Striking prison guards returned to work this morning after walking off the job Friday over safety issues raised at the Edmonton Remand Centre. The strike was joined by sheriffs and court workers across the province Monday.
Now, the Alberta Federation of Labour is now calling for Deputy Premier Thomas Lukazsuk’s resignation in the wake of the corrections workers strike.
At a news conference held Wednesday afternoon, the AFL said Lukaszuk didn’t know enough about labour relations to effectively handle the walkout.
"He’s exacerbated tensions and he’s replaced level-headed discussions and negotiations with posturing and bully-boy tactics," said AFL President Gil McGowan. "That’s a recipe for increasing conflict — not resolving it."
For his part, Lukazsuk maintains the province didn't give up anything to end the strike.
The province's promise to investigate each new safety complaint is already required under the law, he said on an open line radio show this morning.
During his meeting with union leadership Tuesday, Lukaszuk merely handed the union a letter confirming the government's position, he said.
"If restating the obvious is all it took, we've provided them with the letter."
The government will not look for punitive damages from rank and file union members, Lukaszuk added.
Province seeking repayment
The province is demanding the union representing provincial workers pay the hefty costs of a five-day illegal strike by prison guards, sheriffs and court workers.
"We not only hope the union will pay, we insist the union will pay for the costs they put onto taxpayers," said Solicitor General Jonathan Denis.
The province believes paying overtime and hiring backfill workers cost about $1.3 million each day the strike was in effect, said Premier Alison Redford this morning.
"We've been calculating costs based on having to contract police officers, RCMP and other service providers above and beyond our operating budget," Redford said, the first time she has spoken about the strike.
The province will file a grievance against the union, which will go before an arbitrator.
Although a repayment strategy is covered in the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees’ collective agreement, it is an "aggressive" and rarely employed plan, said Eric Adams, a law professor at the University of Alberta.
"Certainly the numbers that the government is talking about — I think I saw $1.2 million, $1.3 million per day over five days — those kinds of numbers certainly would be unprecedented," he said Wednesday.
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees has already paid $350,000 in fines for the five-day illegal strike.
Suspension of dues
The province's Public Services Commission is also serving notice it plans to suspend collection of dues for union members.
"AUPE will deal with the government's pursuit of a dues suspension and damages in relation to the recent strike activity in the appropriate forums," president Guy Smith said in a news release.
"These are matters of fact and law that will be argued and decided on their merits before the courts and the labour relations board."