New LRB Protocol a Victory for Transparency

The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) and the Communications Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) jointly announced today that they are withdrawing their legal action against the Alberta Labour Relations Board (LRB) regarding the drafting of Bill 27 in 2003.

The announcement comes following an agreement between the parties and the LRB to create a protocol outlining the role of the LRB in creating legislation. The LRB released its "Guidelines for Consultation on Legislation", signed by the Chair and all Vice-Chairs, this morning. (Read the LRB Protocol)

"With the new protocol announced today, the Alberta Labour Relations Board has created some of the best rules in the country for accountability, transparency and guarantees of neutrality," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "We are pleased with the outcome of this case."

The protocol guarantees that LRB officials will not participate in the drafting of legislation, and that any technical assistance provided to the government will be fully disclosed. Any LRB official who participates in briefing the government will recuse themselves from any hearing related to the matter. In addition, the LRB will institute new, tougher rules governing outside counsel.

"We see this protocol as a model for transparency that should be applied to all boards and agencies in Alberta," says McGowan. "This is a significant victory for all Albertans interested in good governance."

The lawsuit surrounds the issue of LRB officials assisting the government in the drafting of Bill 27, a bill that restructured health care labour relations and stripped health care workers of many labour rights. The incident raised questions in the minds of the labour movement about the independence and neutrality of the Board.

"We launched the legal action two years ago because we felt that the LRB�s involvement in drafting Bill 27 showed a lack of transparency in a body that must be neutral and at arms length from government," says UNA President Heather Smith.

"It made a sham of the consultative process when legislation that affected tens of thousands of health workers was created behind closed doors. That made it hard to count on fairness and impartiality. Today, with the new protocol, we take the first steps in repairing that damage," she says.

The protocol adopts the principles and recommendations outlined in a study commissioned last year by the AFL. The so-called Sossin Report (titled: The Independent Board and the Legislative Process) outlined the need for a clear and transparent protocol regarding interactions between the LRB and the Alberta government.

"The protocol announced today reflects, in a substantive fashion, the recommendations in the Sossin Report," says McGowan.

The protocol brings to an end the ongoing legal dispute between the unions and the LRB. The case was scheduled to go to the Court of Appeals this week. "This satisfied many of our concerns regarding the role of the LRB in drafting legislation," says Smith.

"We may still have some of the worst labour laws in Canada, but this protocol makes it clear that the Board's only role will be to interpret those bad laws, not help write them," McGowan concludes.

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(Read the text of Gil McGowan's speech)

For more information contact:

Gil McGowan, AFL President Bus: (780) 483-3021 Cell: (780) 218-9888

Heather Smith, UNA President Bus: (780) 425-1025


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