What is Bill 124?
Bill 124 is a piece of legislation passed by the Progressive Conservative party of Ontario in November 2019 that sets limits on compensation increases for all public sector employees. The bill stipulates that during the 3 years following passage of the bill–what’s known as the moderation period–all compensation is limited to an annual 1% increase. As public institutions, universities fall under the purview of this legislation. This means that whatever contract we negotiate with York, this round of bargaining must be in line with the parameters set out by Bill 124.
What counts as compensation?
The bill defines compensation fairly broadly as “anything paid or provided, directly or indirectly, to or for the benefit of an employee, and includes salary, benefits, perquisites and all forms of non-discretionary and discretionary payments.”
In some cases, it is possible to share the 1% increase across different categories; we could, for example, negotiate a slightly higher increase in benefits in exchange for a smaller increase in the amounts allocated to our various funds. Wages, however, are not able to be shared in this way and are capped at the 1% increase.
Doesn’t Bill 124 violate our right to collective bargaining?
We certainly think so! A coalition of unions has filed a Charter challenge, arguing that this bill is in violation of the right of freedom of association, as enshrined in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Unfortunately, however, Charter challenges are lengthy processes and it is unlikely that the bill will be struck down in the near future.
What has this got to do with equity?
Fair wages are an integral part of ensuring equity and while we believe that 1% is woefully inadequate in addressing the financial needs of our members, we will fight to ensure that our members are given the full increase. We have recently seen locals such as CUPE 4600 successfully negotiate for a 1% increase of the total cost of their collective agreement and are seeking to pursue a similar route.
With monetary asks taking a bit of a back seat, this will mean that we are able to better focus on our non-monetary equity proposals. In the past, important proposals have been dropped in exchange for monetary compensation. We can use this round of bargaining to strengthen the areas of our CA that will provide better job security and access to opportunity to the five equity-seeking groups in our CA.