Skip to main content

Alberta New bill could derail Alberta public sector arbitration for 180,000 workers

Alberta’s finance minister won’t promise that 180,000 public sector workers will still get their legally mandated wage arbitration hearings if they don’t happen as planned this fall.

Travis Toews declined to make the commitment when asked by reporters Wednesday.

But he reiterated that the plan right now is to have those arbitration hearings take place this fall after Oct. 31.

Story continues below advertisement

“The intent is simply to delay arbitration for a few months so that we can ensure that we’re taking a responsible tack forward (with Alberta’s finances),” said Toews.

The delay is contained in a bill brought in by Toews last week.

If passed, Bill 9 would cancel contract provisions that mandate binding arbitration for 180,000 public sector workers. Under current collective bargaining agreements, those arbitration hearings must occur on or before the bill’s new deadline of Oct. 31.

The bill would impose the delay on unionized workers who took pay freezes in the first years of their contracts but now have the right in the final year to have the wage portion reopened and subject to binding arbitration if necessary.

The workers affected include nurses, social workers, hospital support staff, prison guards, conservation officers, toxicologists, restaurant inspectors, therapists and sheriffs.

Premier Jason Kenney’s government has notified the house that it intends to limit debate at all three stages of the bill, something the Opposition NDP said hasn’t happened in almost 30 years.

“They are running roughshod over the democratic process on something that is very, very impactful to hundreds of thousands of Alberta workers,” said NDP labour critic Christina Gray.

Story continues below advertisement

Gil McGowan, head of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said Bill 9 is not about delaying the arbitration process but eliminating it altogether.

“If they pass this bill there will be no arbitration,” said McGowan.

Toews and Premier Jason Kenney have said the delay is necessary because they need time, before they sit down to negotiate with unions, to hear from a government-appointed panel examining Alberta’s finances.

That panel, headed by former Saskatchewan finance minister Janice MacKinnon, is to report by Aug. 15 on ways the province can save money.

The unions and the NDP have said the panel’s report is a foregone conclusion as MacKinnon, in a co-authored research paper, has previously argued that Alberta should look at cutting public sector wages.

The NDP and the federation also say Bill 9 contains a clause that can be interpreted as giving the government the power to draw up regulations behind closed doors to unilaterally impose new contracts on unionized workers. The government denies this.

Story continues below advertisement

Last week, union members staged an impromptu protest rally in the legislature when the bill was introduced.

The unions have promised to challenge the legislation in court but also wouldn’t rule out other protests such as job action.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter