The report estimates that a total of $2.1 billion in public sector workers could be owed in the form of retroactive payments if Bill 124 is repealed. However, if the province loses the legal challenge, the FAO says it could be asked to pay an additional $8.4 billion in salaries over a five-year period, including an estimated retroactive payment of $2.1 billion for 2022-2023. The province rejected these requests, although the premier said the government would negotiate fairly when contracts affected by the law expire. The constitutional challenge to Bill 124, which limited civil service salary increases to one percent for three years, began in early September. Ontario government lawyers further argue that the bill cannot be distinguished from the “broad” and time-limited compensation limitation laws upheld by the Supreme Court. In 2016, the Ontario Superior Court ruled that the bill violated the Charter because it had “significantly interfered” in the negotiations. Bill 124 is being challenged in court, alleging that it violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by interfering with meaningful collective bargaining. Lawyers from the Elementary Teachers` Federation of Ontario (ETFO) then took to the podium and returned to the issue of freedom of association. ETFO argued that Bill 124 was not necessary in the education sector because the government already had a legislated role in collective bargaining in education. ETFO argued that the government is required to make economic decisions in a manner consistent with the constitutional rights of those affected. TORONTO, Sept. 12, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Workers gathered outside the Steps of the Supreme Court this morning as the Court prepared to hear the constitutional challenge to Bill 124 from unions across the province. The bill limits public sector compensation to one per cent, at a time when inflation is at its highest level in forty years.
However, the unions involved in the legal dispute are even broader, encompassing not only the sectors targeted by the bill, but also others, including transit and electricity workers. It is also argued that the bill does not affect the ability of groups to negotiate job security, benefits and seniority. Official Opposition New Democrats say they will fight with the unions to the end, calling the bill “unconstitutional.” The Wag Cap Act has drawn criticism not only from trade unions, but also from politicians. Critics say the bill has contributed to the lack of care, which has led overworked employees to leave the profession due to lack of pay during the pandemic. The unions believe the bill violates section 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees freedom of association, a right that the Supreme Court extended to the protection of collective bargaining in a landmark 2007 decision. Projections released by Ontario`s Financial Accountability Office (FAO) estimate that a court defeat could cost the province $8.4 billion between 2022-23 and 2026-27. This calculation assumes that public sector workers whose wages were already capped by Bill 124 would be compensated, while the bill would not apply to future negotiations. The province, for its part, maintains that the bill does not violate the Charter. Some unions also believe the bill is discriminatory because it targets female-dominated sectors such as nursing. The groups say there was no meaningful consultation before the bill was introduced in the Legislature. Critics have long called for the law to be repealed, saying it has contributed to a severe shortage of care.
The province contends that it consulted with groups in good faith between the introduction of the bill in June 2019 and second reading of the bill in November 2019. In the current Charter challenge, OPSEU says it will ask the court to “ensure that the government covers every penny of wages lost by public sector workers as a result of this legislation,” according to a statement on its website. The challenge to Bill 124 on the Charter will be heard by the Ontario Superior Court A high-stakes legal challenge that began this week in Toronto could be crucial to restricting the right of Ontario unions to bargain. The first hurdle unions have to overcome is evidence that the bill significantly affects collective bargaining, a view the government denies. The province goes on to say that the bill is not discriminatory. When the government passed Bill 124, OPSEU/OPSEU filed a Charter challenge alleging that the law violated the right of public sector workers to collective bargaining. By introducing a 3-year wage moderation period and without taking into account inflation and the cost of living, Bill 124 effectively reduces our wages for three years.