A Toronto labour lawyer says he is challenging a ruling by a provincial court that the Ontario government has not breached its duty to protect his clients’ rights under the Ontario Employment Standards Act.
The decision is being appealed.
The judge in the case has asked for the matter to be heard by a judge of the Ontario Court of Appeal, but lawyers for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union say the court should hear the case by an Ontario Superior Court judge.
Ontario Public Services Employees Union (OPSEU) president Joe Bouchard says the Ontario Supreme Court is ignoring Ontario law.
Bouchart says the court has ignored the clear language in Ontario Employment Regulations, which says the provincial government must comply with all labour law obligations.
“It says it has to be fair to all the workers, not just to the workers at the top,” he said.
“If you have a public employer who is going to take advantage of workers, it has got to be a public institution that’s going to be transparent and accountable.”
Bouchad says the judge’s decision to overturn the ruling is a serious setback for the rights of people who work in public institutions, especially in Ontario.
“We have to be very careful what we say, and we have to look at what we do and what we don’t do in order to avoid being vulnerable to exploitation,” he says.
The ruling by the Ontario Superior Judicial Council says the government’s position in the appeal of the Employment Standards Code is clear.
The court says that “a public employer that does not meet its obligations of employment standards is not required to ensure that workers are paid, that workers have access to the job or that they are given fair opportunity to pursue their interests.”
Boudreaux says the ruling also says that the government must ensure that “workers have access” to public service work in the public sector, and that public servants who do not have those obligations must be fired.
“The court’s opinion that it is a public entity that must be in compliance with the Code of Ethics of Ontario is absolutely not correct,” he added.
The Ontario Public Sector Union has filed an application to appeal the decision.