On Tuesday, November 29, 2022, Justice Markus Koehnen of the Ontario Superior Court issued a decision that found Bill 124, Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, to be in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Specifically, Justice Koehnen found the Bill to be contrary to section 2(d) of the Charter – the freedom to associate – and not justified under section 1 of the Charter, which details reasonable limits.

In other words, there was no justifiable reason to infringe on these workers’ right to bargain collectively.

And, as expected, the province has indicated it will appeal the decision.

Your Union was part of a coalition under the Ontario Federation of Labour which, alongside a number of other Unions, led the challenge to defeat Bill 124 starting back in March 2020. You can read more about that here.

First introduced in 2019, the Ford Conservative’s Bill 124 put a wage cap of 1% per year on many public sector workers, including some members of UFCW Local 175 at various workplaces. The wage caps have also led, in part, to a worsening healthcare situation in the province – particularly through, and as we emerge from, the pandemic.

Among a number of notes made in the decision, Justice Koehnen included:

“The Act prevents collective bargaining for wage increases of more than 1%. This restriction interferes with collective bargaining not only in the sense that it limits the scope of bargaining over wage increases, but also interferes with collective bargaining in a number of other ways. For example, it prevents unions from trading off salary demands against non-monetary benefits, prevents the collective bargaining process from addressing staff shortages, interferes with the usefulness of the right to strike, interferes with the independence of interest arbitration, and interferes with the power balance between employer and employees I find that these detrimental effects amount to substantial interference with collective bargaining both collectively and individually.”

“This is an important decision that upholds the rights of workers to bargain freely for a collective agreement, and I know our members that have been affected by this restrictive anti-worker legislation will be happy to see this result,” said President Haggerty. “We’ve seen this government attack workers’ rights and undercut our public sector workers over and over again – enough is enough.”

While no remedy has been provided yet with respect to this decision on Bill 124, and it’s likely that the province will appeal, your Union will continue to support the OFL and Unions in opposition to Bill 124 as the situation resulting from this decision continues to evolve.

Bill 124 Struck Down by Ontario Superior Court