Alberta moves to the back of the pack (again) when it comes to workplace rights and protections
EDMONTON – The Kenney government’s Bill 2 and proposed Bill 3 are bad news for working Albertans and the Alberta economy because one will cut wages and the other will cut jobs, says the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, the province’s largest worker advocacy group.
“Kenney’s Bill 2 makes changes to rules regarding the minimum wage, overtime, holiday pay and union certification. All of these things will suppress the wages of thousands of Albertans. Bill 3, on the other hand, will pave the way for huge public service cuts by giving away billions in scarce revenue to profitable corporations. This will kill thousands of jobs, in both the public and private sectors,” says AFL president Gil McGowan.
“These two bills are the heart of the Kenney government’s economic strategy and, taken together, they’re supposed to ‘re-ignite’ the Alberta economy. But, cutting wages and cutting jobs won’t strengthen the economy; they’ll weaken it. Given that consumer spending drives 60 percent of economic activity in the province, we fail to see how laying thousands of people off and reducing the wages of thousands more will do anything other than shrink the economy.”
Big wage cut for young workers:
Bill 2 will cut the minimum wage for Albertans under the age of 18 by $2 per hour.
“Cutting the minimum wage is discrimination against young people, equal pay for equal work is an international standard,” says McGowan.
In fact, a lower youth minimum wage in Alberta was actually stopped in the 1990s. A cut of $2 an hour may not seem like much, but it adds up to a loss of more than $3000 a year. It also put young people’s employment at risk because it sets up situations where they may lose their jobs when they turn 18.
Kenney introduces overtime loophole:
Bill 2 will make it possible for employers to use “banked overtime agreements” as a mechanism to get around provisions in the Employment Standards Act that, thanks to NDP amendments, currently guarantee that all overtime pay should be calculated on a time-and-a-half basis.
For an oil and gas worker making the industry average wage, being paid for overtime hours at straight pay will cost them $264 each week or 6 hours if they take the overtime in the form of time off at straight time.
With this bill, Alberta will again be behind the rest of Canada. B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, PEI, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Territories all require overtime to be banked at time-and-a-half.
Alberta steps out of the Canadian mainstream on holiday pay:
Bill 2 will remove Alberta from the Canadian mainstream when it comes to the calculation of holiday pay.
Workers in most provinces, such as Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan, are entitled to compensation for the holiday whether it’s on their day off or not. With this change, Alberta workers will be shortchanged on holiday pay.
Kenney makes it harder for Albertans to join unions (again):
Bill 2 will remove card check certification from the Labour Code. Card check is a mechanism used in most other Canadian jurisdictions to deal with a well-documented problem: employer intimidation and inference during union certification votes.
“If the government is really motivated by concerns about democracy and freedom of choice, then they need to detail what alternative measures they’re planning to take in order to ensure against employer intimidation,” says McGowan.
Bill 3 will lead to massive job losses
Bill 2 needs to be seen in the context of Bill 3, which will be the government's tax cut to corporations. The first would cut wages for working Albertans, the second would cut jobs – thousands of them. Taken together, they will shrink the economy, not grow it.
“Kenney’s proposed corporate tax cuts are ‘snake oil’ that will make our economy sicker, not healthier,” says McGowan. Please view our employment impact report.
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