In Late January 2019, the Ontario government unveiled Bill 124, a piece of legislation that restricts the capacity of unions to properly negotiate on behalf of their members.
OPSEU/SEFPO launched a Charter challenge after the government approved Bill 124, saying the bill infringed on the rights of public sector employees to collective bargaining. Bill 124 essentially reduces our earnings for three years by instituting a pay moderation period of three years, without taking inflation or cost of living increases into consideration. It’s not only blatantly unfair and unjust; it’s also against the law. And we provide evidence for it.
We will be requesting that the government reimburse the expenses of all the stolen earnings due to Bill 124 in exchange for restitution from the Supreme Court. The administration has attempted to avoid using severe measures before.
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The Ontario Nurses Association applauded the Ontario Superior Court of Justice’s decision on November 29 that Bill 124 breaches the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is unconstitutional. Judge Koehnen said, “I pronounce the legislation… null and invalid,” in his decision.
The ruling represents a hard-fought victory for ONA and the province’s public sector employees. It stands up for the rights of nurses, healthcare professionals, and all other employees. From the beginning, the ONA’s stance was that this law infringed on the Charter rights of public sector workers to freely engage in collective bargaining.
That is why we filed a lawsuit against this law and put in a valiant effort to get it overturned. Members of the ONA and other public sector employees who fought against this law and made the public aware of its terrible consequences have earned this triumph.
We won’t give up until justice is served to ONA members. She requests that the Ford administration respect the court’s ruling and cease spending public payer money litigating against workers. Justice has been delayed for too long for nurses and employees in the public sector. It is time to get a fair and courteous collective bargaining agreement for nurses and paramedics, as well as the pay they are due.
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Although the High Court’s ruling strikes down the bill and finds the one per cent wage cap unconstitutional, the decision is subject to appeal. The province has already expressed its intention to appeal the decision and will likely seek to delay the court’s decision until the appeal is heard.
While we await a stay or appeal of the court’s decision, unions and employers are trying to determine how best to manage the uncertainty at the bargaining table. Many negotiated collective agreements already contain reopening clauses that were voluntarily agreed to or awarded in interest arbitration as a result of the bill’s “shadow” dealings. Given the uncertainty in the future, unions are expected to push for top-ups and higher wages.
The Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiffs that legislation or another government action would interfere with collective bargaining if:
bans the workers from negotiating collective agreements, restricts or rejects genuine discussion of working conditions, and stops employees from having their opinions heard via a meaningful process of consultation and debate.
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The Ontario Superior Court of Justice rendered its much-awaited judgment in Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association v. His Majesty, 2022 ONSC 6658 on November 29, 2022. The bill was declared invalid by the Court. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ section 2 letter d) was determined to be violated by the bill in terms of the employees’ right to freedom of association.