Opposition to Anti-Social Offensive in Alberta

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 attack on
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. Workers 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 further actions.

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 democratic 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 negotiate 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 delay 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 them. It 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 Health Services.

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.

(Photos: AUPE)

This article was published in

Number 24 - June 27, 2019

Article Link:
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


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