May 8, 2023 – Restrictions on collective bargaining limit equality for women, and especially racialized women, in the workplace, says the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF).
This week, the Court of Appeal for Ontario said that LEAF can make arguments in the upcoming case about the constitutionality of the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, 2019 (also known as “Bill 124”).
The Ontario government enacted Bill 124 in 2019. Bill 124 imposed restraints that limited wage/compensation increases in the broader public sector to 1% during each of three one-year moderation periods. Last fall, a judge on Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice struck down the law for violating workers’ rights to freedom of association.
“We know that women make up the majority of Ontario health care, social services, and education workers, and that their work continues to be devalued,” says Pam Hrick, LEAF Executive Director & General Counsel. “Collective bargaining matters because it enables these workers to push for fair compensation, better job security, and improved working conditions.”
Bill 124 disproportionately affects women, and especially racialized women, who make up a large majority of workers in health care, social services, and education. Over 92% of Ontario’s nurses and 82.6% of workers in health care and social assistance sectors are women. Racialized women disproportionately perform care work. The Ontario government’s own data demonstrate that 79% of health care workers, educators, and other workers affected by Bill 124 are women. Notably, municipal police and firefighters – male-dominated fields – were exempt from Bill 124.
“Ontario relied on the essential labour of healthcare and education workers even more during the pandemic, but in return, the government severely limited their abilities to bargain for fair compensation and benefits,” says Hrick. “These workers have had to face extraordinarily stressful working conditions and skyrocketing inflation while their pay remained stagnant. The gendered impacts of Bill 124 cannot be overlooked.”
The Court of Appeal will hear arguments in this case June 20-23, 2023.
LEAF is grateful to Christine Davies, Kat Owens, and Danielle Sandhu, counsel for LEAF in this case.
For media inquiries, please contact:
Project Director, LEAF