“What the UCP did in the Legislature last night was outrageous and insulting. And the bill they passed is illegal.”
EDMONTON – The president of Alberta’s largest worker advocacy group, the Alberta Federation of Labour, is outraged by actions taken by Premier Jason Kenney and his UCP caucus in an all-night sitting of the Legislature.
“What the UCP did last night was outrageous and insulting,” says AFL president Gil McGowan. “They showed disrespect and contempt for both Alberta workers and the democratic process. And the bill they passed is illegal.”
During a marathon all-night session, the UCP used their majority to limit debate on Bill 9, a controversial bill that will break legally binding contracts covering nearly 200,000 nurses, teachers and other public-sector workers in Alberta. The bill was eventually passed by the UCP at 7 a.m.
To add insult to injury, Premier Kenney – with a smug smirk on his face – handed out ear plugs to members of his caucus so they didn’t have to listen to Opposition NDP MLAs debating the bill and proposing amendments.
“Kenney didn’t want his caucus listening to the NDP explain how the bill violates decisions from the Supreme Court of Canada on the definition of good faith bargaining and the obligations of governments when it comes to collective bargaining,” says McGowan.
“They also didn’t want to be reminded that nowhere in their 118-page campaign platform did the UCP mention that they would break contracts with public-sector workers, undermine the independent third-party arbitration process or give themselves powers to impose wage cuts without negotiation. The arrogance and cocky disrespect shown by the Premier and his caucus was truly breath-taking.”
McGowan dismissed UCP arguments that they rushed debate on Bill 9 merely because they were trying to get the business of Legislature done before the Calgary Stampede.
“If getting through a busy schedule was their motive, why haven’t they rushed other bills? No, the reality is that they want to rush this bill in order to stop the arbitration sessions that were scheduled to start this week. They know that if independent third-party arbitrators looked at the facts, their manufactured story about the need for public-sector wage cuts would be exposed for the sham it really is.”
McGowan says public-sector unions and the Alberta labour movement will consider will be considering their next steps.
“If the Premier thinks he can tear up contracts and trample on workers’ rights without a fight, he has another thing coming. And, he should understand that ear plugs aren’t going to help him in weeks ahead, because we can guarantee that if the UCP continues on this course, things are going to get really loud.”
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