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Bill 109 becomes law in Ontario

December 11, 2015

On December 10, 2015, Bill 109 – the Employment and Labour Statute Law Amendment Act, 2015 – passed third reading and received Royal Assent.

Bill 109 is comprised of three schedules which amend three different labour and employment statutes: the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997, the Public Sector Labour Relations Transition Act, 1997 and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.

Schedule 1 – Amendments to the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997

Schedule 1 contains a significant number of amendments to the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 (FPPA), which bring that legislation, which governs the collective bargaining for professional fire fighters, more into line with other collective bargaining legislation in the province.

In particular, Bill 109 introduces an unfair labour practice provision to prohibit employers from interfering with the collective bargaining rights of fire fighter associations and from threatening, coercing or intimidating employees who are exercising their rights under the Act. These provisions mirror those found in the Labour Relations Act, 1995.

Bill 109 also gives firefighter associations the right to enforce the rights and protections provided by FPPA before the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB). Previously violations of the FPPA – such as an allegation of bad faith bargaining – could only be enforced in the courts (with the exception of an allegation that an association had failed to meet its “duty of fair representation”, which is made to the OLRB). Access to the OLRB will be more expeditious and less expensive for firefighter associations, and ensure that disputes are heard before an expert tribunal.

Bill 109 provides for expedited grievance arbitration. This addresses the excessive delays associations and their members have experienced in having grievances heard by arbitrators. Expedited arbitration has been available to most unionized workers under other labour legislation for decades.

Bill 109 also gives firefighter associations the express right to negotiate union security and dues collection language into collective agreements, including the right to require fire fighters to be members of the association or to pay union dues whether or not they are members of the association (mandatory Rand Formula provisions).

Bill 109 includes limited protections from discharge from employment for employees who are expelled or suspended from membership in an association because they are members of another association or engaged in activity against or reasonable dissent within an association. These same general provisions are applicable to all unionized employees in Ontario, including in the Labour Relations Act, 1995.

Contrary to some media reports, nothing in Bill 109 specifically authorizes professional fire fighters to work as two hatters in other municipalities. Whether and how the provisions of Bill 109 will apply in any particular case of expulsion or suspension will depend on the specific facts and circumstances before the OLRB, and the OLRB’s interpretation as to whether a particular individual employee was engaged in activity against, or reasonable dissent within, the association.

Schedule 2 – Amendments to the Public Sector Labour Relations Transition Act, 1997

Schedule 2 of Bill 109 amends section 23 of the Public Sector Labour Relations Transition Act, 1997  to provide that, in the case of a restructuring covered by the legislation, no vote is required with respect to a new bargaining unit if at least a “prescribed percentage” of the employees in the bargaining unit were previously represented by a single bargaining agent. In such circumstances, the OLRB must appoint that bargaining agent as the bargaining agent for all of the employees in the unit. Bill 109 further provides that the prescribed percentage must be more than 60 per cent.  This will reduce the opportunity for affected employees to democratically choose their bargaining agent following a restructuring.

Schedule 3 – Amendments to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act

Finally, Schedule 3 of Bill 109 provides protection under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act against taking or threatening to take disciplinary action, imposing a penalty or intimidating or coercing a worker with threats, promises, persuasion or other means where such action is intended to discourage the worker from filing a claim for benefits or influence the worker to withdraw or abandon a claim for benefits. It also permits the WSIB, in the case of survivor benefits for a worker who has no net average earnings on the date of injury, to use net average earnings for workers engaged in the same trade, occupation, profession or calling, instead of the current statutory minimum.

Questions? Contact Howard Goldblatt or Mark Wright.

Practice Areas

Labour Law