Ontario Repeals Bill 124: A New Era for Public Sector Compensation

Ontario Repeals Bill 124: A New Era for Public Sector Compensation

Applauding the Ontario Court of Appeal’s rejection of the Ford government’s appeal, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) hailed the final nail in the coffin of Bill 124. This controversial legislation, which capped public sector worker wage increases at 1% annually for three years, had been deemed unconstitutional by the Superior Court in 2022. The IAM views this verdict as a victory for collective bargaining rights and a step towards fairer compensation for public sector workers.

Having been met with strong opposition and constitutional challenges launched by Ontario’s labour movement, the Court of Appeal’s decision forced the Ontario government to officially repeal Bill 124. The controversial legislation, which had been introduced in 2019, imposed strict caps on salary increases and other compensation, sparking heated debates and drawing criticism from unions and workers alike. An Ontario court had deemed that the Bill was unconstitutional, but the Ford government originally appealed the decision, which has now been upheld.

At the heart of the issue is that Bill 124 was an attack on the right to free collective bargaining, a constitutionally protected right, which restricted unions’ ability to negotiate fair collective agreements.

The brunt of the legislation was borne by predominantly female workforces, and particularly, low wage, precarious workers. The legislation affected education and health sectors, both of which have large female workforces and chronically low pay, in which working conditions have been eroded through budget cuts, staffing shortages, and poor working conditions. Defunding those sectors along with imposing limits on wages and compensation would have only made the situation worse and eroded the quality of education and health in the province. Bill 124 was certainly a far cry from Ford’s promise to, “look out for the little guy”.

The repeal of Bill 124 has spurred renewed negotiations between employers in the public sector and public sector unions to negotiate fair wages. Multiple unions are going back to the bargaining table and not only making up for what was lost since 2019, but they’re also making new gains for workers.

Despite the challenging environment for unions under the Ford government, labour has had major wins over the last couple of years. This sends a strong message to Ford that labour will not stand idly by while our most coveted rights are under attack.