June 27, 2019
Anti-Social Offensive in Alberta
to Bill 9 and Kenney Government's Contempt for Workers and the Rule of
Pickets -- No! To Bill 9, the Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral
• Alberta Teachers' Association to Launch Legal
Challenge of Bill 9 - Cory Hare, Managing Editor, ATA News
Quebec Workers Defend
• Municipal Workers and Retirees'
Constitutional Challenge to Anti-Worker Pension Act
• Continued Opposition to Changes in Crane
Operator Training that Endanger Workers and the Public
Opposition to Anti-Social Offensive in
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.
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) is
holding information pickets across the province to say No! to Bill 9.
The bill is directed at public sector workers, and tears up the
provisions in collective agreements for 180,000 workers which required
arbitration on a wage-re-opener to take place by June 30. While the
public sector workers, an attack on these workers is an attack against
all workers. Join in to defend the right of workers to a say and
control over their working and living conditions, and No! to dictate
and contempt for the rule of law. Bill 9 is unacceptable and must be
withdrawn! AUPE locals are holding the following information pickets:
11:30 am-1:00 pm
11:30 am-1:00 pm
11:30 am-1:00 pm
11:30 am-1:00 pm
above pickets: AUPE Local 043
Chair Judy Fader, firstname.lastname@example.org
11:30 am-1:00 pm
For information: AUPE Local 095 Chair
David Choy, email@example.com
11:30 am-1:00 pm
For information: Local 054/010 Chair
Teresa Bergen, firstname.lastname@example.org
Local 046/003 Vice-Chair
Sharon Conium, 780-903-5133
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.
Quebec Workers Defend Their Rights
Montreal municipal workers demonstrate in defence
pensions, April 23, 2014. (SCFP)
Dozens of unions representing municipal workers in
Quebec are pursuing a constitutional challenge to Bill 15, An Act
to foster the financial health and sustainability of municipal defined
benefit pension plans, which the Quebec government adopted in
December 2014. The unions involved represent tens of thousands of
employees across Quebec, blue collar, white collar, fire fighters and
According to the unions, the pension legislation, among
other things, violates the right to collective bargaining. They say
Article 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
protects workers' freedom of association, which is required if the
right to collective bargaining is to have any meaning in practice.
In a press release dated June 21, the Canadian Union of
Public Employees (Quebec) reports that after 85 days of hearings before
the Quebec Superior Court, all the evidence provided by both parties
has now been entered. The next step is the presentation of arguments of
both parties, which is expected to begin in August and last two
The Quebec government and mayors of major cities such as
Montreal and Quebec City presented the Act in 2014, as a necessary step
foster the sustainability of municipal defined benefit pension plans
and to ensure "intergenerational equity." They used figures alleging
huge deficits in certain municipal pension plans, which the workers and
unions challenged as being inaccurate and fraudulent. In the case of
Montreal, the figures did not take into account the fact that the
alleged deficits were based on the City of Montreal for years not
putting the money it was legally bound to put into the plans.
A main feature of Bill 15 is to remove from collective
bargaining issues related to municipal employee pensions and instead
make them a matter of government dictate. The Act decreed 50-50
employer/employee contribution rates for upcoming pensions and banned
any automatic indexing. The act broke existing collective agreements
required workers and retirees to pay 50 per cent of any predicted
actuarial deficits, which were the responsibility of the municipalities
according to past collective agreements.
In the case of retirees, the bill allowed municipalities
to cancel indexing of their pensions and to use that money to pay off
any deficits. It is estimated that Montreal municipal retirees have
been deprived of millions of dollars in pensions since the City of
Montreal suspended indexation on retirement plans in 2016. To damage
opposing this attack on pensioners and their rights, the monopoly media
launched slanderous propaganda that municipal retirees were well off
and abusing the budget of the city. The truth is far from what the
propaganda alleged with most retirees living on $30,000 or even $20,000
a year, depending on when they retired. Workers reject with
contempt that a decree of the state can force retirees into poverty and
deprive them of their contracted rights.
The Act has forced retrogressive restructuring of some
defined benefit pension plans in 1,100 municipalities across Quebec.
Municipal workers now pay considerably more in contributions to the
pension plans, amounting to an actual significant reduction in their
wages during their working life in addition to the amounts they
had to pay for past deficits, which were not their responsibility.
Through their words and deeds the municipal authorities
in Montreal and Quebec acknowledge that this state-organized theft of
pensions and lowering of the living standards of city workers was
initiated so they could divert more of the wealth produced by municipal
workers and at their disposal into pay-the-rich schemes for global
companies. They seek to make their cities a hub for investment by
global supranational private interests at the expense of active and
retired workers' well-being and rights.
Municipal workers and their allies waged a protracted
struggle in an effort to prevent the government from passing Bill 15,
organizing demonstrations and local strikes. A general strike of
Montreal white collar workers in 2014 had as its central theme
opposition to the bill and defence of pensions and the right to
Since Bill 15 was passed, municipal workers have tried
to offset some of its negative impacts in their negotiations for new
collective agreements. An example is the case of the Montreal Transit
Corporation maintenance workers who negotiated and organized actions
over the course of 23 months in defence of their rights and were able
to obtain in 2019 a premium from the employer to offset the increase in
contributions they have to make to fund their pension plans.
Workers have not reconciled with the Quebec government's
abuse of state power. The constitutional challenge is part of the fight
to have Bill 15 withdrawn. Municipal workers, retirees and their allies
demand the withdrawal of the act and redress for the damage already
inflicted. Workers have the right to negotiate collectively their terms
employment, which include a say on their standard of living while
working and in retirement.
More than a year has passed since the Quebec government
and the Quebec Construction Commission (CCQ) arbitrarily abolished the
mandatory character of the Diploma of Vocational Studies (DVS) for
crane operators and replaced it with a much inferior on-site training
program. Crane operators and construction workers gave substantive
arguments opposing this change as soon as it was announced. Their
scientific and operational reasoning fell on deaf ears as the big
construction companies wanted the change as it served their narrow
private interests regardless of the dangers.
Construction workers protest the CCQ's negligence
of health and safety following an incident with a crane: "How is the
CCQ going to apply the
[new] regulations when it is incapable of doing so now?"
To ensure their safety and that of the public,
construction workers have not given up their opposition to the
regressive change and demand that the Quebec government immediately
restore the mandatory character of the DVS. They are waging a battle in
the court of public opinion using their web site and talking to any
media that will listen.
They have two demands, which they insist the Coalition Avenir
Québec government must meet for the common good of all:
1) The regressive regulation must be withdrawn and
obligatory crane operator training restarted;
2) A roundtable should be created that includes all
concerned parties, including vocational teachers, to look into the
problems linked to the crane operator sector and construction site
The previous Quebec Liberal government abolished the
mandatory character of the Diploma of Vocational Studies at the end of
April 2018, without the consent or input of crane operators, the
construction unions or vocational teachers. The vocational course to
become a crane operator included 870 hours of practical training within
professional educational setting. The government decree made the
diploma optional. An on-site training program of only 150 hours was
introduced, which the construction companies themselves provide and
oversee. The government and CCQ also replaced the vocational course and
diploma with an 80-hour course for the operation of boom trucks
with a maximum capacity of 30 tonnes. This type of boom truck is
precisely the crane that overturns most frequently and causes the most
The crane operators refused to quietly accept this
attack on their right to a say and input and have waged a persistent
struggle against the new regulation. One bold action was not to show up
for work a week in June 2018. In response, the government chose a
committee of experts to study the new regulations, which submitted a
March. While recognizing that greatly reduced on-site training in the
workplace is inferior to a vocational setting and training with
professional teachers, the committee of experts proposed that the
diploma course be considered a "reference" and not a requirement. The
committee of experts accepted the government change as permanent
recommending only some small tweaks.
In a TV interview with the TVA network at the end of
May, the Director of the Union of Crane Operators, Evans Dupuis,
presented the union's point of view: "It's not settled yet after a year
now that the new regulation is in force. In the last year, on-site
training has been introduced so that anyone can enter the construction
industry with only
on-site training. Regarding the operation of the boom trucks, the
operation of this small crane has been removed from the norm to allow
anyone to operate it. We have been denouncing this since the beginning.
"To give a concrete example, since the establishment of
the DVS (professional vocational training and diploma), the number of
fatal crane accidents decreased by 66 per cent. The DVS has proven its
value. What we are waiting for is that the new government make a
decision that will respect health and safety and ensure that we have
training for crane operators."
"Health and safety of our workers is
Regarding one of the expert committee's recommendations
to provide three weeks of initial training prior to on-site training,
the Union of Crane Operators says this is far from adequate and does
not compare with the 870 hours of vocational training to gain a diploma.
Further, crane operators and their union reject on
principle the argument of the construction companies and government
that a worker shortage in the construction sector justifies the
lowering of safety standards. They point out other ways of meeting
workforce needs without lowering training standards and endangering the
lives and well-being
of workers and the public. For example, enrollment in vocational
training can be increased with more candidates accepted and provided an
opportunity to become crane operators. This was done in the past, they
say, but in 2015 registrations were reduced.
Crane operators recall a period when the government
removed the mandatory driving course to operate a vehicle in Quebec.
This requirement was soon reinstated because the number of deaths on
the road increased. They point out that the same principle of a
mandatory course to operate a crane should apply to avoid a rise in
deaths on construction sites. The Quebec government must listen to
those who do the work in construction and their unions and immediately
reinstate the 870-hour mandatory vocational training course for crane
1. An examination of the report is
available here: "Expert
Panel Report Does Not Respect Safety
Demands of Those Who Do the Work," Pierre Chénier, Workers'
Forum, April 18, 2019.
(To access articles individually
click on the black headline.)
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