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OPSEU files Charter challenge for thousands of public sector workers

TORONTO – The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has filed a challenge under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms hoping to resolve a long-standing inequity affecting thousands of workers employed directly by the Ontario government.

OPSEU is challenging provisions under the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act (CECBA) which make it illegal for workers to get a binding decision on disputes over job classification. In 1995, the Harris Tories changed CECBA, eliminating the ability to resolve classification issues.

“Sections 51 and 52 of CECBA prohibit access to an independent, final and binding resolution for employees who have a dispute with how their job is classified,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “For the past 14 years, Ontario government workers have had no means of addressing their constantly-changing job duties and responsibilities. This has to change.”

More than 18 per cent of the province’s 44,000 direct employees have disputes over their job classifications. While the government acknowledges that the classification system needs a major overhaul, there is no way to get a resolution without a binding method to decide each case.

“The very foundation of law provides that, at the end of the day, if two parties can’t agree there is an independent person to make a final decision,” Thomas said. “For well over a decade, our members have not had that option. It is our position this violates the Charter, and we will testify to that fact in Superior Court.”