Q25. What is Bill 148? How is it connected to Bill 75?

Bill 148 imposes a wage pattern on public-sector workers; it is not yet in force

A25. Bill 148 is a piece of labour-relations legislation that passed through all stages of the law-making process in December 2015 but has not yet been proclaimed in force.

The correct name of Bill 148 is the Public Sector Sustainability (2015) Act. That name is hard to remember, so most people still call it Bill 148.

Bill 148 does two things:

  1. It imposes the government’s four-year fiscal framework on all public-sector employees, including teachers. (The most prominent part of the framework is wage increases of 0% in the first year, 0% in the second year, 1.0% in the third year, 1.5% in the fourth year, and another 0.5% at the end of the fourth year.)
  2. It forbids any arbitrator from making an award outside the fiscal framework. (Arbitration is a common process by which labour-relations disputes are decided if collective bargaining does not result in an agreement. An arbitrator is like a judge or referee. The two sides in the labour dispute present their arguments, and then the arbitrator makes a final decision.)

Even though Bill 148 passed through the legislature and received Royal Assent, it is not yet in force. That’s because Bill 148 is subject to proclamation. A bill that is subject to proclamation comes into force only when Cabinet issues an order saying that it is in force. Proclamation can happen at any time, or it may never happen. Proclamation does not require any further action by the House of Assembly.

The McNeil government has not yet proclaimed Bill 148 because it does not yet need to. When Bill 148 was passed, the McNeil government still hoped to reach agreements through collective bargaining. If collective bargaining breaks down and any public-sector labour dispute reaches the arbitration stage, it is likely Bill 148 will be proclaimed.

Once Bill 148 is proclaimed, it applies to everybody in the public sector, except teachers, who are governed by Bill 75.

Some people believe that Bill 148 is unconstitutional. If it is, then it cannot be enforced. The same constitutional question has been raised about Bill 75.