CUASA applauds Appeal Court ruling on Bill 124

February 12, 2024

CUASA applauds today’s ruling from the Court of Appeal for Ontario that dismissed the provincial government’s appeal of the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, commonly referred to as Bill 124.

A two-to-one majority of the Court decided the ruling, determining that Bill 124, which capped salary increases for public sector workers to one per cent a year for three years, substantially interfered with workers’ collective bargaining rights. This unfair 1% cap per year to our wage had significant negative impacts as CUASA’s members saw inflation rise during this three-year period to an average of 4.9% per year.

CUASA originally filed its own challenge to Bill 124 in 2020, which resulted in the November 2022 ruling by Justice Markus Koehnen of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that declared the law unconstitutional.

CUASA then joined our fellow Ontario faculty associations through OCUFA to participate in the Ontario Federation of Labour-led coalition of over 40 unions representing more than 250,000 public sector workers to fight the government’s appeal. In today’s decision, the Court of Appeal largely upheld the lower court’s decision, writing that the infringement couldn’t be justified.

In particular, the decision found that, “there is no rational connection between the Act’s objectives and imposing caps on compensation for members of the Carleton University Academic Staff Association or, by extension, academic staff at other universities. As the application judge explained, there is no direct relationship between the funding the province provides to Carleton University (and other universities) and the compensation it pays to its employees”.

As CUASA members are most likely aware, since the decision of the Superior Court of Justice in 2022, many unions, including fellow faculty associations, have successfully renegotiated or won through arbitration retroactive increases in light of Bill 124 being found unconstitutional.

However, for CUASA (and most unions at Carleton), the language in our collective agreement states that salary increases for the period capped by Bill 124 can only be sought “following all possible appeals of the constitutional challenge being exhausted and a final decision being rendered”.

When the initial decision was released in November 2022, CUASA asked the University if it would be willing to begin discussions on increases in light of the bill being struck down. The University refused on the grounds that the government had signalled its intention to appeal.

Now that the province’s appeal has been dismissed, CUASA is hopeful that the University will reconsider its position. We will be approaching the administration to see if we can begin retroactive negotiations following this second court decision that found Bill 124 to be unconstitutional.

Members should be aware that the provincial government now has sixty days to seek leave to appeal today’s decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. CUASA joins our fellow public sector unions in urging the government to respect the Appeal Court decision and not continue its fight against public sector workers in Ontario.

In the meantime, we will continue to monitor next steps. Further information will be shared with CUASA members as it becomes available.

The full text of today’s decision can be found here.

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