YWCA Toronto staff.
YWCA Toronto staff. Credit: YWCA Toronto Credit: YWCA Toronto

While Bill 124 was rightfully repealed, and remediation conversations have begun for some public sector employees, the non-profit care economy is suffering.

In February 2024, the Ontario Court of Appeals upheld the ruling that the Bill was unconstitutional, therefore removing the one per cent per year cap to compensation increase for public sector workers. The ruling reaffirmed labour rights and acknowledged what we know to be true: Bill 124 violated bargaining rights enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Many organizations have begun to right this historic wrong – but the non-profit care economy has been left to fend for itself.

While contract re-negotiations have supported retroactive pay for healthcare unions,  teachers, and Ontario Public Service workers who received an additional 9.5 per cent, the burdens of retroactive pay for the social services sector have been left on the shoulders of non-profits to carry – a sector comprised of 80 per cent women and racialized workers.

Non-profit care workers deserve the exact same redress that others have been given. This work is critical for the health and vitality of our communities.

Amidst compounding crises, the demand for social services has continued to mount. Shelter workers feel the brunt of the epidemic of gender-based violence, housing workers seek to provide deeply affordable options amidst a housing crisis, and employment and training services support people even as unemployment rates rise above six per cent for the first time in two years.

While demands for social services are sharply increasing, non-profits face a funding spiral and crisis of human resources. That’s why less than a quarter of non-profits surveyed in the Ontario Nonprofit Network’s 2023 State of the Sector survey indicated being able to meet the demand for their services.

From 2019 to February 2022, a period of great precarity and uncertainty, where the need for social services reached exponential rates, increases to sector compensation were capped at one per cent, per year. Due to Bill 124, the cap was in place despite the increased demands of staff during unprecedented circumstances and exacerbated workloads in turn leading to a burnt-out sector.

In 2023, three-quarters of non-profits faced extraordinary staff turnover. Bill 124 has not only impacted compensation but has hindered the ability to recruit and retain qualified staff.

Despite the sector’s urgent need for support, the Ontario government has given no indication that they will assist non-profits with Bill 124 back pay. In the 2024 Ontario budget, the non-profit sector was not directly mentioned once.

This is detrimental for non-profit social service organizations, and this leaves women behind in Ontario who today, still make $0.68 for every dollar a man makes. For women with disabilities, trans women, Black and Indigenous women, Arab women, and racialized women, this number is even less. These are the people who work to provide services that our communities rely on, services that offer a lifeline for those facing crisis and turmoil, and who support the most systemically marginalized members of our community. Non-profit care workers deserve the same remedy that’s been given others.

The communities we serve rely on our services and for our service to be at its best.  Our staff need to be at their best. That means ensuring their work is valued and recognized. The wellbeing of our communities counts on the strength of non-profit care work.

Heather McGregor

CEO of YWCA Toronto.

Jo Anne Rabanillo

CUPE Local 2189 – President & CUPE Social Service Workers Coordinating Committee Community Agency Rep.