Ontario Nurses Association ‘outraged’ as Ford government refuses to exempt from Bill 124

By Lucas Casaletto

The association that represents more than 68,000 registered nurses and health-care professionals in Ontario is taking the Ford government to court after it refused to exempt front-line workers from Bill 124.

On Friday, the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) said it is filing thousands of pages of evidence from front-line registered nurses to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice over what it calls “wage-suppression legislation.”

“ONA formally requested, almost one year ago, that this government exempt RNs from Bill 124, which we believe breaches the Charter of Rights,” said ONA President Vicki McKenna, RN.

“It is evident that the bill strips registered nurses’ collective bargaining rights to freely negotiate a collective agreement. Not only is it insulting that this government failed to respond to our request for close to a full year, but to deny registered nurses their Charter rights in the midst of a global pandemic is so disrespectful and hard to bear.”

Bill 124, passed by the Ford government in 2019, is aimed at the broader public sector, including hospitals and long-term care homes, among many others, that do not carry on activities for the purpose of gain or profit.

The legislation imposes a series of three-year “moderation periods.” that include salary and compensation caps.

During moderation periods, increases to salaries and compensation are capped at 1 percent each year, subject to certain exceptions.

The legislation states that no collective agreement or arbitration award can provide any increases to compensation for more than one percent for every 12 months of the moderation period.

“ONA will continue to fight for dignity, equality, and respect for our members,” says McKenna.

“… This government has, unfortunately, chosen to force ONA with no alternative but to go to the court. The evidence on Bill 124 is clear to us, and recently backed up by an arbitrator whose decision noted that his hands were tied by Bill 124 when it came to determining monetary issues for registered nurses.”

In July, nurses held a rally against Bill 124, which they say interferes with Charter rights to freely bargain.

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