CUPE Ontario is demanding that the Ford Conservatives start the spring legislative session by repealing Bill 124 and ensuring their March provincial budget contains funding for a remedy to restore millions of dollars in wages lost by public sector workers when Bill 124 was in effect.

The union is also echoing the call by Ontario New Democrat leader Marit Stiles to apologize to Ontarians for the multiple crises created by Bill 124.

“Doug Ford is counting on distracting us with nonsense about “getting it done” and acting like we all have amnesia about Bill 124. Well, we don’t. And we won’t let him get away with pretending Bill 124 never happened, or that its consequences have been anything less than disastrous for the people of this province. The repeal of this bill should have been the very first order of business when the legislature resumed this week,” said CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn.

The Conservatives promised to repeal the wage-suppressing Bill 124 the day after they lost their appeal of the 2022 Superior Court ruling that declared the bill unconstitutional. Last week’s appeal dismissal means that two Ontario courts have now confirmed the law violated the constitution.

“Because of Bill 124, over a million public sector workers – many of them women, many of them racialized, many earning low wages – were robbed of the opportunity to negotiate better wages and working conditions. It violated their rights and caused untold damage to Ontarians’ public services,” said Hahn.

Bill 124 restricted public sector wage increases to 1% for some 1.3 million boarder public service workers, or 1 in 6 Ontario workers. Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office estimated that the bill robbed them of a collective $2.1 billion in wages.

CUPE Ontario and other unions hold Bill 124 in large part responsible for the current worker shortage in the care sectors, since low wages have made it next to impossible for public sector employers – including hospitals, long-term care homes, universities, social service agencies, schools, and child care centres – to recruit and retain staff. The bill also contributed to understaffing and high levels of burnout among frontline workers.

“Every member of the Conservative caucus voted to enact legislation that was found to have violated constitutionally protected rights. Making this right should be their priority. But their contempt for workers, for the public services our communities rely upon, and for Ontarians means they won’t, unless public and political pressure compels them to act.”

The Conservatives never run out of ways to show their scorn for the public sector, Hahn said, pointing out that “they’re building private hospitals, education workers are being laid off because schools have been defunded, they’ve contracted out ServiceOntario outlets to Staples, and given away public space at Ontario Place to a private spa.”

“But we won’t allow Conservatives to forget the harm they did with Bill 124. They must move to finally repeal the Bill. Then they must make sure the budget they introduce fully rectifies the situation they created, and that it ensures fully funded services and provides a remedy that makes whole every worker who was impacted.”