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February 20, 2014 - No. 16

Injunction Blocks Anti-Worker Bill 46

Stand with Alberta Public Sector Workers in Defence of Their Rights!

Injunction Blocks Anti-Worker Bill 46
Stand with Alberta Public Sector Workers in Defence of Their Rights!
The Need for Modern Definitions of Workers' Rights
Reasons for Decision to Stay Bill 46
Additional Comments by Justice Thomas

Intensify Organized Resistance to the Anti-Social Austerity Agenda!

Wildrose Party's Ideological Assault on Alberta's Public Services
Beware the Big Four and Their Political Representatives

Defend the Rights of All!
Lougheed Leadership Legacy Is Anti-Worker and Pro-Sellout - Dougal MacDonald

Coming Events
Rally for Retirement Security!

Injunction Blocks Anti-Worker Bill 46 

Stand with Alberta Public Sector Workers
in Defence of Their Rights!

Calgary rally against anti-worker Bills 45 and 46, December 2, 2013.

The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench has issued a stay to Bill 46, the Public Service Staff Relations Act. In the February 14 ruling, Justice Thomas made a scathing critique of the Redford government's actions towards the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE). The judgement concluded that the government refused to negotiate in good faith, introduced legislation gutting the collective bargaining process and railroaded Bill 46 through the Legislature in a manner to impede public and legislative discussion and scrutiny.

The injunction stops the Redford government from implementing Bill 46 while the appeal to its constitutionality launched by the AUPE is before the courts. If the injunction had not been granted, the Alberta government through anti-worker Bill 46 could have imposed a "collective agreement" on members of AUPE on March 31, 2014. The forced "agreement" would have applied until March 31, 2017.

Should the Redford government remain intransigent and refuse to conclude a negotiated agreement acceptable to the government services workers, the compulsory arbitration hearing cancelled by Bill 46 can now be rescheduled and proceed.

"I am extremely pleased the court recognized the merit of our arguments and how seriously our members' Charter rights have been impaired by the Progressive Conservative's legislation," said AUPE President Guy Smith.

The decision is a sharp rebuke to the government for its extremism against the working class. It temporarily restrains the Redford government in its refusal to use peaceful negotiations to sort out problems. The ruling acknowledges the potential for grave harm arising from the Redford government's anti-worker fanaticism.

TML congratulates the government services workers and their collective AUPE for standing up to the government and mobilizing themselves and all provincial workers to denounce and refuse to accept Redford's use of force and violence in place of peaceful negotiations. The government must repeal Bill 46 and other anti-worker legislation. It must stop its extremist behaviour and begin serious good faith negotiations recognizing the tremendous contribution that government services workers make to society and their right to wages and benefits commensurate with their work. AUPE and its members have every right to participate in deciding on a collective agreement regarding their terms of employment and working conditions and to vote in good conscience whether to accept the agreement or not.

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The Need for Modern Definitions of Workers' Rights

The February 14 decision of Justice Thomas to stay Bill 46 while the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) proceeds with its Charter challenge prevents the government from imposing a collective agreement on public sector workers at this time. AUPE is urging the government to engage in good faith bargaining. If it fails to do so, AUPE can now proceed to arbitration. However, any monetary gains awarded by the Compulsory Arbitration Board would be held in abeyance until the conclusion of the Charter challenge.

Edmonton rally against Bills 45 and 46, December 2, 2013. (AUPE)

It is beyond the scope of the court to even acknowledge the right of workers to wages and benefits commensurate with their work and qualifications, and their right to an effective organized say and control over their terms of employment. As a result, the ruling does not stop the government from imposing wage controls on the 22,000 government services workers represented by AUPE. It does not stay this portion of the Act, and were it to do so, the government could enact new legislation with exactly the same provisions.

As concerns the government's claim of the need for austerity to justify attacking workers' rights, Justice Thomas states it is beyond the Court's powers to consider whether the legislation based on austerity is in the public interest or not. He says the Supreme Court decisions in this matter are clear that the court must proceed as though the legislation is in the public interest.

It is beyond the Supreme Court's competency to recognize the right of workers to wages and benefits commensurate with their qualifications and the work they perform. Nor does it recognize that workers have a right to decide individually and as an organized collective to say No! to wages and working conditions with which they disagree.

The starting point for the determination of workers' rights must be a country based on modern definitions. Such a definition recognizes that workers' rights exist objectively within the historical period, as they are the producers of the goods and services society needs to exist. A modern definition of workers' rights recognizes their central and decisive role within the socialized economy and their indispensable contribution to society through their work.

Modern definitions uphold rights as inviolable. Rights are neither subjective nor policy objectives. They belong to the holder objectively and can neither be given nor taken away.

The Redford government is in contempt of a modern definition of workers' rights. In doing so, the government proves itself unfit to govern and should be removed. Likewise, all legislation of this government that negates workers' rights such as Bill 45 and 46 should be immediately repealed.

If the justice system reflected the necessity of modern definitions, it would rule Bills 45 and 46 illegal and in violation of workers' rights. It would also rule that the government's basic premise and excuse for negating rights, which is the anti-social austerity agenda, is against the public interest, and further, that no excuse can justify depriving workers of their rights.

The challenge workers and their allies face is how to bring about peoples' empowerment and affirm modern definitions of workers' rights. Through organized actions with analysis, the working class can discover how to establish a public authority with a legal will that reflects the popular will, which has the power to deprive those forces such as the Redford government of the power to deprive workers of their rights and harm the public interest. Organizing sustained resistance to the Redford government's attack on workers' rights is a step forward towards empowerment and the affirmation of modern definitions.

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Reasons for Decision to Stay Bill 46

Calgary, December 16, 2013

The decision issued February 14 staying the implementation of Bill 46 was a case management decision regarding Alberta Union of Provincial Employees v Alberta, 2014 ABQB 97. Justice Thomas concludes that the Alberta government never intended to conduct good faith bargaining with AUPE to reach an agreement for the 22,000 government services workers. He reports for example that the mediator concluded that "Alberta" refused even to discuss AUPE's proposals.

Justice Thomas also notes that the government introduced legislation with no prior notice or disclosure to the union. The government's actions meant that there was no opportunity for public disclosure or discussion. Closure was used to limit debate in the Legislature and Bill 46 was pushed through the Legislature in only one week.

The judge strongly disagrees that AUPE has a "weak" case as argued by the government, instead concluding that the union's case is a very strong one. He notes that the government had produced no evidence except a few screen shots of the AUPE and other websites in order to claim that they were "political."

Testimony on Negative Effects of Unilateral Action by Government on Collective Bargaining

AUPE submitted an affidavit from John Fryer, Adjunct Professor at the University of Victoria. Fryer was accepted by all parties as an expert in public sector collective bargaining and labour relations. He stated that Bill 46, the Public Service Staff Relations Act (PSSRA) is unusual if not unique in that it unilaterally imposes an entire collective agreement.

Fryer outlined the negative effects of unilateral action by government on collective bargaining. Such action communicates that bargaining efforts are irrelevant, discourages creative bargaining efforts, undermines confidence union members have in their leadership, causes workers to feel powerless, and may lead workers to engage in alternative measures to push back against employer control, he said. Justice Thomas concurs with these conclusions.

Right to a Process of Collective Bargaining

Justice Thomas summarizes the Supreme Court decisions regarding the right to a process of collective bargaining to achieve workplace goals as follows. This process requires the parties to meet and bargain in good faith on issues of fundamental importance in the workplace. This right is not merely a paper right, but the right to a process that permits meaningful pursuit of those goals. This requires the employer to engage in a process of consideration and discussion in the pursuit of a common goal of peaceful and productive accommodation. A process that permits an employer not even to consider employee representation is not a meaningful process.

Justice Thomas concludes that "Alberta" did not meet its obligation to bargain in good faith. The PSSRA creates a monologue where salaries are set without negotiations, and government unilaterally dictates the employment terms of its members, he writes. Changes to the 2011 agreement, which were agreed upon during negotiations for a new collective agreement, are erased by imposing the 2011 collective agreement.

Justice Thomas writes, "What is particularly concerning is the uncontested fact that Alberta and AUPE had come to meaningful agreements on certain issues during collective bargaining, but rather than respecting those points of common ground, Alberta has by legislation 'wiped the slate clean' when it unilaterally imposed all terms from the 2011 Collective Agreement. This raises the question of whether those negotiations were ever conducted in good faith, or were merely camouflage for a different agenda.

"In addition, it guts the bargaining process by removing any effective leverage on the part of the workers who, as a result of other provincial laws, cannot withdraw their labour. The effect of this legislation is to emasculate the AUPE, which in turn results in the harms identified by Professor Fryer. This evidence has not been refuted by either Alberta or the Minister."

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Additional Comments by Justice Thomas

Justice Thomas noted that the imposition of wage freezes and controls by governments has become almost routine, and the Supreme Court has ruled on several occasions that this routine does not violate the right to a process of collective bargaining.

He pointed out that Bill 46, the Public Service Staff Relations Act (PSSRA) not only legislates wages, it ends the potential for future collective bargaining for over three years and imposes a stale or outdated agreement from 2011. While the preamble to the legislation calls Bill 46 a salary capping instrument, Justice Thomas concluded that it goes much further than that because it freezes all non-monetary interests and guts the collective bargaining relationship. This is where the violation occurs, he said.

The Justice wrote, "Alberta will retain legislative authority to engage in any control of the terms on which AUPE's members work for the province of Alberta, even those that breach the Charter, s 2(d), provided of course that those terms comply with the Charter, section 1.

"The legislation in question is admitted by the Respondent to be unique in Canada. While wage capping legislation by all levels of Government in Canada has become almost routine, laws such as PSSRA, with its very broad and very focused effect on one group, is not. This unique legislation is a blanket that covers all aspects of the employment relationship between Alberta and the employees in the Crown bargaining unit. It is the broad scope of this legislation which is under challenge and which distinguishes the Applicants' challenge to the PPSRA from any run-of-the-mill Charter attacks on legislation that restricts employee compensation. That is what convinces me that the public interest consideration cannot weigh so heavily as to tip the balance in favour of the Respondent. Rather, it tips the other way in favour of staying the effect of this broad-reaching legislation until its constitutional validity can be fully evaluated by a trial.

"These adverse effects could be serious and long lasting and there is evidence put forward by the Applicants that that is a very plausible result."

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Intensify Organized Resistance to the Anti-Social Austerity Agenda!

Wildrose Party's Ideological Assault on
Alberta's Public Services

Led by the workers' opposition, resistance to the Redford government's austerity agenda in Alberta continues to grow as more and more people are speaking out, taking action and organizing to block and reverse the wrecking of public institutions and services. Enter the Wildrose Party, which claims to be on the side of "front line workers" while trying to outdo Redford in the number of public sector workers it would fire and the amount it would cut from funding dedicated to their wages and benefits.

To justify massive cuts to public services, Wildrose maintains a constant barrage of disinformation about a bloated public sector bureaucracy. Almost daily, the latest revelation about wasteful or unjustified payments from the public treasury is presented as the important news of the day. This "news" has become more frequent in anticipation of the next provincial budget.

Alberta Union of Public Employees holds rally to defend public services, Edmonton, October 18, 2013.

For example, Wildrose states on its website, "A recent Auditor General's Report uncovered over $100 million in expenses from over 26,000 AHS [Alberta Health Services] managers in just 17 months." Such broad statements create an emotional impression of tremendous waste and inefficiency without any concrete factual context. Using the sweeping accusation, Wildrose demands a 20 per cent reduction in "non-front line staff" in the AHS and a $700-million cut in wages and benefits.

The Wildrose figures are bogus. Only 3,000 people of the total 100,000 AHS staff are classified as managers. This is a far cry from the wild(rose) claim of 26,000 non-front line staff. Its demand for a 20 per cent reduction of managers and a cut of $700-million in wages and benefits is in fact a call to fire more than 5,000 front line health care workers, further wrecking the public health care system.

Wildrose provides no information as to what portion of the $100 million "uncovered" in the account is used for executive expenses. The amount includes amongst other necessary expenses, the mileage reimbursement for home care nurses and contractors, non-ambulance patient transportation, all purchases bought with e-cards whether for direct patient care or executive expense claims, and all staff education.

The deliberate distortions from Wildrose are aimed at denigrating the public service and painting a picture of entitled spending, on par with Toronto Mayor Rod Ford's ranting about how privatizing "everything that's not nailed down" is a means to "stand up for the taxpayer."

The monopoly press makes a big commotion with this "news" to divert the working class from developing its own agenda based on its own thinking and organization and the needs of the socialized economy and society. The disinformation is intended to create an atmosphere in which the only question that can be discussed is what form the austerity agenda should take: the PC or the Wildrose way.

The assault on public services and the workers who deliver them has as its aim the seizure of public assets and wealth in order to hand them over to private monopoly interests. This retrogressive assault is aimed at destroying any semblance of a society where the socialized economy serves the public interest and good.

The working class movement bases itself on a concrete analysis of concrete conditions not disinformation churned out by the PCs, Wildrose and monopoly-controlled media. The value created by our public sector workers is vital to the well-being of all and the general interests of society. It should be treasured and increased not denigrated and privatized under the hoax of austerity to fatten the pockets of a privileged few.

Owners of capital desperately want the working class and people to believe that they must choose between one or the other of the political parties of the rich. The working class and its allies reject this dictate over their thinking. They have the strength of numbers, the progressive spirit of a pro-social outlook and an ability to organize collectively to stop nation-wrecking and provide a new direction for the economy, including the vibrant development of social programs and public services to guarantee the well-being and rights of all.

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Beware the Big Four and Their
Political Representatives

Both the PCs and Wildrose consider that all decisions about Alberta's social programs and public services should be directly in the hands of private monopoly interests while any public authority should be dismantled. With this retrogressive outlook, the "big four" accounting monopolies, PwC, Deloitte, Ernst and Young, and KPMG are to be given an ever more important role in acting for owners of capital to seize public assets and wealth. The Wildrose Party openly calls on the big four to chart a course to "increase efficiency" in delivering the public service to private interests.

These global accounting and consulting firms are notorious for engaging in fraud and corruption. They devise tax havens for the rich, cook up phony bankruptcy schemes to defraud workers and small creditors, and engage in sub-prime mortgage schemes and every imaginable plot for big scores at the people's expense. These firms predictably produce reports claiming "great advantages" and "projections of enormous savings" under various forms of privatization from which they and their social connections amongst the rich directly benefit.

The public interest and the general interests of society do not factor into the business decisions of the big four. Their aim is to enrich themselves and their private monopoly clients and from that, they say, some crumbs will trickle down to the working class and small business. Calling on the big four to give direction to the public service is the height of corruption and politicization of private interests, the proverbial invitation to the fox to enter the henhouse, where the predictable result is the destruction of public authority, the public interest and the general interests of society.

Keep the big four away from Alberta's social programs and public service!

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Defend the Rights of All!

Lougheed Leadership Legacy Is
Anti-Worker and Pro-Sellout

The University of Alberta announced a plan in September 2013, based on a 2010 white paper, to create a new Leadership College. The college forms part of its "Peter Lougheed Leadership Initiative" (PLLI), which will select and groom for leadership the university's "top 144 undergraduate students." This selection is out of 31,000 students!

Peter Lougheed was the Conservative Premier of Alberta from 1971 to 1985. According to the PLLI website, "The University of Alberta, in partnership with the Banff Centre, will steward the gift of Peter Lougheed's name by creating a dedicated leadership program that mentors our young leaders and inspires them to use their talents with the kind of energy, vision and integrity exemplified by Peter Lougheed." Students will be accepted based on their interest and "exemplary" leadership aptitude demonstrated during their first two years at the U of A.

Prominent on the website is a call for private donations to establish the PLLI, which is in line with current attempts by provincial governments to extricate themselves from their responsibility to fund post-secondary education and to place the university more firmly in the hands of private interests. The PLLI project will require the construction of a new building to house the institute and destruction of existing buildings currently housing student and academic organizations.

The university's Vice-President (Advancement) states the amount to build and maintain the college is not known but early predictions are that $25 million will be needed for the building and $83 million for programming under the Leadership Initiative. The University President says the goal is to raise a minimum of $100 to $120 million from private donors.

The announcement has already met stiff opposition from students and staff. The Students Union calls the plan to construct an "exclusive" leadership college irresponsible in light of savage government cuts of 7 per cent to post-secondary education operating budgets in Alberta. The Gateway student newspaper calls the proposal "elitist" and a misdirection of much-needed funds. It suggests that the real aim of the college is to make the U of A look better in national university rankings. Elected representatives of the General Faculty Council (GFC), which is supposed to have final authority over all the university's "academic affairs" but which had no input into the proposal, state the academic purpose of the PLLI is unclear and they have seen no information as to the kind of "leadership" it will aim to foster. One GFC representative calls the proposal "intellectually vacuous and morally pernicious."

One clue as to the real aim of the PLLI is to note who it is named after. What, then, is the leadership legacy exemplified by former premier Peter Lougheed? Certainly one of the main features of the Lougheed Era was union busting, anti-worker legislation and repeated attacks on the rights of workers who fought back on every front. To give just a few examples:

Lougheed's government enacted the Public Service Employees Relations Act making strikes of public workers illegal and limiting the issues that could be arbitrated; his government forced Calgary teachers back to work when they struck for smaller classes; it passed Bill 44 making strikes illegal for hospital workers and firefighters; and attacked the nurses repeatedly by using anti-worker legislation, fines, and threats of decertification. The anti-worker labour laws entrenched during the Lougheed Era exist to this day.

Albertans oppose anti-labour laws by the Lougheed government, 1986.

The other main feature of the Lougheed Era was the accelerated sellout of Alberta's energy resources, a process begun by Lougheed's grandfather in 1920 when he sold his oil company to Exxon subsidiary Imperial Oil. Peter Lougheed's 1971 election was mainly a victory for the home-grown Alberta energy and other capitalists who wanted a larger share of energy profits being siphoned off by the foreign-owned monopolies that were the darlings of the previous Manning regime. Home-grown capitalists such as the Mannixes,[1] Seamans and Southerns manoeuvred their political representative Lougheed into power to gain more control over the state machine to enrich themselves. To give one example, in 1980 the Lougheed government loaned the Southerns of Atco the funds they needed to wrest control of Calgary Power from a U.S. utility.

While enriching certain home-grown capitalists, Lougheed at the same time in no way opposed the foreign energy monopolies. For example, in 1974, his government established the state-owned Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority (AOSTRA). AOSTRA used public funds to perfect the now widely-used in situ steam-assisted gravity drainage process, a technology for producing heavy oil and bitumen from the oil sands. It then handed the technical expertise over to Exxon's subsidiary, Imperial Oil, now part owner of oilsands giant Syncrude. Interestingly, Lougheed's brother, Don, served as Imperial Oil's senior vice president from 1975 to 1981, and then as VP of Imperial's Esso Resources subsidiary until 1986. In the latter part of his premiership, Peter Lougheed played a major role in facilitating the greatest sellout to foreign interests, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has been used to facilitate the annexation of Canada into the United States of North American Monopolies.

Selecting 144 candidates out of 31,000 and then placing them in isolation from everyone else to be individually trained to be "leaders" by some artificial process will produce nothing good. It will precisely tend to give rise to more individuals like Peter Lougheed who will serve the private monopolies by continuing his legacy in leading the attack on workers and the sell-out of our resources, thus acting in opposition to the interests of the people of Alberta.

Albertans Protest Against Wage and Price Controls, 1976.
 (Alberta Labour History Institute)

What kind of leadership is in the interests of Albertans? First, this is not the era of individual leader heroes at all but the era of the collective. It is the era when true leaders do not set themselves above or apart from the collective such as in isolated privileged colleges separate from the thousands of other students. Leaders emerge from the work of the collective and make their contribution like everyone else.

True leaders are not "mighty" individuals cultivated as Queen Bees to lead the masses by their noses. Such Queen Bees receive fame and fortune from the ruling circles and become honoured members of the privileged class the more they trample on the rights of the people. True leaders who lead and inspire the collective are never developed in isolation from their peers. They are steeled and educated in battle through placing themselves in the middle of the struggles of the workers, women, Aboriginal peoples, students, seniors, and all those fighting for their rights and for a nation-building project in opposition to imperialism.


1. Peter Lougheed joined Calgary-based Mannix Corporation, one of North America's most powerful construction monopolies, in 1956 as general counsel and resigned in 1962 as Mannix's general counsel, vice-president and director. Three years later, he became head of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party.

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Coming Events

Rally for Retirement Security!

Sunday, March 2 -- 2:00 pm
Churchill Square (99 Street and 102 Avenue)

The organizers state: "The Redford Government has proposed costly and irresponsible changes to your pension plan. Make your voice heard 2 p.m. on March 2 in Sir Winston Churchill Square.

"The Redford government's proposed cuts to public-sector pensions are unjustified, unfair and reckless. Let's fight back."

For more information: www.truthaboutalbertapensions.ca

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