Labour Law Changes Too Rushed to Be Fair or Friendly to Business
May 25, 2017
Alberta has enjoyed relative labour stability in recent decades, which has been a key contributor to the province’s economic prosperity. However, the provincial government’s rushed and limited review of labour and employment standards legislation risks upsetting that labour stability.
The Edmonton Chamber voiced its concern with the review of the Labour Relations and Employment Standards Codes as soon as it began, noting that reviews of similarly complex legislation have taken up to two years to complete and involved substantial public consultation.
“Healthy labour relations depends on good faith, fairness and balance between employers, workers and unions,” said Janet Riopel, President and CEO of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. “The rushed process and lack of transparency with little public reporting does not inspire confidence in the new legislation.”
The proposed legislation eliminates the mandatory secret ballot vote for union certification.
“The Chamber urged the Province to keep the mandatory secret ballot,” said Riopel. “Every worker should be able to vote their conscience anonymously without fear of pressure or repercussions.”
The proposed legislation also allows for first contract arbitration. The Chamber noted in its recommendations to government that the first contract negotiated after a union is certified is critical since it sets the base minimum for all future negotiations.
“It’s always better for unions and employers to reach an agreement together, rather than have one imposed through arbitration,” said Riopel. “We hope the Alberta Labour Relations Board will allow first contract arbitration only if all other options, including mediation, have been exhausted.”
The Chamber is also concerned with a change to the Employment Standards Code, which will give banked overtime at a rate of time-and-a-half instead of as straight time.
“Using banked overtime is currently a win-win, allowing employers to save on costs and employees to get more time off work,” said Riopel. “In this fragile economic climate, this change will likely result in employers cutting back on overtime, so employees will lose out.”
The Chamber was pleased with provisions of the legislation that will improve the operations of the Alberta Labour Relations Board.
“Making the Alberta Labour Relations Board more efficient will save time and money for everyone—employers, unions, and taxpayers,” said Riopel.
The proposed legislation also aligns leave periods with the provisions of Employment Insurance. Most employers provide much more generous leaves than the minimum legal requirement, so this proposed change makes sense.
For more information, view the Chamber’s recommendations, Maintaining Balance and Fairness in Alberta’s Labour Relations Code.
The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, the official voice of business in the Capital Region, is one of the largest Chambers in Canada. The Edmonton Chamber proudly serves its 2,291 members, representing over 111,000 employees, to achieve its mission of creating the best environment for business.