EDMONTON _ The Alberta government is bracing for protests after introducing what critics are calling anti-union changes to the province's labour code.
Employment Minister Hector Goudreau has confirmed that extra sheriffs have been brought to the legislature this week in case of any unruly demonstrations.
The legislation bans strikes and lockouts for ambulance workers and prevents unions from subsidizing contract bids by unionized contractors competing with non-union firms.
The changes will also prevent union-supporting workers from joining a non-union company to kick start the process of unionizing the firm _ a practice known as salting.
NDP Leader Brian Mason says the legislation is an act of ''revenge'' for the union-sponsored attack ads used against Premier Ed Stelmach during the recent Alberta election campaign.
A spokesman for the Alberta Building Trades Council did not appear overly concerned by the legislation and says the practice of salting is nearly obsolete in the province.
But the Alberta Federation of Labour and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees reacted much more strongly, suggesting the legislation violates constitutional guarantees of freedom of association.
''This is what Conservatives do _ squeeze workers for the benefit of employers,'' federation president Gil McGowan said in a media release Monday.
''The Conservatives have long been anti-labour and this bill is their latest attempt to kick workers in the shins. They are simply using their new majority to exercise their anti-worker reflexes,'' he added.
McGowan also noted the bill has been timed to keep wages down during the province's economic boom.
Doug Knight of the provincial employees' union said the law ought to be changed so that there is one labour law for everyone, instead of the current system where there is a separate Public Service Employee Relations Act.
Knight said his union also wants other changes, like automatic certification without a vote when more than half the employees in a workplace sign union cards.
''Albertans are now seeing government that is willing to use its election majority to make drastic decisions behind closed doors,'' Knight said in a news release.
The EnergyNews.com, Wed Jun 11 2008