Unionized workers at Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) are the latest group to win retroactive pay for the three years their wages were capped by the Ford government’s wage restraint legislation, Bill 124.
On Friday, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the union representing the workers, announced “marathon” bargaining sessions had wrapped up with an agreement. The union had threatened to strike if a deal was not reached.
The tentative deal reached between CUPE and the WSIB includes retroactive pay for the years their wages were capped by Bill 124.
The law was controversially introduced by the Ford government to cap public sector wages at one per cent per year over a three-year period. It was struck down as unconstitutional by an Ontario court at the end of 2022, a decision the province is appealing.
In a statement, the union said the new tentative deal was “the first major freely negotiated collective agreement in the province to include retroactive pay for workers who had their wages unconstitutionally suppressed by Bill 124.”
The WSIB workers are the latest public sector employees to be compensated after Bill 124 was struck down.
LCBO workers, for example, were offered an increase of 0.75 per cent for each of the past three years in a lump sum during reopened talks as a result of the Bill 124 ruling, their union said.
The Ford government also faces a tab of almost $1 billion to cover the renegotiated backpay for health-care workers. On Wednesday, Ontario’s financial watchdog said a new deal that gives nurses a 6.75 per cent pay increase instead of 3 per cent for the Bill 124 years will cost Ontario around $900 million.
“If the government is unsuccessful in its appeal and all hospital employees are awarded retroactive compensation, the FAO estimates that hospital spending could increase by an additional $2.7 billion from 2022-23 to 2027-28, compared to the FAO’s current spending forecast,” the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario wrote in a report.
The Ontario Court of Appeal is scheduled to hear the province’s appeal in late June.