Opposition to Anti-Social Offensive in
Growing Resistance to Bill 9 and Kenney Government's Contempt for Workers and the Rule of Law
Workers in Lac La Biche hold information picket to protest Bill 9's
public sector negotiations, June 15, 2019.
Workers in Alberta are organizing actions across the
province to express their resounding No! to Bill 9, the Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral Act.
gathered at the Alberta Legislature on the evening of June 19,
as the government rammed through the bill. During Question Period the
following day they expressed their outrage and determination to fight
to uphold their rights and defend the public services they deliver.
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) has
initiated information pickets at workplaces across the province. The
first pickets will take place during the noon hour at hospitals, and
all the unions are organizing to make them a big success. AUPE is also
organizing telephone town hall meetings for their members. The AUPE has
applied for an injunction against Bill 9 and the United Nurses of
Alberta (UNA) is likewise launching a legal challenge on the basis of
breach of contract and violation of its members' Charter rights. The
Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) says unions are meeting to plan
The United Conservative Party (UCP) Alberta government
forced the passage of Bill 9 through the legislature using time
allocation to end debate and passing the bill after an all-night
session. Both the bill itself and the manner in which the UCP forced
its passage demonstrate the wrecking of politics and crisis of Canada's
institutions. The UCP's utter contempt for the legislature was seen in
the spectacle of a smirking Premier Jason Kenney handing out earplugs
to his caucus members so they did not have to listen to the
opposition's arguments and amendments. The bill itself is widely
believed to be illegal and in violation of the right of workers to
collectively their terms of employment.
Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of
Labour, said, "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."
McGowan also addressed the UCP's bogus claim that it has
a mandate to attack public sector workers supposedly on behalf of the
Albertans who elected them: "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.
"If the Premier thinks he can tear up contracts and
trample on workers' rights without a fight, he has another think
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."
United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) points out, "With final
passage of Bill 9, UNA's negotiations are on hold until Halloween. By
then, the government is expected to introduce legislation allowing more
aggressive intervention in public-sector collective bargaining and
arbitration, although the timeline appears to have been designed to
controversy until after the fall federal election."
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) notes
that Finance Minister Travis Toews refused to comment when asked by
reporters if the government would allow arbitration hearings to take
place after October 31. The AUPE states, "It is now clear that Bill 9
may not just be a tactic to delay arbitrations, but possibly to cancel
is the first step in the government's plan to freeze or cut wages."
The legislation impacts 24 collective agreements
covering roughly 180,000 public sector employees, some directly
employed by the government but most by public agencies such as Alberta
Workers targeted by the government through Bill 9 go to
work every day to provide the services the people and society need.
They are the front line of defence of the public services and programs
a modern society requires. By showing such disrespect and contempt for
the rights of public sector workers, refusing to engage in good-faith
bargaining, and instead using dictate, the UCP and other similar
anti-social governments in Canada are attacking all working people and
taking society down a retrogressive and dangerous path.
Workers' Forum calls on everyone to go all out to
stand with the public sector workers. Join the information pickets in
your city or town. For details see below. Discuss what is at stake with
your fellow workers, friends and neighbours, and encourage them to join
in and speak out as well. Stand as one in defence of the right of
workers to a say on wages, working and living conditions and
retirement. Say No! to
dictate and arbitrariness. Defend the right of
all working people to negotiate collectively! Bill 9 must be withdrawn!
Information picket against Bill 9, Wetaskiwin, June 14, 2019.
This article was published in
Number 24 - June 27, 2019
Opposition to Anti-Social Offensive in
Alberta: Growing Resistance to Bill 9 and Kenney Government's Contempt for Workers and the Rule of Law - Peggy Morton