Ontario Government appeals for reinstating Bill 124
In November 2022, a judge had ruled Bill 124—which caps wages increases for public sector workers—unconstitutional, a ruling that the Ontario government is now appealing.
The Ontario government is currently appealing a court decision made on November 29, 2022, that abolished Bill 124. The Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act capped wage increases for public sector workers at one per cent per year.
The purpose of the bill was to ensure that any wage increases for the public sector reflect the province’s fiscal situation. Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers were affected by this bill—in a time when inflation was growing. After Bill 124 was introduced in 2019, jobs in social assistance and health care increased by 40,800 (59.9 per cent) in two years. The total number of vacancies rose to 108,800, meaning one in seven job vacancies in Canada were in social assistance or health care.
Public sector unions believed the bill violated Section 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which assures freedom of association, thereby protecting groups from “powerful entities” and allowing for collective bargaining.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union criticized the Ford administration in a press release on November 29, 2022, saying that Bill 124 was capping wages “at a time when inflation is at a forty-year high.”
The Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees of Ontario, argued that many of the jobs affected by Bill 124 were predominantly employed with women, while other public service jobs, which are male-dominated, such as policing, were not included in the legislation.
According to a CBC article, Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) president, Patty Coates, showed her support for health-care workers, stating that “Bill 124 has severely impacted workers’ living standards and worsened issues like the staffing crisis in our overburdened health-care system.”
A collection of Ontario public labour unions challenged Bill 124 in court and filed a lawsuit against the Ontario Government on September 13, 2022. On November 29, 2022, Justice Markus Koehnen ruled Bill 124 unconstitutional.
Government lawyers disagreed and stated that Bill 124 was not impacting the workers’ abilities to strike for changes in pay, and that various non-cash benefits could be traded against the wage suppression of the bill.
According to a report by the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario, if the government is defeated in court, it would cost Ontario almost $8.4 billion. OFL President Patty Coates stated in a CBC article that, “The Ford government should be focused on taking meaningful action to address the simultaneous cost-of-living and health care crises in this province. Instead, they are choosing to spend public dollars to fight workers in court.”