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Ontario unions renew call to repeal wage restraint bill after Manitoba ruling

Publish date: Thursday, June 18, 2020 update

Manitoba Legislature

Manitoba judge overturns “unconstitutional” legislation similar to Ontario’s Bill 124

A coalition of more than forty Ontario unions, including AMAPCEO, are renewing their call for the Ford government to repeal Bill 124—Ontario’s public sector wage restraint legislation—after a court found a similar law in Manitoba unconstitutional.

Manitoba’s Bill 28 (Public Services Sustainability Act), introduced in 2017, is uncannily similar to Ontario’s Bill 124 (Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act), which passed in 2019. Both pieces of legislation sought to unilaterally set compensation increases for public sector employees—including their salaries and benefits—as collective agreements expire. The governments in both Manitoba and Ontario pushed for increases lower than inflation.

In a ruling last week, Justice Joan McKelvey found Manitoba’s Bill 28 was a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and created “substantial interference” on workers’ collective bargaining rights. She noted the legislation was a “draconian measure” designed to reduce unions’ bargaining power.

“This is a huge victory for public sector workers in Manitoba, in a fight that they should not have had to wage,” said AMAPCEO President Dave Bulmer. “We hope the Ford government is paying attention and will repeal its similar legislation in Ontario before a court strikes it down.”

AMAPCEO is one of the original ten unions to join the Ontario coalition, organized by the Ontario Federation of Labour, who have together filed a constitutional challenge to Bill 124. Together, the coalition represents approximately 270,000 public sector employees across the province.

“Ontario’s public servants bring their all, every day, and especially during the pandemic,” Bulmer said. “They don’t deserve to have their constitutional rights steamrolled. Repeal this legislation now.”

Unless the law is repealed by the government, the Ontario coalition will continue its challenge. “The decision in Manitoba affirms our position that unconstitutional legislation such as Bill 124 must be struck down by the courts,” said the coalition’s lead counsel, Steven Barrett, managing partner of Goldblatt Partners.

Except for those AMAPCEO members at Ontario Health – Quality, whose contract expires this year, AMAPCEO members would not be affected by Bill 124 until 2022 at the earliest.

Manitoba’s bill—which had been passed but not actually proclaimed—negatively impacted 21 collective agreements in that province. With the court’s ruling, the Manitoba government and affected unions will now return to negotiations.

“AMAPCEO wishes those unions well in their fight for fair deals for their workers,” said Bulmer.

For more information:
Jason Wagar, Communications Specialist — wagar@amapceo.on.ca, 416.595.4986

More about AMAPCEO and our Members: Established in 1992, AMAPCEO is a bargaining agent that represents 14,000 professional and supervisory public servants, most of whom work directly for the Government of Ontario in every ministry and in a number of agencies, boards and commissions; in 130 communities throughout Ontario and in 12 cities outside Canada. We also represent employees outside the Ontario Public Service in: the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario; Health Quality Ontario; the Ontario Arts Council; Public Health Ontario; the Waypoint Mental Health Centre in Penetanguishene; and in the former Offices of the Ontario Child Advocate and the French Language Services Commissioner (now part of the Ontario Ombudsman).