CUPE Ontario welcomed the news today that Ontario’s Court of Appeal has denied the Ford government’s appeal of the earlier decision to strike down Bill 124, the wage restraint legislation that was ruled unconstitutional in 2022 by Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice.
The union also called on the Conservatives to repair the damage caused by Bill 124, beginning with dramatically more funding for public services in the upcoming provincial budget.
“This decision confirms what so many already knew: that Bill 124 violated workers constitutionally protected rights, and that it should never have been made law,” said CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn. “Surely Doug Ford and his Conservatives will now finally get the message: stop wasting public tax dollars in the courts and start making substantial investments in public services and the people who deliver them.”
In rejecting the Conservatives’ appeal, the court preserved a hard-won victory for labour. CUPE Ontario was part of a coalition of 90 unions and labour associations, coordinated by the Ontario Federation of Labour, that brought the legal challenge to overturn Bill 124, on the grounds that it violated workers’ constitutional right to bargain their wages collectively. In November 2022, Justice Markus Koehnen agreed and his decision rendered Bill 124 null and void. Today’s decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld this ruling.
“Bill 124 did incalculable damage to workplaces and communities. Workers were denied the right to negotiate a fair wage increase; and this attack on workers had impacts throughout the public sector. We lost services and staff and, tragically, we are still experiencing the effects on our public services,” Hahn said.
“Our hospitals, long-term care homes, universities, social service agencies, our schools, child care centres – they can’t attract or retain enough staff to ensure adequate services. Workers continue to suffer burnout because of understaffing. Bill 124 targeted frontline workers, who are mainly women and racialized. It made preexisting inequities even more dire and forced too many care workers to hold two and three jobs just to make ends meet. This sad reality still exists; we’re all still living through the impacts of Bill 124.
“Only more funding for our public services will allow workers’ wages to keep pace and attract more people to vital frontline jobs.”
Hahn pointed out that today’s decision by the Court of Appeal “opens the door to a remedy for those unionized workers who have not already been awarded or been able to negotiate one,” indicating that CUPE Ontario will explore options for financial recompense for workers who were denied decent wage increases under Bill 124. According to the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario, Bill 124 affected around 1.3-million broader public service workers – or 1 in 6 Ontario workers – and robbed them of $2.7 billion in wages.
“Ontarians should never forget that the Conservative caucus and the PC party chose to go after wage workers, when they should have been thanking them for putting their lives on the line during the pandemic. In a time of high inflation, he tried to deny vital frontline workers the decent wages that are linked to high-quality services,” said CUPE Ontario Secretary-Treasurer Yolanda McClean.
“Think of the enormous damage to workers’ mental health, to families, to their personal lives, to their ability to live decent, dignified lives. We all see the damage done to our communities. Bill 124 made already difficult days much worse; and while this decision should bring this particular battle to its end, we won’t ever forget the damage the Conservatives have done to Ontario.”