The Alberta Federation of Labour today reacted to news that Human Resources Minister Mike Cardinal has backed away from a promise to hold a public consultation on first contract arbitration by calling the backtrack perplexing and disappointing.
"In the aftermath of the Lakeside Strike, the Minister was listening to our sound arguments about first contract arbitration," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "He promised to establish a consultation. Now, a scant three months later, the promise goes up in flames. It is very disappointing."
"I would like to say it surprises me, but the Conservatives show time and time again that they have no interest in finding practical solutions to labour relations problems. It is frustrating."
First contract arbitration is a provision in labour law that allows for binding independent arbitration to settle disputes over a first collective agreement that have become bogged down. The provision is proven to reduce the number of strikes and prevent the kind of violent picket lines we saw in Brooks last fall. In 2002 alone, 41 strikes in four provinces were avoided due to first contract arbitration. Alberta is one of only three provinces without the provision.
"It is perplexing that this government will not consider an amendment that could bring workplace peace and reduce the chances of another Lakeside," notes McGowan. "It is particularly disappointing that Mike Cardinal is backtracking on his promise to consult with Albertans. They should at least talk to the public."
In November, Mike Cardinal promised a "pretty intensive consultation with the public" (Calgary Sun, November 6) on first contract arbitration.
McGowan says the AFL won't give up easily. They will continue to lobby MLAs and make the argument that first contract arbitration is an idea that works for all parties - including employers and the government.
"We will continue to talk about this issue and get it put on the agenda, one way or another."
For more information contact:
Gil McGowan, AFL President at 780.915-4599 (cell)