Lack of government disclosure sinks union court challenge

The Alberta Federation of Labour reacted with disappointment early today after the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench ruled there wasn't enough evidence to proceed with a case against the Labour Relations Board.

In particular, the court said it was unconvinced that the Labour Relations Board had acted inappropriately when it came to its handling of the provinces controversial new health care labour law, Bill 27.

"The court basically rejected our arguments that the government had exercised inappropriate influence over the LRB when it came to drafting and implementing Bill 27," says AFL president Les Steel.

"But, frankly, we in the labour movement don't feel reassured. We are not any more confident today than we were yesterday that the deck hasn't been stacked against health care workers."

Steel points out that the judge saw merit in the court challenge which was brought forward by the United Nurses of Alberta, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union and several other labour organizations. In fact, the court said the unions raised reasonable doubt about the role of both the government and the LRB.

"But the real problem was lack of evidence," said Steel. "The government simply refused to disclose all the relevant documents. They have been hiding behind the Freedom of Information Act. And that's what really made it difficult for us to make the case."

With that in mind, Steel said the AFL and other unions would proceed with a number of FOIP appeals aimed at getting more information about communication between the government and the LRB.

"The bottom line is that our system of labour relations can only work if workers and unions have trust in the impartiality of the LRB. For many of us, that trust simply isn't there right now," says Steel. "So we will continue doing everything we can to make sure the referee in labour relations doesn't take sides. Workers need to have confidence that the deck isn't being stacked against them."

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For further information, contact: Les Steel, AFL President  at 780-499-4135 (cell)

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