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Likewise, all legislation of this government that negates workers' rights such as Bill 45 and 46 should be immediately repealed.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.
Reasons for Decision to Stay Bill 46
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."
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."
Intensify Organized Resistance to the Anti-Social Austerity Agenda!
Wildrose Party's Ideological Assault on
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, Seamans and Southerns manoeuvred their
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.
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.
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
Website: www.cpcml.ca Email: email@example.com