Edmonton - The Alberta Federation of Labour will be watching the compulsory binding arbitration process forced upon Calgary paramedics by the government.
"When the government established a public emergency tribunal, it effectively took the right to free collective bargaining and the right to strike away from the paramedics," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "It is now the responsibility of the government to ensure that the paramedics get the same level of settlement they would have won had their rights not been amended."
"We are not convinced that a fair settlement is possible through compulsory binding arbitration," says McGowan. "One of the more recent studies comparing freely negotiated contracts with compulsory arbitration awards for teachers found that negotiated contracts had statistically significant larger wage increases."
He was referring to a 2006 study by the Connecticut General Assembly that analyzed settlement methods for municipal and school employees over a 4-year period. In that study, 410 teacher contracts were examined.
"The problem is that arbitration boards tend to be very conservative in their awards," says McGowan. "Arbitration boards can never lead - they can only follow."
McGowan noted that the only real evidence before arbitration boards is past settlements - while future developments remain entirely speculative. Therefore, arbitration boards can never break new ground or properly accommodate periods of rapid growth or high inflation like Alberta is experiencing today.
McGowan also cautioned the government about the effects of a compulsory settlement that did not meet paramedics' economic needs. "There will be long-term labour relations consequences if an unfair settlement is forced upon paramedics," says McGowan. "Higher turnover and lower morale and productivity could be a real problem with an unfair contract."
For more information call:
Gil McGowan AFL President @ 780-218-9888