and Simon Pek from the University of Victoria.


Learning Phase

Assembly members learned about the problem of workplace democracy and shared their experiences while getting a crash course in worker voice from subject-matter experts.

Consulting Phase

Members heard from stakeholders/experts to better understand the trade-offs/benefits of different voice channels/policy options for workers, employers and society more broadly.

Deliberating Phase

Members identified and weighed different policy options for improving workers’ capacity to influence decision-making and advocate for change in their workplaces. 

Recommending Phase

FINAL REPORT: Members selected and prioritized among policy options to establish a set of recommendations and rationales for improving worker voice, now available in this final report.
On September 2nd, we held a virtual policy debate as part of our Ontario Assembly on Workplace Democracy (OAWD) initiative. Moderated by Anil Verma, the debate saw employment and labour-law lawyers, Simran Prihar of Goldblatt Partners and Kathryn Marshall of Levitt Sheikh Law, advance and defend their best solutions for protecting workers’ voices in the workplace. Check out the full debate now!


Tell us about your experiences "speaking up" at work. Were you able to influence decision-making? Tweet us at @CIRHR_UofT or submit your story via email, and don't forget to follow us on Twitter to participate in this timely conversation!


Members of the Assembly will work with fellow participants representing different walks of life and work experiences; learn from experts and researchers about the various options for promoting stronger and fairer decision making in the workplace, including but not limited to collective bargaining; understand the trade-offs and benefits —for both workers and employers—between different workplace arrangements and policy options; and provide guidance on how governments and organizations can implement new, and strengthen existing, policies and institutions with the goal of increasing workers’ influence on decision-making at work.
1-in-440 households across Ontario have been randomly selected to receive a special invitation by letter. Of the respondents to this letter, 36 individuals will be randomly selected to serve as members of the Citizens’ Assembly through a special lottery that will ensure the Assembly is representative of Ontarians by age, gender, geography and other factors.
The Assembly will meet twice in early summer and three times in early fall over Zoom. The CIRHR will also provide an honorarium to participants who may face barriers to participating, and provide other stipends to help cover reasonable expenses.
  • Rafael Gomez (Chair of Advisory Board),  Associate Professor of Employment Relations, University of Toronto
  • Ed Broadbent, Former Member of Parliament and Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada
  • David Doorey, Associate Professor in Work Law, York University
  • Josel Angelica Gerardo, Student Peer Leader at the Young Workers Rights Hub, Toronto Metropolitan University
  • Anthony Giles, Former Assistant Deputy Minister in the Labour Program of Employment & Social Development Canada
  • Kathryn Marshall, Employment and civil litigator at Levitt Sheikh LLP
  • Colette Murphy, Chief Executive Officer of the Atkinson Foundation
  • Lisa Raitt, Former Member of Parliament and Minister of Labour for the Conservative Party of Canada
  • Sara Slinn, Associate Professor of Labour and Employment Law, Osgoode Hall Law School
The Board will help ensure the Ontario Assembly on Workplace Democracy is credible, unbiased, balanced, and well-positioned to inform the future of work.
Steering Committee:
  • Rafael Gomez, University of Toronto – Steering Committee Member
  • Andrew Gibson, University of Toronto – Steering Committee Member
  • Simon Pek, University of Victoria – Steering Committee Lead
Project Team:
  • Andrew Gibson, University of Toronto – Project Manager
  • Abdullah Naqvi, University of Toronto – Project Coordinator
  • Andreas Vatiliotou, University of Toronto – Communications Lead
  • Richard Johnson – Lead Facilitator
What is a Citizens’ Assembly?
Citizens’ Assemblies have been used across Canada and Europe to provide detailed guidance to governments and decision-makers concerning complex public policies. These Assemblies are typically made up of several dozen randomly selected participants who together represent a range of perspectives as well as the demographic profile of a specific jurisdiction. Participation is a voluntary act of public service. Working with a team of independent facilitators, members of a citizens’ assembly learn about an important public issue. They hear from experts, stakeholders, and other citizens as they work towards a consensus concerning their priorities. Citizens’ Assemblies issue detailed public reports that explain their work and make recommendations, which are used by governments and other public authorities to create public policies.
Why is it important that regular people are involved in this work?
First, this topic touches everyone, regardless of whether they are currently working or not. Second, regular Ontarians’ insights and lived experiences are crucial to being able to identify the right mix of policies and institutional arrangements that will meet Ontario workers’ future needs.
What about people who are currently unemployed, or don’t have expertise with worker voice?
We do not expect participants to have any specialized knowledge. They needn't to be an expert, to be currently employed, or be a union member to participate. Their experience as someone who works, has worked, or knows people who work is what matters most. In addition, the various sessions will include a substantive, but accessible, learning program to ensure participants have all the unbiased background information needed to contribute.
Who is eligible to serve on the Citizens’ Assembly?
To be a member of the Assembly, participants must live in Ontario and be aged 18 years or older and be able to attend every session. Only one person per household may volunteer to serve on the Assembly. Elected representatives, including elected trade union officials, are ineligible to participate.
What abour caregivers, or those with limited expertise or access to technology?
We are committed to assisting any eligible resident who is selected to participate successfully. We can provide reasonable subsidies for childcare and eldercare, and technological support if needed and requested.