Alberta Teachers' Association to Launch Legal Challenge of Bill 9
The Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) is launching a
legal challenge of Bill 9, the UCP government's legislation that will
delay an arbitrated decision on teacher salaries.
During a weekend meeting, the Association's table
officers authorized the organization's law firm to launch a
constitutional challenge on the grounds that the act violates the ATA's
right to free collective bargaining.
"We are standing up for our rights along with the rest
of the public sector," said ATA President Greg Jeffery. "We will
continue to demand that contracts and agreements, freely entered into,
A central table agreement reached earlier this year
included a provision to employ interest arbitration to determine
teacher salaries. The agreement stipulates that this arbitration must
take place by Sept. 30. However, Bill 9 delays that arbitration from
proceeding until after Oct 31.
The new deadline for arbitration is Dec 15. Regardless
of the length of the delay, it's necessary to fight the government's
move on principle, Jeffery said.
"Teachers are certainly frustrated with taking six
zeroes in seven years, and there was hope for this arbitration that we
might finally get some relief, and to have that snatched away at the
last moment has been frustrating for our membership," Jeffery said. "We
need to tell the government that this is not an acceptable way to
Also on Monday, the Alberta Union of Provincial
Employees announced that it was launching a legal challenge. The United
Nurses of Alberta made such an announcement last Friday [June 21]. It's
believed that a number of other public sector unions are preparing
Freedom of Association
The challenge will be in regard to section
2(d) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The unions will
argue that the Act interferes with their right to free collective
bargaining and, therefore, violates their freedom of association, said
Sandra Johnston, co-ordinator of the ATA's Teacher Welfare program
"Interest arbitration was a compromise teachers and
TEBA [the Teachers' Employer Bargaining Association] agreed to when we
could not agree on salary but still wanted to come to an agreement.
Now, the compromise of interest arbitration is being treated like it is
an affront to the public interest. It is in the public interest," she
The government has justified Bill 9 by saying it needs
to get a better picture of its upcoming budget before determining
public sector salaries, but Jeffery isn't buying that argument.
"They've cut corporate taxes already ... there's a
30-million-dollar war room being created ... so that seems like
language from the government that really doesn't stand up because
they've made a number of large-scale fiscal moves already, but suddenly
they can't honour collective agreements bargained in good faith," he
Jeffery noted that the government is expecting to
receive a report on Aug. 15 from a blue ribbon panel established to
inform its fall budget, and the chair of the panel has previously said
that a simple solution would be a two per cent wage rollback throughout
the public sector.
"If they're just waiting for that to be formalized,
certainly we have no interest in that whatsoever," Jeffery said. "There
would be absolutely no appetite for a rollback or for another zero."
Bill 9, the Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral
Act, passed third reading on June 19. Despite its legal challenge,
the ATA is primarily focused on preparing for interest arbitration,
whenever it does take place.
"We're not losing sight of the fact that we need to
succeed in this arbitration," Jeffery said.
This article was published in
Number 24 - June 27, 2019
Alberta Teachers' Association to Launch Legal Challenge of Bill 9 - Cory Hare, Managing Editor, ATA News