The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has filed a Charter challenge against Bill 124, the law that violates public sector workers’ constitutional right to collective bargaining by effectively cutting their wages for three years.
OPSEU is asking the Ontario Superior Court to rule Bill 124 a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects the right of workers to free collective bargaining. OPSEU is also asking the court to order the Ford government to cover the costs of all wages lost because of Bill 124, plus damages and the union’s legal expenses.
“From buck-a-beer to the licence plate fiasco, this government has made a lot of laughable mistakes. But the mistake they made with Bill 124 is no laughing matter,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “The Liberals were forced to pay out more than $100 million when they tried to limit workers’ right to free collective bargaining in 2012. The Conservatives are going to be forced to do exactly the same thing.”
Bill 124 limits public sector workers’ wage increases to just one per cent a year for three years. Since inflation will almost certainly be higher than one per cent, Bill 124 effectively cuts their wages.
“It’s bad enough to attack any workers with a wage cut. But to attack a group of workers, predominantly women, who provide important public services is especially outrageous,” said Thomas. “We told the Premier that if he tried to do this, he’d see us in court. That’s exactly where he’ll see us next.”
In its Charter challenge, OPSEU points out that the government justified Bill 124 with financial figures that have been proven false.
Leading up to Bill 124, the government said repeatedly that it inherited a large deficit from the Liberals. But before Bill 124 had even been passed, the Financial Accountability Officer discovered that the deficit was less than half what the Conservatives had been claiming.
Worse, the bill is so far-reaching that it will even cut some workers’ wages into 2025 – the government has no possible way of knowing what the state of the economy will be so far into the future.
“As OPSEU’s Treasurer, I know that you have to make decisions based on your budget,” said OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida. “But you can’t lie about your budget in order to justify hurting people. For one thing, it’s wrong. For another thing, you’re going to get caught and pay the consequences.
“The Ford government is about to pay the consequences.”