PSAC is a founding member of a coalition of unions that came together in late 2019 to fight back against regressive changes being forced on workers by the Ford government. The coalition, coordinated by the Ontario Federation of Labour, represents approximately 270,000 workers and over forty different unions. The coalition announced that we have filed a constitutional challenge to the Ontario Progressive Conservative government’s Bill 124, the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act.
Bill 124 violates the collective bargaining rights enshrined in the freedom of association guarantee of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We cannot let this assault on the rights of workers go unopposed. This constitutional challenge is one part of the Ontario labour movement’s broader campaign to repeal this egregious bill.
“PSAC members in Ontario work for health authorities, counselling services, addiction centres and many of Ontario’s universities. Workers in this sector provide important public services to Ontarians. It is unacceptable that their employer, the Ford government, continues this mean-spirited attack.” said Sharon DeSousa, PSAC Ontario Regional Executive Vice-President
Bill 124 also limits compensation increases, including salaries, pensions and benefits, to 1% for three-year periods, for millions of unionized broader public sector workers in Ontario. This rate is lower than inflationary increases to the cost of living and would effectively result in a pay cut for workers.
“Our workers in the post-secondary sector are already among the most precariously-employed in the province,” said DeSousa. “Their work is critical to the high-quality education provided by Ontario universities. They can’t afford yet another setback that will make life even harder”.
“In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that the freedom of association guarantee in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides constitutional protection for a meaningful right to collectively bargain, and for the right to strike,” said Steven Barrett of Goldblatt Partners, lead counsel for the union coalition.
Workers affected by Bill 124 include those employed by the provincial government, crown agencies, school boards, universities and colleges, hospitals, non-profit long-term care homes, children’s aid societies, social service agencies, and the electricity and energy sectors.
By coordinating resistance efforts, unions have previously successfully challenged legislation that violates workers’ rights, including the previous Liberal government’s Bill 115. The courts found that Bill 115 violated workers’ Charter rights, and it was ultimately repealed.
PSAC will stand with the labour movement to challenge this government’s continued unconstitutional efforts to infringe on the bargaining rights of our members.