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Ontario repeals bill that capped wages of public sector workers

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The Ontario government repealed its wage-cap bill on Friday through an order in council.

The government had previously promised to repeal the legislation after losing a court appeal. They announced the repeal in a news release Friday morning.

“Repealing the bill will solve for the inequality of workers created by the recent court decision,” officials said.

The bill, which capped wage increases for public sector workers for a three-year period, has been a point of contention for the Doug Ford government since it received royal assent in 2019.

The province argued it was a necessary and time-limited step to help eliminate the deficit.

Labour groups, however, said it infringed on their rights to collective bargaining and took the government to court.

In November 2022, Justice Markus Koehnen sided with the workers, arguing in an 80-page decision that Bill 124 infringed on the applicants’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

The government appealed, claiming the court “erred in holding that the financial impact of the Act’s limits on the compensation increases substantially interferes with the respondent’s rights to a meaningful process of collective bargaining.”

They also said the judge erred by mischaracterizing the reason why Bill 124 was put in place to begin with.

On Feb. 12, the Court of Appeal for Ontario also ruled in favour of the workers, finding that it did violate the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers.

The Progressive Conservatives committed that same day to repealing the legislation rather than continuing to fight it in the courts, despite the premier’s insistence that it should have been the government’s decision.

“We say Parliament is supreme, meaning the people are supreme. People elect the Parliament. They should make the decisions,” he said at the time.

While the case was being heard in court, the government has slowly been paying remedies to these workers, which include nurses and teachers, to make up for lost wages.

The province’s financial accountability office projects the cost of the remedies between 2022 and 2028 will cost the government about $13.7 billion.

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