(Toronto) – Ontario unions are renewing their call for the Ford government to repeal Ontario’s wage control legislation (Bill 124), after a court ruling struck down a similar law in Manitoba.
The Ontario challenge, brought by a coalition of unions against the Ford Government’s wage control legislation, received a significant boost yesterday as a result of Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice McKelvey finding that the Pallister government’s Public Services Sustainability Act (Bill 28) interferes with the right to collective bargaining and violates the freedom of association guarantee in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In March, a coalition of Ontario unions, coordinated by the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), and representing approximately 270,000 thousand employees and over forty different unions, filed a similar constitutional challenge to Bill 124, the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, arguing that it violates collective bargaining rights enshrined in the freedom of association guarantee of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“This court decision found that the Manitoba wage control legislation is a ‘draconian measure that inhibited and dramatically reduced’ the collective bargaining and associational rights of unionized public sector workers. This is a major victory for working people in Manitoba, and an affirmation that Ontario workers are justified in challenging similar draconian legislation here in Ontario,” said Ontario Federation of Labour President Patty Coates. “The Manitoba courts have upheld workers’ rights to meaningful and fair collective bargaining. I hope Doug Ford is watching, and if he is smart, he will repeal Bill 124 before the Ontario courts rule against him.”
“Many of Ontario’s public sector workers have put their lives on the front lines during the COVID-19 crisis, added Coates. “Public sector workers have always provided vital services and now that everyone understands the value of their work, governments would be wise to ensure they pay them fairly for their service, instead of trampling on their rights.”
“CUPE is proud to work with other unions in Manitoba, like we’re doing in Ontario, not only to ensure the rights of workers under our Constitution are upheld, but that governments understand workers will fight back,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. “Legislation like this must not be allowed to stand. It should be clear to everyone now that Bill 124 must be repealed, and the Ontario government must ensure all public-sector workers are respected.”
“The decision in Manitoba affirms our position that unconstitutional legislation such as Bill 124 must be struck down by the Courts” added the Coalition’s lead counsel, Steven Barrett, managing partner of Goldblatt Partners. As Barrett also pointed out, “the Manitoba court also found that is unfair to require public sector employees to shoulder the burden of the government’s own revenue reduction decisions. This applies foursquare to the Ford government’s decisions to cut taxes and other revenue sources in Ontario, particularly given that Ontario already has the lowest social spending per capita of any province.”
Workers affected by Bill 124, and forming part of the coalition, include those employed by hospitals, non-profit long-term care homes, school boards, universities and colleges, children’s aid societies, social service agencies the electricity and energy sectors, Crown agencies and the provincial government.
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