LRB "Biased and Compromised", says AFL

Documents received by the Alberta Federation of Labour show that key figures of the Labour Relations Board (LRB) breached their role by actively participating in the drafting of legislation, and by consulting with employer representatives about the content of draft legislation, says the Alberta Federation of Labour today.

The AFL received documents as part of a FOIP Commissioners Inquiry. The documents reveal that LRB Chair Mark Asbell, and Vice-Chair Les Wallace were actively involved in the drafting of Bill 27, the Labour Relations (Regional Health Authorities Restructuring) Amendment Act. Their participation in the process contravenes the role of the LRB, and places into serious jeopardy its independence.

The documents also suggest the LRB actively consulted with employer representatives in the drafting of the Bill - another contravention of its role that undermines impartiality.

"We have a 'smoking gun' that demonstrates a serious breach of the LRB's mandate," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "The actions of the two senior officials at the Board have allowed the LRB to become biased and compromised."

"We need a public inquiry to get to the bottom of how deeply compromised the LRB is," says McGowan. "The truth needs to come out." The AFL sent a letter today to Human Resources Minister Mike Cardinal demanding a public inquiry into the breach.

Today, the AFL received a letter from the lawyer for the Privacy Commissioner demanding the return of the documents received by the AFL - saying it got them in error. The AFL has responded by refusing to return the documents. The AFL's position is that it has a right to access these documents and there is a pressing public interest that requires full disclosure of the documents. Neither the Commissioner nor the LRB have not indicated what their next legal steps will be.

Following the receipt of the documents, the AFL sent them to its 350 affiliated union presidents, to update them on ongoing efforts to reveal the truth about the Bill 27 process. The AFL will be calling together senior union leaders in the next couple of days to discuss next steps.

The LRB, as an arms-length quasi-judicial body, has the mandate of interpreting and enforcing the Labour Relations Code. In performing its job, it must adhere to a strict policy of independence and neutrality. As the "court" for labour relations, it must avoid participating in the setting of government policy or regulations regarding labour relations. In other words, its job is to interpret the law, not make it.

"The documents we have received clearly show that the Vice-Chair of the LRB wrote the bill that the government used to attack health care unions," notes McGowan. "This says to me that the LRB has sided clearly with the employer - and destroyed any semblance of fairness in their dealings. For an LRB, this is unconscionable."

Bill 27 set in motion a process to reduce the number of bargaining units in health care. It led to a series of acrimonious and bitter run-off votes, cancelled longstanding collective agreements, removed the right to strike for community health and other workers, and denied nurse practitioners the right to join a union. It was widely seen as an anti-union piece of legislation.

"The LRB is the anchor of our modern labour relations system. If the parties can't trust its fairness and independence, the whole system is at risk. The actions of the LRB's senior officials have jeopardized trust in the system. This could have wide ranging implications." McGowan concludes.

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For more information contact:

Gil McGowan, AFL President at 780.915-4599 (cell)  or  780.483-3021 (wk)


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