Alberta Bill 32: Trump-style Labour Law Comes to Alberta
Jason Kenney's government has adopted legislation that, among other things, severely limits the bargaining and picketing rights of unions and aims to defund our public campaigns. It is an American-style attack on the fundamental goal of labour unions: to stand up for the rights of working people.
Bill 32 permits overtime pay or time-off entitlements to be averaged over a 52-week period. Extending hours of work averaging to such an extreme length suggests the policy goal is to minimize overtime costs for employers and rob workers of earnings.
Before Bill 32
The Code formerly permitted an hours of work averaging agreement to be made by an employer and employees. Hours of work can be averaged over a maximum of 12 weeks for purposes of calculating overtime pay or time-off entitlements.
After Bill 32
Under Bill 32, the Code will permit an employer unilaterally to implement a written “averaging arrangement” for employees not covered by a collective agreement. An averaging arrangement can average hours of work over up to 52 weeks without a variance or exemption.
Before Bill 32 a non-union worker works 540 hours (45 hours per week) between January 1 and March 31. Under a 12-week averaging arrangement, the worker is owed 60 hours of overtime pay.
Under Bill 32, the employer can average out the extra 60 hours over the entire year. This allows the employer to average the accrued overtime hours to slower periods.
Grievance and Arbitration
Bill 32 makes subtle changes to the Labour Code that restrict arbitrators’ power and gives more power to the UCP-appointed Labour Board.
Before Bill 32
The Labour Board may review awards only in special circumstances.
After Bill 32
These U.S. type changes allow a politicized Labour Board to intervene in normal labour relations and employer lawyers will be urging them to review and set aside awards, without the existing reference to grounds of fair hearing denial, or unreasonableness.
What else has changed?
Here is a summary of some of the more radical changes proposed in Bill 32:
- imposes time-consuming financial reporting requirements for local unions
- making union dues for core union advocacy* optional (*as defined by Kenney’s government)
- reduces secondary picketing rights
- limiting arbitrators’ discretion
- lowers the legal age of work to 13 years old
Where else have these laws been implemented?
Most of the changes proposed in Bill 32 are unprecedented in Canada. They are more common in southern U.S. states where they have had the effect of reducing unionization rates and keeping wages artificially low.
Jason Kenney’s economic recovery plans are failing. Alberta has lost 50,000 jobs since the election. Workers have been vocal critics of Kenney’s privatization and tax cuts, and now he’s moving to silence us. The summer pandemic has also provided him an opportunity to move quickly while other news captures the headlines and workers are tied up with health and financial issues.
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