Bill 124 Sets Legal Precedent For Public Worker Strikes


Dec 22,2022

Bill 124 Ruled Unconstitutional, Likely to Prompt Public Sector Strikes 

Bill 124 Sets The Stage For Worker Strikes in Canada

Bill 124, the 2019 labor bill that limited the pay increases of public sector employees in Ontario to just one percent per year, was recently struck down as unconstitutional by the Ontario Supreme Court of Justice. While the decision is set to be appealed by The Ontario Provincial Government, the recent decision is likely to inspire a number of public sector employees to demand more from their employers. Heading into 2023, worker strikes and union turmoil should be expected as the new normal for not just employers in the public sector, but also in the private sector.

Many union leaders and workforces in Ontario including teachers, nurses, and public health employees initially criticized the bill for not including firefighters and police officers in the wage increase restrictions. As some workers were deemed “essential” and others were not (such as nurses and teachers), many professionals, specifically in the healthcare sector, were prompted to seek work in the private sector or even leave the profession entirely. The end result has ultimately caused labor shortages in public healthcare facilities including hospitals, putting the health of the general public at risk.

Bill 124: Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act 

At the tail end of November 2022, the bill was officially struck down after it faced legal challenges from the Ontario Nurse’s Association. The union successfully argued that it violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by preventing unions from freely bargaining for better deals with their employers and that it specifically impacted women in female-dominated industries such as nursing. 

Ultimately, the Ontario Supreme Court of Justice ruled in favor of the Ontario Nurses Association, setting the stage for a number of potential labor strikes that could occur in not just in healthcare, but in a number of other sectors as well.

Bill 124 and What It Means For The Future Of Labor

As Bill 124 is considered a legal win for many public sector employees, as it is likely to inspire a number of unionized workforces to head to the bargaining table and demand an increase in wages and benefits. Many teachers and nurses have had the challenge of working in environments that have challenged their own health, with wages that have not increased in line with inflation.

The impacts of such a ruling could also spill over into other provinces, and create a legal precedent for pushing back on wage suppression efforts from the government, even if it is initially deemed constitutional. Many employers should be prepared for pushback from their workforces which can likely turn into strike action, walk-offs, and a number of security concerns.

Bill 124 Implications For Employers

Strike action in healthcare and teaching is likely to cause a number of ripple effects throughout the economy while putting the health of the public at risk. Now is the time for extensive contingency planning that can help an employer weather the storm of strike action and maintain operations even during a difficult strike. Many healthcare facilities require extensive planning to address such issues and ensure they are capable of providing quality care despite ongoing strike efforts.

AFIMAC is the global leader in contingency planning, strike preparation, and even contingent worker resources to help manage the unfortunate consequences of a strike in the public sector. When an employer is short on labor, AFIMAC can tap into a database of skilled workers suitable to support skeleton teams and navigate both short and long-term labor disruptions. 

Difficult strikes in the public sector also have the potential to turn violent and destructive in a number of minutes, creating risks for those crossing the picket lines and the striking workers themselves. At times, the public might turn against politicians, demonstrating at their own offices or even their homes. 

When tempers run high on the picket line, many employers will also quickly learn that they are in need of picket line management solutions that not only protect those crossing the picket line but hold picketers accountable for their actions. Evidence gathering is just one of the many tools offered by AFIMAC to document the behavior of picketers, and ensure everyone behaves appropriately.

As for the elected officials tasked with bringing a strike to an end, the security risks are likely to soar during a contention strike. Secure transportation, close protection agents, and protective drivers all play a role during these labor disruptions and can ensure your safe movements and allow you to conduct work and bring an end to a strike as quickly as possible.

Should private or public sector employers be expecting a strike, the time is now to prepare. Contact Jim Rovers of AFIMAC directly by emailing jrovers@afimaccan.com to learn more about available services that can help you manage the complications of strike action and labor turmoil of all kinds.

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