TORONTO - An arbitrator has ruled that air ambulance service Ornge must pay its paramedics more money after wage restraint legislation known as Bill 124 was struck down.

The law, which capped salary increases for broader public sector workers for three years, was ruled unconstitutional in November, but the government is appealing that.

Unifor, which represents the paramedics, says their contract from 2021 that was subject to Bill 124 contained a re-opener clause stating that if the law is repealed or rendered inoperative, they are owed retroactive pay of an additional one per cent for each of the three years.

The Ornge members, who work in both air and ground ambulances, went to the arbitrator to enforce that clause and in a decision this week he directed the employer to make the payments within 30 days.

Ornge had argued that the appeal should make its way through the courts before any decisions are made on the payments, because it wouldn't be good for labour relations if it had to claw back the money should the government win the case.

But the arbitrator disagreed, saying that the employees shouldn't have to wait for the eventual judgment of the courts to be paid.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2022.