Appeal in defense of Bill 124 another slap in the face to nurses: RNAO

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Government Doug Ford’s decision to appeal a court’s rejection of Bill 124 is a double slap in the face for nurses, said the president of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNOA), the Dr. Claudette Holloway.

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The combination of Bill 124, which barred nurses from collective bargaining for three years, and the impact of inflation resulted in a roughly 12% reduction in pay, she said.

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« To me, that’s a double slap in the face — the first slap in the face was even having Bill 124, » Holloway said Friday. “Nurses go to other provinces to get a fair wage, they cross the border, they try to get better paid by working for agency nurses.

Bill 124, the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act (2019), legislated a 1% annual wage increase for three years for the broader public sector.

The legislation was challenged in the Ontario Superior Court, which found that it violated constitutionally protected collective bargaining rights.

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Attorney General Doug Downey’s office confirmed it had served a notice of appeal on Thursday, but would not provide further comment as the matter was before the courts.

Premier Ford had previously called the decision « a very interesting verdict to say the least » that ran counter to precedents set in other parts of the country.

The Manitoba Court of Appeal unanimously ruled last year that provincial wage-control legislation did not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Ontario entered the pandemic with a shortage of nurses and Bill 124 is making the situation worse, Holloway said.

If the Ford government were to drop Bill 124, then it would be possible to start talking about a long-term strategy for recruiting and retaining nurses, she said.

“When nurses leave the system, additional pressures are put on others,” she said.

Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer (FAO) has estimated that overturning Bill 124 would cost Ontario $8.4 billion in additional public sector wages, but critics of the bill pointed to the government’s substantial budget surplus.


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