Alberta government files appeal notice of Bill 9 injunction

The notice, filed Wednesday with the Alberta Court of Appeal, asks for a reversal of the injunction, which will allow arbitration talks for 65,000 AUPE members to resume next week. 
Guy Smith speaks at an AUPE rally Wednesday in downtown Edmonton. (Emilio Avalos/Radio-Canada)

The Alberta government filed a notice of appeal Wednesday of an interim injunction against Bill 9, the Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral Act that was granted to the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.

The notice, filed with the Alberta Court of Appeal, asks for a reversal of the injunction granted by the court on Tuesday, which will allow arbitration talks for 65,000 AUPE members to resume next week.

The bargaining talks deal with three collective agreements for employees of the government of Alberta and support staff who work for Alberta Health Services. 

The law, passed last month, delayed wage re-opener talks for all public sector unions. The government claims it needs extra time consider advice from a panel examining the state of Alberta finances due next month. 

The AUPE, Health Sciences Association of Alberta, the Alberta Teachers' Association and United Nurses of Alberta have all filed notice they intend to challenge the constitutionality of the bill. 

But AUPE was the only union to seek an immediate injunction. Wage talks guaranteed in the third year of three contracts were already underway when the bill passed.

Injunction 'important victory,' ATA says 

Other public sector unions affected by the bill said they were pleased with the decision by Court of Queen's Bench Justice Eric Macklin. 

Jonathan Teghtmeyer, associate co-ordinator of communications with the Alberta Teachers' Association, said Macklin's ruling suggests the court may overturn the bill on constitutional grounds.

"He gets pretty close to saying that," Teghtmeyer said. "And so we think this is a very, very important victory in that regard." 

Members of the ATA recently ratified a two-year contract retroactive to Sept. 1, 2018. The wage part of the agreement was left for an arbitrator to decide, with talks starting by the end of September.

Like the AUPE, the United Nurses of Alberta agreed to a three-year contract with two years of salary freezes in exchange for the promise of wage arbitration in the third year.

Arbitration came to a halt in June at the request of Alberta Health Services. The UNA were intervenors in the AUPE case. 

David Harrigan, the UNA's director of labour relations, said his members have lost trust in the government, which will make the next round of negotiations more difficult.

"Anyone who has any basic understanding of negotiations understands that, realistically, you have one tool in your tool shed and that's your trust," he said. "And if the other side doesn't trust you, it becomes very difficult to reach an agreement."