Alberta accused of stripping workers' rights with new laws
Province introduces new legisation aimed at union activity
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees says two new laws introduced by the provincial government on Wednesday are attacks on workers' rights.
Bill 46, the Public Service Salary Restraint Act, would allow the province to impose a settlement on AUPE members if a negotiated agreement cannot be reached by Jan. 31, 2014.
The current contract with provincial employees expired on March 31, 2013. Negotiations have gone to mediation, but there was no resolution so the union applied to go to arbitration.
"So even the one route that we have to go to arbitration is being blocked, undemocratically, by what is being seen or increasingly being seen as a dictatorship in this province," said AUPE president Guy Smith.
Minister of Finance Doug Horner says Bill 46 is meant to provide a fair agreement that fits the government's fiscal restraint policy.
"When you look at the fact that we believe that there is an opportunity for a negotiated settlement, this is something that the two parties should be working on, not a third party independent from what the taxpayer might be looking at," he said.
The province has presented Bill 45, the Public Sector Services Continuation Act, as a way to protect the public against illegal strikes.
"The bill holds unions and individuals who break the law accountable for their actions," said Dave Hancock, the minister of Alberta Human Services, in a written statement.
The bill will impose a penalty of $1 million per day on unions which conduct wildcat strikes.
This follows a walkout earlier this year by some corrections officers at the Edmonton Remand Centre.
The introduction of the two bills caught labour and opposition leaders by surprise.
"I thought I'd seen everything, but today the government has really shocked me," said NDP leader Brian Mason.
Wildrose leader Danielle Smith accused the government of not being honest with workers.
"We at least were honest during the last election. We told front-line workers that if they voted for Wildrose, we believed that there should be wage austerity until we were back into budget balance. It's the government that lied to them."