Learn about ONA’s fight to defeat Bill 124.
In 2019, the Ford government introduced and passed Bill 124, wage-suppression legislation negatively impacting registered nurses, nurse practitioners, health-care professionals and other public-sector workers. This bill limits wage increases to a maximum of one per cent total compensation for each of three years.
As nurses and health-care professionals, we do our best to provide high-quality care to our patients, residents, and clients day in and day out. Our invaluable work has never been more apparent than during the pandemic and ongoing health-care staffing crisis. We deserve equity, fairness and respect.
Bill 124 Reopener Decisions
Although ONA was successful in striking down Bill 124 in court and had the foresight to achieve reopener clauses to seek retroactive wages, the recent binding arbitration decisions for hospital and charitable homes members are not nearly enough to retain and recruit nurses and health professionals to a system already suffering from severe shortages.
The most recent hospital sector decision by Arbitrator Gedalof includes an additional 2.0 per cent, effective as of April 1, 2022, and a compressed wage grid for nurses with between eight- and 25-years of experience.
This is on top of the previous decision by Arbitrator Stout that allocated additional wage increases of 0.75 per cent and 1.0 per cent, effective April 1 of 2020 and 2021, respectively. Hospital members also received unlimited mental health coverage in this decision.
ONA members working in the charitable nursing homes sector will receive an additional 0.75 per cent in each of three years, effective July 1 of 2021, 2022 and 2023.
These meagre increases do not reflect the value of our professions, nor do they address the current context with inflation and expenses at an all-time high. We have seen the highest inflation rates in a generation; these arbitration decisions do not come close to those rates, and do nothing to address existing gender inequity.
We recently completed the current round of hospital bargaining with the Ontario Hospital Association without reaching a negotiated agreement. In early May, the Board of Directors, the Hospital Central Negotiating Team and ONA staff will once again present our demands to an arbitrator in early May. The arbitrator’s decision is expected to be released in the summer.
One thing is clear: whatever the arbitration decision, we must continue to mobilize and fight for better staffing, wages and care. Our fight has just begun, and we know that together, we can win.
Bill 124 Reopener Virtual Town Hall – May 4, 2023
On Thursday, May 4 at 5 p.m. (EST), ONA hosted a Zoom virtual town hall to review the decisions, answer your questions, provide additional information and outline next steps.
* Note that estimates will vary slightly depending on exact start/anniversary date.
Members’ win: Bill 124 ruled unconstitutional by Court
The Ontario Nurses’ Association welcomed the Ontario Superior Court’s decision, on November 29, that rules Bill 124 is unconstitutional and a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In his decision, Justice Koehnen wrote, “I declare the Act… to be void and of no effect.”
This decision is a hard-fought win for ONA and public sector workers across the province. It is a vindication of the rights of nurses, health-care professionals and all workers. ONA’s position from the start was that this bill interfered with the Charter rights of public sector workers to freely negotiate a collective agreement.
That’s why we launched our court challenge against this legislation and why we have fought tirelessly for it to be repealed. This victory belongs to ONA members and other public sector workers who have advocated for years to defeat this legislation and bring its devastating impacts to light.
We will not back down until ONA members achieve justice. ONA is demanding the Ford government accept the court’s ruling and stop wasting taxpayer dollars fighting workers in court. Nurses and public sector workers have waited long enough for fairness. It’s time for nurses and health-care professionals to achieve a fair and respectful collective agreement and the wages they are owed.
- Media Release: “Ontario Nurses’ Association Celebrates Ontario Court Ruling that Bill 124 is Unconstitutional as a Win for Nurses and Public Sector Workers” (November 29, 2022)
- Read the court’s decision.
- Read the news post from ONA’s legal representation: “Bill 124 Declared Unconstitutional”
Watch: Union Media Conference on Bill 124 Ruling, Nov 30.
ONA Interim Provincial President/Region 2 Vice-President Bernie Robinson participated in an OFL press conference on Bill 124’s landmark court decision at Queen’s Park on Nov. 30. Representatives from CUPE Ontario, SEIU Healthcare, OSSTF, ETFO and the CLC were also in attendance.
Background on ONA's Charter Challenge
ONA and other labour unions launched their Charter challenge against Bill 124 in 2019 (more here). ONA submitted extensive evidence supporting our arguments for why Bill 124 violates the Charter, including from our front-line members.
The hearing for ONA and other unions’ Bill 124 constitutional challenge ran every day for two weeks, from Sept. 12-23, 2022. We presented our evidence on September 13 and 14. ONA’s legal team was Kate Hughes, Danielle Bisnar, and Janet Borowy of Cavalluzzo LLP.
Over the span of two days, ONA presented facts, affidavits, caselaw and supporting documentation – thousands of pages – in open court to Justice Koehnen of the Ontario Superior Court. It will be up to the Justice to rule whether Bill 124 contravenes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, also known as the Charter.
We argue Bill 124 is unconstitutional on two main grounds:
- Bill 124 interferes in our members’ rights to freely collectively bargain.
- Bill 124 is discriminatory as it discriminates and disproportionately impacts female-dominated professions.
ONA argued that our members simply want to be treated equally, for the collective bargaining process to be respected, and for the government to stop interfering with the collective bargaining rights of our members. Read ONA’s Factum for more information on our legal arguments.
ONA Members Fighting Back
ONA has highlighted this issue in media since Bill 124 was passed. ONA media releases, which have been picked up by many major media outlets, are also shared on social media.
ONA leaders have never stopped lobbying the government, participating in multiple meetings and consultations, and meeting directly with the President of the Treasury Board to express our members’ deep concerns with Bill 124.
In the 2022 provincial election, members across the province made Bill 124 an election issue and made three out of four major parties commit to repealing the bill if elected. Though Premier Doug Ford was re-elected with a majority government, most Ontarians across the province voted for a political party that wanted to repeal Bill 124 and address the health-care staffing crisis.
Premier Doug Ford has since been quoted several times, committing to give public sector works a wage increase of more than 1 per cent. Our pressure is working, but members must continue to push the government to stop fighting workers in court.
Now more than ever, we deserve recognition and reward. A fair and respectful wage increase is long overdue.