The Facts On Bill 195 and how it affects Members’ Rights.
Since its inception, Bill 195 has elicited criticism from Ontario’s elected officials, constitutional experts, legal experts, and labour unions.
Here are the facts CIPP members need to know.
On July 21, 2020, the Ontario Legislature passed the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, also known as “Bill 195”. This purpose of this legislation was to extend the Emergency Orders made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic while, at the same time, ending the declared emergency.
In doing so, this legislation maintains and extends the emergency orders beyond the limits in the Emergency Act, increases the power of cabinet, weakens legislative oversite of the government, and violates the rights of Ontarians guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, particularly those of unionized workers.
During the Declared Emergency regarding COVID-19, the Provincial Government issued over 40 emergency orders, some of which have been revoked or have expired.
CIPP members are primarily affected by four of these emergency orders:
• Drinking Water Systems and Sewage Works, O Reg 75/20,
• Work Deployment Measures in Long-Term Care Homes, O Reg 77/20, t
• Work Deployment Measures for Boards of Health, O Reg 116/20, and the Work Redeployment for Certain Health Service Providers, O Reg 74/20
• Work Deployment Measures for Municipalities, O Reg 157/20 to prevent, reduce or mitigate the effect of COVID on critical municipal services, which are listed as:
- The maintenance of municipal long-term care homes;
- The delivery of public health services;
- The operation of homeless shelters and the provision of services to homeless persons;
- The provision of drinking water;
- Waste management and sanitation;
- Wastewater management;
- Public transportation services;
- The provision of Ontario Works benefits administered by the municipality;
- The administration, operation and funding of child care programs and services;
- The enforcement of by-laws; and
- Services related to the implementation of the municipality’s emergency plan.
Although there are some minor variations among them, generally these orders permit employers to develop and implement a redeployment plan notwithstanding any other law, regulation, or collective agreement.
This plan can involve redeploying staff between different locations, changing assignments of work, having non-bargaining unit members do bargaining unit work, changing schedules or shift assignments, deferring or cancelling leaves or vacations, and employing extra part time, temporary, contract or volunteer staff (including to do bargaining unit work).
They also have the power to conduct skills inventories, collect certain kinds of information from workers related to availability to work and health status.
In addition, the grievance process is suspended related to any of these actions that violate collective agreement provisions.
The Provincial Government has also given itself additional powers through Bill 195. Under the Emergency Act, emergency orders were only in effect for 14 days unless renewed, but this legislation increases that to 30 days. In addition, where emergency orders were tied to the declaration of an emergency which could only be extended by the Legislature every 28 days, Bill 195 ends the declared emergency and gives the power to extend emergency orders to cabinet for a year or more without legislative oversight.
Finally, Bill 195 violates your rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Under our system of rights and freedoms, your Charter protected rights can be infringed only in the most serious emergencies and only in the most minimal way possible given the circumstances. In 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that collective bargaining rights are protected under section 2 (d) of the Charter and has since allowed certain minimal infringement of collective bargaining rights under the most serious emergencies, such as the global financial crisis of 2009.
Whereas the emergency orders that take away your collective agreement rights might have been justified during the COVID-19 crisis, ending the Declared Emergency ends the legal justification for doing so.
The National Post has forcefully called out Bill 195: “This power-grab is an unjustified violation of Charter protected rights, and citizens should be concerned.” Read the editorial here: https://nationalpost.com/opinion/opinion-ontarios-semi-emergency-covid-19-bill-is-an-attack-on-our-rights
As Steven Barrett of Goldblatt Partners LLP, specialists in labour law, states: “There is simply no justification for this sort of intrusive, unwarranted interference.”
Bill 195 is just a law to override workers rights. We urge Members to make their voices heard against it.
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