Public Sector Workers Targeted For Standing Up For Rights
Edmonton – The Redford Government is trying to stifle dissent by introducing stringent new anti-wildcat-strike legislation.
The Public Services Sector Continuation Act, or Bill 45, brings in punitive measures against unions, workers or members of the public who engage in or promote unsanctioned labour action. The bill broadly expands the definition of what a strike is, and creates summary fines of up to $1-million per day against public sector unions whose members walk out on a wildcat strike.
"With this law, the Redford government is suggesting Albertans need to be protected from public sector workers by fining them and jailing them," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. "This government can't handle dissent, so they're targeting those who don't agree with them."
In Alberta, more than 97 per cent of collective agreements are negotiated without recourse to any labour disruption. In the provincial public sector, where all workers are prohibited from striking, there have only a handful of short-duration walkouts in the last decade.
"When corrections workers and health care workers took a day or two off the job in the last couple of years, it's not been about wages. It's been about public safety, safety on the job, and making sure there are enough people to deliver health care services to Albertans," McGowan said. "This isn't about public sector wages or budgets, it's about stifling dissent."
The Bill, which was hurriedly introduced with no warning or consultation from stakeholders, has raised concerns that it is not in keeping with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Several rulings from the Supreme Court of Canada have upheld the interpretation of Canadians' right to assemble as including collective bargaining and job action.
"The people the Redford government wants to put in jail for the crime of standing up for safety and the quality of public services are the same people who she lauded as heroes for helping the province respond to the floods in southern Alberta," McGowan said. "Six months ago, Redford called them heroes, now they are being cast as villains."
For more information on these bills and on collective bargaining download the AFL factsheets:
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-218-9888 (cell)