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OFL tells Ford: Respect court decision, stop suppressing workers’ wages

February 14, 2024

TORONTO, Ontario, Feb. 12, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) is calling on the Ford government to end its suppression of workers’ wages, once and for all, following today’s Ontario Court of Appeal ruling to uphold the Superior Court’s 2022 decision striking down Bill 124 as unconstitutional.

“Doug Ford must respect the decision of the courts, and finally stop the suppression of workers’ wages in Ontario,” said Laura Walton, President of the OFL. “After wasting years and millions of public dollars fighting workers in court, Ford needs to assure workers that he won’t pursue another baseless appeal, Instead, the government needs to ensure adequate sector wide funding for those workers that have yet to negotiate a Bill 124 remedy.”

Passed in 2019, Ford’s Bill 124 capped public sector workers compensation increases to one per cent a year over three years, fuelling both a staffing crisis across the broader public sector and a cost-of-living crisis for hundreds of thousands of workers across the province.

“While we welcome today’s decision, we know that workers can’t leave it to the courts to get the justice they deserve,” added Walton. “If Ford attempts to introduce more anti-worker legislation, our movement needs to be ready to stop it in its tracks–just like we did for Bill 28.”

In early November 2022, Ford hastily withdrew his government’s landmark Bill 28: Keeping Students in Class Act–just four days after it passed–following a decision by Ontario’s labour movement to launch province-wide strike action. In the midst of an ongoing strike by education workers, the threat of united action by other workers was enough to kill Bill 28.

Today’s Ontario Court of Appeal decision  upholds the Superior Court’s 2022 finding that Bill 124’s wage restraint measures were unconstitutional and unjustifiably interfered with the freedom of association guarantee under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Since the Superior Court decision, in many part of the broader public sector (including health, education, energy and the post-secondary sectors), arbitrators have awarded (and various unions and employers have negotiated) compensation increases above the one per cent cap in Bill 124, in recognition of the adverse impact of inflation on workers and the ongoing recruitment and retention crisis in many of these sectors.

Indeed, in its reasons, the Court of Appeal specifically emphasized the disproportionate adverse impact of Bill 124 on “women, racialized and/or low-income earners, [who] have lost the ability to negotiate for better compensation or even better work conditions…”

However, in many situations, workers have not received similar compensation increases needed to offset inflation and the staffing crisis. “If Ford really respected Ontario workers, he would provide the necessary funding to bargain fair and reasonable increases for those employees whose compensation is still restricted by the one per cent cap,” said Walton. “We need a government that makes life more affordable for Ontarians, not one that holds down wages.”

The Ontario Federation of Labour represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. It is the largest provincial labour federation in Canada. Visit OFL.ca and follow @OFLabour on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

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