Some of the most divisive issues between both College Employer and Faculty have been over what behaviour is deemed "unlawful". The source behind this intense legal debate is Bill 124.
Here's why Bill 124 matters.
First, a background: Bill 124 was passed in 2019 by the PC government, with the intention of legislating a limit on the total compensation (eg bonuses, salaries, etc) increases in the public sector to 1% or below for a "Moderation Period" of 3 years.
This means that during this Moderation Period, increases to salaries and compensation are capped at 1% per year, with certain exceptions.
After the 3 year period, Bill 124 and all its provisions expire, and collective bargaining returns to normal.
Now, Bill 124 is particularly important because it covers not only the Ontario public sector, but every postsecondary institution in Ontario, including colleges.
So what does this mean for colleges?
For colleges, the 3 Year Moderation Period begins on the start date of the Collective Agreement. And based on the legislation for Bill 124, the Moderation Period begins: Jan 1, 2022, and ends Dec 31, 2024.
So, getting back to the question: why does Bill 124 matter?
One of the key reasons why the CEC ("College Employer") has not agreed to return to negotiations is because it has indicated that it believes OPSEU's workload amendments contravene Bill 124, and thus, by law, they cannot be agreed to.
But, is this true?
The initial claim seems to stem from third-party Mediator Brian Keller's written report following the failed mediation period last October. In his report, Keller writes:
"In my opinion, the proposed changes to article 11 (except 11.02 B 2) would offend and be contrary to Bill 124, even if the consequence is indirect."
It is a potent statement from an experience mediator, however, it is important to keep in mind that this report is not a legal document, and can only be viewed as an opinion in the context of mediation.
However, OPSEU has responded by reporting that their third-party legal consultant, Christine Davies, lawyer from Goldblatt Partners LLP, has indicated this is not the case:
“In our view, the union’s proposals regarding workload do not offend Bill 124. Nothing in Bill 124 requires employers to limit themselves to 1% increases in the cost of delivering their services[, including] from hiring additional staff or changing staffing models. . . . Rather, Bill 124’s focus is more narrowly on restricting the increases in salary/compensation that flow to employees.”
So the question remains: are OPSEU's workload demands lawful under Bill 124? It would seem that this issue lies at the root of the negotiation breakdown between both sides.
We encourage students to keep informed on both sides.
For all the latest Bargaining updates, check out our Student Portal.
If you're interested, you can read more on Bill 124, here. Sources: