Alberta Unions Respond to Reinstatement of Bill 9
What the Kenney government in Alberta is up to concerns the working people across the country because it shows the manner in which limits are being imposed by legislatures and by the courts in the name of prosperity, national interest, jobs, fiscal responsibility and many other high sounding ideals. The fight over Alberta’s Bill 9 is one example.
In a two-to-one decision released September 6, the Court of Appeal of Alberta overturned the injunction which had halted application of the Kenney government’s Bill 9, the Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral Act. Bill 9 gives the government the right to renege on and change certain provisions within the collective agreements affecting 180,000 workers in the public sector. In doing so, the government has brought itself and the rule of law into disrepute by giving itself a legal veneer to deprive workers of already negotiated and agreed to wage-reopener provisions and scheduled arbitrations. The workers have no similar legal right to change unilaterally the collective agreement.
The lifting of the injunction means that the Alberta government can re-impose the suspension of collective bargaining rights for 180,000 public sector workers. Public sector unions gave a militant response to the judicial decision, emphasizing that they will vigorously defend the rights of workers.
“We are frustrated by the ruling. AUPE [the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees] will be consulting with our legal counsel and our membership will consider our options including appealing this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada,” stated AUPE President Guy Smith, remarking in addition that the legality of Bill 9 itself will be challenged in court. “Justice Paperny’s written dissent bolsters our argument that the court was absolutely correct to issue AUPE’s injunction in the first place,” Smith said.
“What this decision shows is that AUPE members and other hard working Albertans cannot rely on the courts to hold this government accountable. This is our struggle, and AUPE members know they are the ones with the power to fight this government’s anti-worker agenda,” Smith said.
“United Nurses of Alberta will never accept that governments have the right to simply tear up legal contracts,” said President Heather Smith. “Like other unions, we will pursue legal remedies in the courts, but we also recognize that we cannot depend on the courts alone to do the right thing when a government is determined to violate the fundamental rights of citizens.”
“So while today’s ruling is disappointing, it changes nothing about our intentions to continue to challenge this unconstitutional law in the courts and it will not deter our vigorous public advocacy of our fundamental rights,” she said.
CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill said, “Alberta workers need to know that today’s decision is a minor legal setback, and every public sector union is committed to fighting for their interests.” “A deal is a deal. That’s basic schoolyard stuff,” he emphasized.
(With files from Global News and CBC. Photos RU, AUPE.)