November 13, 2019
Government Steps Up Brutal Anti-Social Offensive
Government's Wrecking Ball
Rally at Calgary city hall, November 6, 2019 against cuts contained in
Popular Resistance in Alberta to Anti-Social Measures - Peggy
For Your Information
• Omnibus Bill 21 -- A Broad Assault on the
People of Alberta
• Some of the Measures Taken in Bill 21
Alberta Government Steps Up Brutal
The Kenney government introduced its budget on October
24, the first since taking office in April 2019, followed by two
omnibus bills and outrageous announcements all intended to overwhelm
the workers' and peoples' movement in defence of rights.
budget documents and speech were designed to hide the extent of the
wrecking of public services, especially health care and education,
which when inflation and population growth are factored in amounts to
an 18-30 per cent cut over four years. The budget was rapidly followed
by the introduction of Bills 20 and 21 on October 28,
omnibus bills containing 35 different regressive legislative measures.
These bills include amendments to existing legislation as well as new
legislation in the form of a bill within a bill.
The next day, October 29, the labour minister publicly
announced that he had changed his position of no wage increases for
public sector workers. He said that the government would now seek wage
rollbacks of two to five per cent in upcoming arbitrations which affect
some 180,000 public sector workers. He threatened that if arbitrators
wage increases, this would likely lead to more layoffs in the public
While these massive bills are before the legislature,
the government has continued to make one announcement after another
that another program has been axed, or that the government has torn up
another contract. The government is using the U.S. imperialist style
"shock and awe" tactics in which one assault after another is launched
succession in an effort to keep everyone off balance and unable to
catch their breath. And there is no dearth of appeasers either.
The use of shock and awe tactics in the U.S. invasion of
Iraq was based on the narcissistic view that the people would come out
in droves to hail their "liberators." Of course, it did not happen,
which is why the revanchist spirit of the U.S. imperialists was so
prominent there. Likewise in Alberta, the ruling class is engaged is
presenting the measures as if they have a legitimate aim which the
people should welcome. However, the attempts to present the vicious
anti-social offensive as anything but self-serving have failed, and
this is the final nail in the coffin of the Kenney government's claims
to legitimacy for its anti-social wrecking.
Writing in the Edmonton Journal, journalist
Gerein comments, "Since the tabling of the budget back on October 24,
important fiscal changes that initially went undiscovered or
undisclosed, have been revealed at such a fast and furious rate that
it's been near impossible to keep focused. Just as you begin to get
your head around the
crunch delivered to one program, two more bombshells have already hit
the news cycle. To some degree, this is by necessity.
"As it's turning out, the volume of reforms, rethinks
and petty reductions in this budget is so substantial that it would
have been unfair -- not to mention logistically insane -- for the
government to dump it all out on budget day. However, there is also a
strong odour of political design to this. Colleagues who covered Ralph
Klein's cuts in the
mid-1990s recall being inundated with information, and suggest Premier
Jason Kenney's crew has adopted much the same playbook.
"The strategy allows the government to claim it's being
transparent, even though the effect is largely the opposite, since
keeping the media, opposition and public dizzy with announcements
undermines any ability to achieve a clear picture of all the bad news."
of this is yet another indication that the state is being restructured
to eliminate any vestiges of a public authority of any kind. The
dog-fight within the ruling elite is so sharp that it brooks no
compromise. Nothing can be sorted out through discussion, negotiation
or compromise because there are no politics, just the dictate of the
the financial oligarchy to get its pound of flesh. What are called the
"democratic institutions" have become anachronistic. The use of
negotiations to sort out the competing interests in society is replaced
with force and dictate. The workers are to be deprived of any peaceful
method to defend their rights and the rights of all. And not only the
workers, as dictate extends to every sector, whether it is
municipalities, school boards, doctors, or other organizations or
individuals who have contractual economic relations with the state of
one sort or another. Government contracts and agreements are torn up
without warning or consultation of any kind. Meanwhile the role of the
take decisions has been usurped holus-bolus.
The argument that the government has a mandate to carry
out such anti-social acts and to act with impunity in the name of rule
of law is absurd. The process itself shows that this is fraud from
beginning to end.
Workers who provide public services and care have shown
that they care deeply about the work they do and its importance to
society. They have shown they will fight to defend their own rights and
the rights of all and in doing so defend these public services.
Submitting to these attacks or appeasing them are not a choice. The
human toll of
these anti-social measures will also contribute to exacerbating the
crisis. Only by fighting can the truth be revealed and the situation be
turned around to favour the working people.
"Join the Resistance" townhall in Calgary, November 5, 2019.
After a summer of militant actions across Alberta to
to Bill 9 and the government's use of dictate, the response from the
working people to Kenney's budget and daily announcements of new
attacks on public services and the workers who deliver them has been
swift. The spirit to "Build the Resistance" is strong. Working
people, youth, women and seniors across Alberta have responded with
fierce determination to the escalating anti-social offensive and
all-out assault on the working people and society being carried out by
the Kenney government. Rallies, pickets, and meetings are taking place.
Unions are organizing together to strengthen their united resistance.
Seniors organizations, women and youth and students are organizing
actions and working out how to be effective.
from many unions were out in force at the Alberta Federation of
Labour's "Join the Resistance" town hall in Calgary on November 5 which
was attended by close to 150 people. The spirit of the meeting was one
of determination to do whatever it takes to oppose the anti-worker,
anti-social offensive as well as the agenda for attacks
on the right of unions to organize. Many University of Calgary students
also came to take a stand to oppose the drastic hikes to tuition,
crippling cuts to the universities and rising interest payments on
In Edmonton, Indigenous youth took the initiative to
organize a spirited march and rally to the Legislature on November 2,
with several hundred people, mainly youth taking part. There was not a
silent moment from Beaver Hills House Park to the Legislature, as one
person after another took up leading chants expressing their resistance.
A militant noon-hour information picket was held at
South Health Campus of the University of Calgary on November 5.
Organized by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, noon-hour
pickets are becoming a tradition across the province, especially at
hospitals and continuing care centres. Workers join the information
pickets during their
lunch hour and are joined by those on later shifts or a day off as well
as workers from other sectors.
following day, CUPE Local 709, the Calgary Civil Foreman's Union,
hosted a lively information picket and rally at City Hall. About 250
people joined in, including public sector workers, retail workers,
building trades, steel and others as well as concerned Calgarians. They
stood together to say they are standing up and fighting back
against the attacks by Jason Kenney's "United Corporate Puppets" on
Discussions and planning on how to go forward are taking
place in every sector. Town halls, information pickets, meetings,
rallies and marches are taking place and many more are planned across
This reality is in sharp contrast with the almost
nightly news carried nationally about an "Alberta separatist movement"
which the monopoly media has conjured up and is desperately trying to
promote. It shows the extent to which the ruling circles and their
monopoly media will go when they engage in such bold-faced distortions.
The resistance of the working people, women, youth and
seniors is exposing the reality of Kenney's claims of jobs and
prosperity and his groveling service to the energy oligarchs who are
also very busy slashing jobs and "cost-cutting" in order to fatten the
dividends paid to the mainly foreign investors. Through the resistance,
their collectives and speaking in their own name, the working people
are bringing the question of political power to the fore. Workers'
experience is that the political process blocks them from participating
directly to set the direction of the economy. The new democratic
personality will emerge through resistance to the anti-social offensive
based on the independent thinking, organization and action of working
It Can Be Done! It Must Be Done!
Bill 21 is one of the two omnibus bills introduced by
the Kenney government in Alberta on October 28. It contains amendments
to 17 different legislative Acts, and contains within it the new Public
Sector Employers Act.
The legislation contains a broad number of attacks on the right of
citizens, including freezing assistance to
seniors and the most vulnerable people in society, making education
more unaffordable for a growing number of young people, and eliminating
the cap on electricity rates. Bill 21 also makes significant changes to
labour legislation, and launches an unprecedented assault on physicians.
try and justify what cannot be justified, the Kenney government claims
that starving social programs of funding and the staff needed to
deliver care and services, is needed in order to preserve public
services. It paints a picture of a crisis of titanic proportions, with
the current debt only the tip of the iceberg. But experience shows that
danger to public services comes from the neo-liberal anti-social
offensive pursued by governments of all stripes which serve narrow
private supranational interests. Wrecking and privatization of public
services and the politicization of narrow private interests all
exacerbate the problems. They do not provide solutions.
The intent of the changes to labour legislation in Bill
21 is to deprive the workers of the ability to deploy the strength of
their numbers and organizations. It is their striving to see justice
done and their resolve to defend the rights of all which will open a
path forward in this situation. By seeking to deprive public sector
workers of any
meaningful participation in their terms of employment, the aim is to
deprive all working people of their rights.
When all avenues of good faith negotiations are blocked,
the state is resorting to state force and violence to impose terms of
employment on the working people. This is extremism against the working
class, and the working people say No!
It Must Not Pass!
Alberta's omnibus legislation, Bill 21 amends the
Alberta Health Care Insurance Act
Alberta Housing Act
Alberta Utilities Commission Act
An Act to Cap Regulated Electricity Rates
Employment Standards Code
Financial Administration Act
Fiscal Planning and Transparency Act
Income and Employment Supports Act
Labour Relations Code
Post-Secondary Learning Act
Provincial Offences Procedures Act
Public Sector Employer Act (new legislation)
Public Service Act
Public Service Employees Relations Act
Seniors Benefits Act
Student Financial Assistance Act
The Public Sector Employers Act Extends to Any
Entity that Receives Public Funding and/or Provides a Public Service
Rally at Calgary city hall, November 6, 2019.
The reach of the new legislation called the Public
Sector Employers Act
is broad. The Act applies to health authorities, school boards,
post-secondary institutions, crown corporations, and at the Minister's
discretion can be applied to "any entity which receives public funding
from the Crown to provide a public service." Employers of
entities which do not receive public funding are also included, such as
the Workers' Compensation Board, and the Crown Corporation ATB
Every agency, public or community-organized, which
receives any public funding to provide public services can be required
to submit to government dictate over negotiations with its employees.
In theory this could encompass privately-owned and operated entities as
well, although the government has provided an escape clause to allow them to be exempted.
21 authorizes the Minister to issue confidential directives that an
employer must follow when "engaging in collective bargaining or a
related process." These directives are secret. The employer cannot
disclose the directive to any third party without prior consent of the
Minister, including to the union with which it is supposedly engaged in
"good faith bargaining." Secret directives may set out the length of a
collective agreement, and "fiscal limits."
The government can also issue directives requiring an
employer to provide the government with any and all "information which
the Minister considers necessary respecting collective bargaining, or a
related process" including information for the purpose of monitoring
compliance with directives. The Minister can determine the form,
and time in which the directive is to be complied with. In other words
the employer who is at the table is not actually conducting the
negotiations, and effectively cannot breathe without the approval of
the Minister. This means that the union has no one with whom to
negotiate. The decision-maker is not at the table, and their directives
Even if a contract is reached under these conditions, the government
has made it clear that the employer's signature means nothing and the
government might declare that it needs to tear up the collective
agreement anyway. Not a shred remains of the conception of "good faith
In case of a conflict with existing labour law, the Act,
or the regulations under the Act, will apply. This provision is also
quite extraordinary, in that it specifies that existing labour law can
be overturned by writing regulations attached to the Public Sector
Finally, having usurped the authority of the employer,
the Act then declares that the Crown is not the employer of a person of
whom the Crown is not otherwise an employer. What this means is that
the Crown is the employer only for provincial government employees. How
such a declaration will help the government get off the hook in a
challenge to the constitutionality of the legislation is difficult to
imagine. Is it that the government is well aware that its legislation
will not stand up to the scrutiny of the courts, but it does not care,
because the damage will already be done by the time the matter wends
its way to the Supreme Court? It seems so.
Changes to the Employment
The Alberta government is amending the definition of an
employee in the Employment Standards
to permit exclusion of a class of workers from the regulations. At
present there is a long list of sectors where certain provisions, e.g.
overtime and hours of work, do not apply or are amended. This change
allows the government to exempt
workers in an entire industry from the Employment Standards Code, for
example farm workers or domestic workers.
Workers who belong to a union can no longer make
Employment Standards complaints. Reports indicate this has been the
general practice, but is now enshrined in law. The impact of this
change is profound given the rise of situations where workers are
"represented" by an organization widely known to be a company union and
has no recourse through Employment Standards.
Labour Relations Code Removes the Ban on Replacement Workers
Alberta NDP government introduced essential services legislation in
2016, replacing legislation criminalizing strike action for all
employees of the provincial government, hospitals, health authorities,
ambulance service providers, municipal firefighting services, and
municipal police forces, as well as most staff at public colleges and
universities. This outright ban had been rendered unconstitutional by
the Supreme Court of Canada decision on Saskatchewan Federation of
Labour v. Saskatchewan, January 30, 2015.
Employees of privately owned continuing care facilities
who had previously had a legal right to strike were included in the
legislation. The use of scab replacement workers was banned where
essential services legislation applied.
The legislation as amended continues to impose the
requirement for essential services agreements on the collectives of the
workers, but not the employers. Employers can choose instead to try and
break the union using replacement workers. The employer can start
negotiating an essential services agreement, and then decide that it
will hire scab
replacement workers instead.
Tearing Up Agreements with Alberta's Physicians
Alberta's Bill 21 also contains an unprecedented assault
on the province's physicians. It states that the government can cancel
any agreement regarding physician remuneration made with the Alberta
Medical Association (AMA) or any other entity or person at any time.
AMA President Dr. Christine Molnar points out: "This is
not only for the existing AMA Agreement, the bill also clearly
identifies that government is not required to live up to terms of
future contracts. Government is cynically asking us to work toward
agreements when it appears we are the only party to be bound by them."
Dr. Molnar also points out that decision-making has been
moved behind closed doors to Cabinet, apparently in the name of the
public good. "What is the value of an agreement when it can be revoked
at any time with no public discussion?" she asks.
In short order, the government cut the payment to
physicians on call (mainly rural physicians) by 37 per cent.
Bill 21 also enables the Minister of Health to restrict
the number of physicians practicing, and where in the province they can
practice, as of April 2022. Physicians who already have billing numbers
as of April 2022 will be grandfathered.
Other changes have been made to the legislation
concerning "opting in" and "opting out" of the Alberta health insurance
plan. People are asking what else the government has up its sleeve.
They suspect that by restricting the number of physicians who can bill
under the provincial plan, the Kenney government has not given up on
the plan to
impose two-tier medicine on the people of Alberta. Such plans have met
with determined opposition to the point where the government has always
been forced to abandon them.
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