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OPSEU/SEFPO concerned about Bill 106 implications for pay equity, bargaining

Ontario Equal Pay Coalition

Toronto – OPSEU/SEFPO President JP Hornick is expressing deep concern over the passage of Bill 106, the Pandemic and Emergency Preparedness Act, 2022, saying it has troubling implications for collective bargaining and pay equity.

“Parts of this bill circumvent the union and collective agreements, and that is entirely unacceptable,” said Hornick. “I’m also greatly concerned about the legislation’s potential to allow the government to bypass pay equity obligations.”

Bill 106 creates the Supporting Retention in Public Services Act. The new act allows the government to choose classes of employees to receive wage enhancements that are inconsistent with collective agreements. These increases will be passed by regulation, so neither the legislature nor parties to collective agreements will have a role in choosing which employees should receive increases. The act represents a very significant interference in free collective bargaining. It also provides that wage enhancement programs are not subject to Bill 124, effectively exempting the government from its own unjust wage cap for the employees it handpicks.

The act also disallows complaints under the Labour Relations Act or the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act. The legislation prevents employers, tribunals, arbitrators and arbitration boards, and the courts from expanding these payments to more classifications, even if that would be reasonable or otherwise required by law. OPSEU/SEFPO is troubled by the power Bill 106 hands the government to substitute these increases for pay equity compensation.

“The government essentially wants to give some employees more money, without consulting their legal bargaining agent or their collective agreement,” said OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Laurie Nancekivell. “This strikes at the very heart of the union’s role in a unionized workplace.

“At the same time, the government seeks to evade its pay equity obligations by saying to a select few workers, ‘Here’s some money, but don’t expect the pay equity you were awarded,’” Nancekivell added. “It’s underhanded and it’s unfair, and it applies to the lowest-paid workers, who are mostly women.”

“No one should be fooled by this sneaky legislation,” said Hornick. “Under the cover of emergency preparedness and worker retention, this government is setting a dangerous precedent by sidelining both the union and the collective agreement, which are there to protect workers. Not only that, they’re excluding other legislation, the courts and tribunals, which also exist to ensure workplace rights are upheld.

“Bottom line? If they can use Bill 106 for good measures, they can also use it for bad measures – and that’s what we think this part of the legislation is really all about: hurting and dividing workers, not retaining or rewarding them.”

For more information: Steve Fairbairn, OPSEU/SEFPO Communications Supervisor, 416-802-1074; OPSEUCommunications@opseu.org