Bill 124 hurts Ontario workers, claims unions

The constitutional challenge on the divisive legislation begins

Bill 124 hurts Ontario workers, claims unions

Unions across Ontario have renewed their call for the repeal of Bill 124, as the constitutional challenge for the controversial legislation began on Monday at the Superior Court of Justice.

Bill 124, introduced by the Ford government in 2019, caps the wage increases to be received by Ontario Public Service employees and broader public sector workers at one per cent. The limit will take effect for a three-year moderation period.

The Superior Court of Justice began hearing the charter challenge to Bill 124 raised by unions across the province this week, which stressed that the legislation "fundamentally attacked trade unions rights" in the province.

"Bill 124 represents a blatant attack on free and fair collective bargaining," said Patty Coates, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour. "It interferes with this constitutional right, and tips the scales in favour of employers even before the parties sit down at the bargaining table together."

According to the federation, Bill 124 also affects already vulnerable groups of workers by worsening the sexism and racism that many Ontario employees face.

"Bill 124 hurts Ontario workers. It hurts the labour relations framework in Ontario. It hurts our public services. It hurts everyone who relies on our health care system," said Coates. "We are all harmed by Bill 124. It must go."

The case will be heard in Toronto in over 10 days, which started on Monday, according to a report from the Global News.

Read more: What does Bill 124 mean for employers?

The Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA), one of the unions challenging the legislation, is arguing its fairness for nurses.

"ONA will be arguing in Court that Bill 124 violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by interfering with the rights of nurses and health-care professionals to freely negotiate a contract," said ONA president Cathryn Hoy.

Describing the wage cap as "draconian," Hoy said that the limit is "out of touch with the grave nursing crisis and high demand of health-care professionals" amid the pandemic.

"The Bill tramples on our members' rights and has perpetuated discrimination on the grounds of sex against our predominantly female profession – which we say is contrary to the Charter," said the ONA president.

According to Hoy, the removal of Bill 124 would provide relief to the severe nursing shortage in the province.

"Removing Bill 124 and restoring of the rights of and respect for the province's health-care professionals would go a long way to retaining the nurses we have and bringing those we lost back into the system," she said.

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