A judge has issued an injunction against the province’s controversial Bill 46, after objections from the the union that represents provincial employees.
“I think the government was certainly shocked that this would happen,” said Dan Scott, a labour lawyer who observed the hearing.
“Again, it’s a significant step to get an injunction and an even bigger step to get an injunction against the government on legislation.”
The bill, which received royal assent in December, would have imposed a wage settlement with a two-year pay freeze if the province and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees could not reach a negotiated settlement. The bill also takes away the union's right to take disputes to an arbitration board.
The union argued that the province was not bargaining in good faith and that it had always planned to use the threat of legislation to force the AUPE into a settlement.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Denny Thomas agreed, saying he doubted "whether those negotiations were ever conducted in good faith, or were merely camouflage for a different agenda."
AUPE President Guy Smith says ruling shows that the legislation wasn't about fiscal restraint, it was about curbing the union.
He said that the judge's findings of bad faith could make it difficult for future bargaining.
"There's always an opportunity to rebuild bridges," he said. "That's something we're always looking at, is making sure we have a strong working relationship with the government. But maybe it's a bridge too far."
The government is planning to appeal the decision.
"We are disappointed by the decision handed down in the Court of Queen’s Bench," Deputy Premier Dave Hancock said in a written decision.
"We believe the judgment contained errors in both fact and law. As a result we are appealing the decision.”