Bill 67 will give minister unprecedented power – and unions don’t trust him to use it wisely
EDMONTON – The Alberta Federation of Labour is skeptical and worried by the Kenney government’s wholesale rewrite of the rules for apprenticeships and trades with Bill 67, Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Education Act, that, if passed, will give unprecedented discretion the UCP Minister of Advanced Education.
“We don’t trust the Kenney government. It’s that simple,” says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL). “The wholesale rewrite of apprentice and trades rules gives the Minister of Advanced Education complete control over a system that has been working well. We don’t trust the UCP to use the new power, that they’re giving themselves, wisely or fairly.”
“The Minister of Advanced Education has little credibility when it comes to post-secondary education, which includes education in the trades,” says McGowan. “He has overseen a tragic gutting of Alberta’s once world-class universities and colleges. He’s cut hundreds of millions of dollars and fired thousands of educators from the post-secondary education system. We are skeptical about his promises when it comes to the trades and worried that he’ll make the same cuts to that side of the advanced education system.”
McGowan continues: “The Kenney government hobbled unions by interfering in their internal affairs with its previously changes to the Labour Relations Code with Bill 32, passed last year. By interfering in unions internal affairs when it comes to how members’ dues are spent, the Kenney government will hurt unions’ ability to provide training and advocacy for their members. We are also worried that, with Bill 67, the UCP will remove the ability that some building trades unions currently have to indenture apprentices themselves – which is a proven way of attracting and retaining young people into trades. All of this makes no sense. On one hand, the Kenney government says they want to increase trades education. On the other hand, they undermine unions’ ability to provide training that skilled workers need for Alberta’s jobsites.”
McGowan points out that Bill 67 will abolish Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training board, which worked well bringing together trade unions and employers who understand the skills needed in Alberta’s workplaces, and replace it with a new board solely at the Minister’s discretion.
“We are worried that the Kenney government will appoint sycophant party insiders to the new board, rather than working people with on-the-ground knowledge,” says McGowan. “An education in the trades is valued in Alberta. These working people have built this province from the ground up and Albertans are proud of that fact. The Minister seems to want to expand trades education to new areas that could have the perverse effect of de-valuing existing trades.”
“Since the 2019 election, the Kenney government hasn’t demonstrated itself trustworthy,” concludes McGowan. “They watered down overtime pay and workplace safety rules in the name of ‘red tape reduction.’ They undermined unions’ ability to train their own members and called it ‘balance’. And they reduced the minimum wage of students because, they said, it would help them get a job. Now the Kenney government wants complete control over trades education. They have squandered trust with working Albertans. We have no reason to believe that these changes will be good for workers and every reason to believe that this is just the latest example of the UCP claiming to be on the side of workers while stabbing them in the back.”
Director of Communications, AFL