Proposed UCP changes to banked overtime worry workers

Andrew Despres is not a fan of the United Conservative Party's proposed changes to overtime laws.

'I think it is preposterous. It is truly anti-worker. It is moving backwards'

Some workers say they are worried by a UCP proposal allowing employers to pay out banked overtime at regular pay rate instead of time and a half. (Dmitry Kalinovsky/Shutterstock)

Andrew Despres is not a fan of the United Conservative Party's proposed changes to overtime laws.

As an IT support worker at a school board in Leduc, he earns a salary and doesn't get paid overtime. Instead, any overtime hours he works have been banked at time and a half since new labour legislation — introduced by the NDP — came into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

That means he gets 1.5 days off for every day of overtime worked.

The banked time allows Despres more time to help out his aging parents, who recently moved back to Edmonton from Victoria.

"With that extra time off, I am able to give them a hand more often," Despres says . "I can also spend more time with my girlfriend, or with my dog."

In its platform, the UCP proposes it will "return to allowing banked hours to be paid out at regular pay instead of time-and-a-half" as part of what it is calling The Open for Business Act.

The changes would apply mainly to non-union workers like Despres.

"I think it is preposterous," Despres said. "It is truly anti-worker. It is moving backwards and we have already been through this. If anything, we need more rights and benefits to workers."

While teachers are unionized, school support staff are not. Despres and the 75 per cent of Alberta's workforce that is not represented by a union, rely on the Employment Standards Code to dictate pay rules.

According to the Alberta Federation of Labour, the sectors most affected in the province would be construction, oil and gas, and hospitality.

Stephen Beirnes, a journeyman electrician in Edmonton, said the changes would have ripples in the construction and energy industries.

"If Kenney gets his way, the owners of the companies are going to have more rights than the workers and it is going to put the workers in a hard spot where, even if they are working the overtime, they might not be getting the compensation that they should be," Beirnes said.

Restaurants Canada supports the act.

The legislation makes sense in the restaurant industry, where employers and employees can sign overtime averaging agreements to allow for more work on busier days and banked time off when required, said Mark von Schellwitz, vice-president of Western Canada.

"It gives employers and employees more flexibility to come up with work arrangements that make sense for them," von Schellwitz said.

"Most often, it is the employee who is looking for the flexibility, to fulfil those commitments in their lives."

Kenney used the example of a condensed work week in announcing the policy, saying the change would allow an employee to negotiate 10-hour work days and three-day weekends, during the summer months.

"The rule allowed employees to approach their boss and negotiate more flexible shifts," said Kenney at a news conference.

Gill McGowan, the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, does not buy the argument.

"The law says that people should get time and a half, but what Jason Kenney is proposing is to introduce a mechanism for employers to get around that guarantee," McGowan said.

On Wednesday, Shaye Anderson, NDP candidate for Leduc-Beaumont called the act unacceptable.

"I'm a proud United Steel Worker. I believe in the labour laws that our party has brought in. I think we should make sure we stand by those and Jason Kenney owes the workers an explanation."

Would the changes to banked overtime proposed by the UCP affect your work? Email emily.senger@cbc.ca

About the Author

Emily Senger is a journalist with CBC Edmonton.

With files from Tricia Kindleman


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