Alberta unions will fight UCP efforts to turn Alberta into “Alabama North”
EDMONTON – Unless major amendments are made to Bill 32 during this week’s session of the Alberta Legislature, a large coalition of Alberta unions will launch a legal challenge to Jason Kenney’s draconian new labour bill on the grounds that it violates key democratic rights enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In meetings Friday, leaders from most of Alberta’s major unions agreed that Bill 32, the so-called Restoring Balance in Alberta Workplaces Act, is unconstitutional and represents a clear and present danger to the workplace interests and democratic rights of working Albertans.
“Many people remember the famous old western, ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.’ Well, if Bill 32 was a movie it would be called ‘The Bad, The Even Worse and The Unconstitutional,’” says Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour, who chaired the meeting of union leaders and labour lawyers.
“This Bill moves Alberta far outside the Canadian mainstream when it comes to rights and protections for workers. It tips the balance of power outrageously in favour of employers, both in the workplace and on the political stage. And it actively attacks democratic rights guaranteed by the Canadian constitution. This law will make Alberta look more like Mississippi or Alabama than a Canadian province; and we will not allow it to stand.”
The unions say Bill 32 is bad because it will spell the end to overtime as we know it for non-union workers; it’s even worse because it will allow employers to essentially opt out of the minimum workplace standards set out in the Employment Standards Code; and, it’s unconstitutional because its new rules on union dues and picketing contravene the rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression guaranteed by the Charter.
“With Bill 30, Jason Kenney’s controversial health care bill, the UCP is trying to Americanize our health care system; and with Bill 32, they’re trying to Americanize our workplace laws,” says McGowan. “We’re not going to let them get away with this on either front.”
All of the 25 public and private sector unions affiliated with the Alberta Federation of Labour are committed to challenging the constitutionality of Bill 32 in the courts. They will be joined in their efforts by Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union.
For a more detailed understanding of why Alberta unions are launching their Charter challenge, see the AFL’s list of “top 6 most dangerous sections of Bill 32” released last Thursday.
Director of Communications, AFL