The Ford government plans to appeal after an Ontario court struck down Bill 124 | Rare Techy
Ford’s government plans to appeal an Ontario court ruling that overturned a law that limited pay raises for public sector workers, commonly known as Bill 124.
A spokesperson for Attorney General Doug Downey told CBC News the province is reviewing the decision and plans to appeal.
The Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday said the Act to Protect a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The full verdict can be found at the end of this story.
The decision states that the act is not a reasonable restriction on a right that can be demonstrably justified under Article 1 of the Charter in a free and democratic society.
Groups representing several hundred thousand public sector workers have questioned the constitutionality of a 2019 law that limited pay increases to one per cent a year for Ontario public sector workers and the broader public sector.
Judge Markus Koehnen said the law violated the plaintiffs’ right to freedom of association and collective bargaining in what he called a “significant interference.”
Koehnen said Ontario has not explained as part of the decision why it was necessary to violate constitutional rights to impose wage caps while allowing tax cuts or the return of a license plate sticker more than 10 times the savings in wages. containment measure.
However, he said he is bound by Supreme Court of Canada decisions guaranteeing the constitutional right to collective bargaining.
As a result, the act is “null and void,” Koehnen said.
The judge also said that Ontario is free to take the position in collective bargaining that it cannot pay more than one per cent in wage increases. Instead, Ontario appears to have been reluctant to take that position because it could lead to strikes, the ruling said.
“As noted, the right to strike is constitutionally protected,” Koehnen wrote. “Although inconvenient, the right to strike is a component of a free and democratic society.”
Don’t challenge the decision, groups tell province
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF), one of the plaintiffs in the case, tweeted that it was pleased with the decision.
“This decision affirms workers’ rights to free and fair bargaining,” the OSSTF tweeted. Teachers are currently negotiating new contracts with the government and OSSTF president Karen Littlewood said she hoped this round would see free and fair collective bargaining.
The Ontario Federation of Elementary Teachers also tweeted in support of the decision.
The Ontario Federation of Labor (OFL) posted a graphic on Twitter: “Victory.” Steven Barrett, lawyer for OFL and wider public sector workers, said the decision was a “complete vindication” for the unions.
The Ontario Nurses Association tweeted in response to the news: “Nurses demand that the government respect the court’s decision.” The group added that it plans to reopen contracts affected by Bill 124.
BREAKING: Ontario’s top court rejects Bill 124#OnLab #OnPoli pic.twitter.com/r6VdRdzORC
In a statement following the decision, NDP Leader Peter Tabuns said, “My message to Ford is simple: don’t challenge this decision.”
Tabuns called the decision a “victory”, saying the act caused “unspeakable damage to our valuable public services”.
Liberal interim leader John Fraser also said in a statement: “Doug Ford must accept the court’s decision.”
Fraser added that news of the decision came the same day the Financial Accountability Office said the province had spent about $859 million less on health care over the past year.
Green Party leader Mike Schreiner called on the Ford government not to “waste more taxpayer money” on the legislation and to promise not to appeal the decision.
“It’s time to consign Bill 124 to the dustbin of history and start investing in the people who care about us every day,” Schreiner said.
FAO: Repeal of law could cost $8.4 billion over five years
Unions representing government workers, teachers, nurses and university professors argued the law took away meaningful collective bargaining, violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The province argued that the law does not violate constitutional rights.
Provisions in the bill were to last for three years as new contracts were negotiated, and the Tories had said it was a time-bound approach to help close the deficit.
The case was discussed for two weeks in September.
The court found that the law affected more than 700,000 workers in the province. It did not apply to municipalities, First Nations and Indigenous communities, or for-profit corporations.
In September, the Financial Reporting Board reported that Bill 124 would save the province $9.7 billion in public sector wages and salaries. But if the law were repealed and overturned, it could cost the province $8.4 billion over five years, including a $2.1 billion retroactive payment to most workers already affected, FAO said.
Healthcare professionals have long called for Bill 124 to be repealed. They have also said it has contributed to health care crises in Ontario, which have seen a recent spate of nurses and personal support workers leave the profession.
The province claimed it was under severe financial strain to implement the new law.
The judge disagreed.
“In my view, Ontario did not face a situation in 2019 that would justify violating charter rights,” Koehnen said.
“Furthermore, unlike other cases that have supported wage cap legislation, Bill 124 sets the wage cap at a lower level than what workers obtained through free collective bargaining.”