Condemn the Alberta Government's Anti-Worker Bill 32!

The Kenney government in Alberta tabled Bill 32, the Restoring Balance in Alberta's Workplaces Act, 2020 on July 7. The bill passed second reading on July 23, and, in an all night marathon sitting that ended the current legislative session, the bill was passed on the morning of July 29 and will become law after receiving Royal Assent. 

Bill 32 makes significant amendments to the Employment Standards Code and the Labour Relations Code in ways that trample workers' rights. The government has launched this attack on workers under the hoax of supporting economic recovery, restoring balance in the workplace, and getting Albertans back to work. In fact, the aim is to consolidate the power and privilege of the rich within an old normal of recurring economic crises, devastating insecurity of employment and a state-organized bias favouring employers over workers within the social relation at the workplace.

The bill features an anti-worker aim to lower the working and living conditions of all Alberta workers both unionized and not. It openly favours private profit of the few to the detriment of the workers who produce all value through their work. For example, the bill shamelessly amends the Employment Standards Code to allow employers to eliminate most overtime pay for non-union workers by averaging worked hours over 52 weeks!

The bill also greatly widens arbitrary powers of the Director of Employment Standards or the Minister of Labour to grant exemptions or variances to the Employment Standards Code, giving employers the ability to trample on workers' rights with impunity. An exemption removes the obligation of employers to meet the minimum criteria in the Code when they make requests for exemptions or variances, and allows such exemptions to be renewed indefinitely.

These retrogressive changes contained in the bill are backed by a direct attack on workers and their right to defend themselves and society collectively through their defence organizations. Bill 32 seeks to cripple workers and their unions so as to drive down the living and working conditions of working people generally.

The government claims individual workers need "freedom of choice" with regard to their own organizations and that government dictate through Bill 32 will give them that "freedom." In this regard, the bill takes aim at the right of workers and their unions to decide their own affairs. The government vows to stamp out workers' and their unions' "political activities and other causes," which the ruling elite in power do not like.

The legislation gives the Kenney government the authority to determine that the only "legitimate" activity of unions is "collective bargaining and representation of members" and nothing else. Even this is a farce as workers know full well how the Kenney government neither respects nor defends collective bargaining. This can be seen in practice in its absolute refusal to negotiate with public sector workers, as well as its legislated attacks on them.

The Kenney government's aim is all rights for employers and no rights for employees!

The legislation directly interferes in the affairs of unions and the decisions their members may take collectively. It requires individual workers to declare that a portion of their dues can be used for "political activities," otherwise the union is deprived of that portion of their dues. The government has the audacity to give itself the right to decide what activities of a union are "political" or not and how it spends its money. The government is dictating to workers and their unions how to conduct their affairs and manage their own money. 

No Mr. Kenney, workers and their unions are independent organizations. You are not a member of a workers' union and if one of your government members were a member in good standing of a union then they would have the right to discuss and decide the direction of their union and how it spends its money according to the rules and regulations of the union.

Bill 32 increases government interference in the affairs of Alberta workers and their unions. Its purpose is to paralyze the unions in order to stop the organized working class from opposing the government's anti-social agenda and from putting forward their own pro-social solutions to problems facing the working people of Alberta and their economy. The Alberta working class, both unionized and non-union workers, will never accept such attacks on the rights of workers and of all Albertans to organize and speak their minds against a government agenda that is anti-social and anti-worker and to fight for the right to set a pro-social direction for the economy.

In anticipation of the passing of Bill 32 the Alberta Federation of Labour announced on July 27 that "a large coalition of Alberta unions will launch a legal challenge to Jason Kenney's draconian new labour bill on the grounds that it violates key democratic rights enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms." The Federation organized a press conference on July 29 to denounce the legislation and the gamut of the Kenney government's anti-social measures imposed on Alberta and reminded the Premier that Albertans in their thousands -- youth, seniors, workers, women -- have already joined in mass actions against the government's attacks. Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan reported that so far 26 unions and the AFL have agreed to participate in the Charter challenge to Bill 32. He quoted the bible in his message to Kenney: "You have sown the wind, now you will reap the whirlwind."

This article was published in

Number 51 - July 30, 2020

Article Link:
Condemn the Alberta Government's Anti-Worker Bill 32! - Peggy Morton


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