The Alberta Federation of Labour responded to the Labour Relations Board decision today to suspend the collection of dues for AUPE health care workers for a two month period by calling the decision "disappointing" and a "slap in the face to workers". The Board ruled on an application to punish AUPE for a strike last year involving 10,000 health care workers.
"Today's decision is a slap in the face to Alberta workers," says AFL President Audrey Cormack. "It sets a dangerous precedent, one that workers must fight."
"This is an extremely disappointing ruling, one that highlights just how badly Alberta's labour law stacks the deck against working people," says Cormack. "Alberta is the only province in the country that allows employers to punish workers in this manner."
Cormack points out that the decision will affect any worker who does not have the right to strike, which is thousands more than any other province. "It is a statement from the government that an individual worker's right to free association will not be respected in this province."
The AFL intends to pursue a challenge to section 112 of the Labour Code as a violation of the Charter of Rights. Section 112 is the section which permits an employer to apply for a suspension of dues. The Board has already set dates for a hearing on these arguments on May 11.
"We intend to intervene in the hearing to argue that the section violates the constitutional right of an individual worker to free association," says Cormack. "We want the section struck down."
Cormack states the AFL's argument that such punitive action allowed under section 112 interferes with a worker's right to association by restricting the ability of the bargaining agent to represent the member. The collection of dues has been found by the Courts to be a protected part of freedom of association, as dues are the vehicle which allows a union to effectively represent their members. If a member is not effectively represented, their rights are breached.
Cormack also points out that the union has already been punished through a court-imposed fine. Any further action is an unjustified interference with workers' rights, Cormack believes.
Cormack says the decision will only further sour labour relations in Alberta. "Alberta's labour laws create poor labour relations by creating an unlevel playing field, this decision tips the balance even further."
"The message to workers today is that your rights won't be respected in this province." Cormack concluded.
For further information contact:
Audrey M. Cormack, President @ 483-3021 wk/499-6530 cell/428-9367 hm