Constitutional challenge of Ontario’s wage-cap bill begins in court
Global News reports on the constitutional challenge to Bill 124
Global News covered the first day of the constitutional challenge to Bill 124, scheduled for a two-week court hearing. Bill 124 limited wage increases to 1% per year for Ontario Public Service employees as well as for broader public sector workers, including nurses and teachers. The applicants maintain that Bill 124 violates the constitutional right to meaningful collective bargaining.
Global News quoted some of Colleen Bauman’s submissions to the court:
Colleen Bauman described negotiations in 2019 between Mariann Home, a long-term care home in Richmond Hill, Ont., and SEIU Healthcare, which represents employees such as personal support workers, dietary aids, cooks and cleaners.
The home realized it needed to pay its workers more in order to keep up with other nursing homes. The home and the union reached a deal that would see laundry workers and dietary aids earn a six per cent raise, two per cent raises for registered practical nurses and 2.3 per cent for personal support workers, Bauman said.
She said the province’s Treasury Board “gets wind” of the agreement not long after it was signed on June 14, 2019, which was just nine days after Bill 124 was first introduced in the legislature.
The Treasury Board told Mariann the agreement “may fall afoul with the new bill.”
After the bill passed in November 2019, the government quashed the deal. Mariann Home and the union sought an exemption from the government.
“If compensation at Mariann Home does not improve beyond one per cent there will be a shortage of workers for newly created positions as people seek out homes with better terms of conditions of employment and it is the residents who will suffer,” the home wrote the government, Bauman said.
The province rejected the request and a follow-up appeal. So the two sides signed a new deal that saw one per cent raises and a loss of an increase sick and bereavement days.
“They weren’t able to engage in that meaning free and fair bargaining they had done previously because Bill 124 dictated artificially imposed compensation levels.”