In this file photo, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney reacts to a question as he speaks to reporters on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on May 2, 2019. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Alberta eyes legislation if necessary to override public sector wage talks

EDMONTON — Alberta’s finance minister says the government will pass legislation if necessary to override collective bargaining agreements with unions and delay contractually mandated wage talks.

The move would affect thousands of workers across the province, including nurses, hospital support staff, conservation officers, social workers, correctional officers — even sheriffs who protect politicians and staff in the legislature.

“The very people who guard the doors of this building and protect the lives of legislators could be legislated out of a fair chance to discuss their wages,” NDP critic David Eggen said Tuesday.

Finance Minister Travis Toews confirmed all options are on the table as he and his staff work to find savings to eradicate Alberta’s annual multibillion-dollar budget deficits.

“We believe that we really need to ensure that we’re being responsible with Albertans’ tax dollars. To do that we need our options open,” said Toews.

The issue involves unionized workers who took pay freezes in the first two years of their contracts but now have the right in the third and final year to have the wage portion reopened and subject to binding arbitration if necessary.

Toews said the government wants to delay those talks and arbitration until after an independent panel reports in August on ways to save money.

“We believe that delaying arbitration is the right path forward, the responsible path forward,” said Toews.

He was asked if the responsible path would be for the government to honour its signed agreements.

He replied: “Again, we’re keeping our options open. We’re committed to working with all of our stakeholders in good faith.”

The move was not announced by the government but was revealed Tuesday by Eggen in a leaked May 16 letter from Toews’ department to public sector unions.

The letter asked for union input on wage reopener talks.

But it stressed that the government will look at legislation if necessary to delay those discussions until after the panel, headed by former Saskatchewan finance minister Janice MacKinnon, reports by Aug. 15.

Eggen and United Nurses of Alberta spokesman David Harrigan called the move unfair and heavy handed.

“They seem to be keen to follow the old Conservative bully tactics of disrespecting our frontline workers, which only leads to labour unrest and ultimately more costly settlements,” said Eggen.

“Yes, the government has the ability to legislate wage rollbacks. But do they have the moral authority and is that a sign of good governance?”

Harrigan added, “They think that they’re above the law, and laws that they don’t happen to like they just get to ignore.”

Harrigan and Eggen called the talks with unions a sham, given that the province has already intervened in recent weeks to get wage reopener talks delayed by the arbitrators handling talks with the nurses union and with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.

The results have been mixed. The arbitrator granted the delay in the nurses talks but the one handling the AUPE talks rejected it.

AUPE president Guy Smith could not be immediately reached for comment.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP, city, health officials join forces in problem-property crackdown

Eastview property had generated recurring complaints to RCMP

Mag 7.7 quake hits between Cuba and Jamaica, but no injuries

HAVANA — A powerful magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck in the Caribbean Sea… Continue reading

Trump peace plan delights Israelis, enrages Palestinians

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump unveiled his long-awaited Mideast peace plan Tuesday… Continue reading

GOP squirms as Bolton prepares to dish on Trump White House

WASHINGTON — For much of the last 20 years, John Bolton was… Continue reading

More than 200 cabinet-appointed positions remain empty, says memo to PM

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been warned that more than… Continue reading

Country music fans enjoy free concert at Red Deer mall, ahead of ACMA awards

Fans like to get up close and personal and that’s exactly what… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Feb. 1 A Jump Rope Competition will be held at the Abbey… Continue reading

David Marsden: Let’s see success at Westerner Park

It’s encouraging that Westerner Park has admitted it needs the support of… Continue reading

Mag 7.7 quake hits between Cuba and Jamaica, but no injuries

HAVANA — A powerful magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck in the Caribbean Sea… Continue reading

Trump peace plan delights Israelis, enrages Palestinians

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump unveiled his long-awaited Mideast peace plan Tuesday… Continue reading

GOP squirms as Bolton prepares to dish on Trump White House

WASHINGTON — For much of the last 20 years, John Bolton was… Continue reading

More than 200 cabinet-appointed positions remain empty, says memo to PM

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been warned that more than… Continue reading

Alberta climate plan part of cabinet decision on oilsands mine: Wilkinson

OTTAWA — The federal cabinet’s decision on a huge new Alberta oilsands… Continue reading

Things for people in Canada to know about the coronavirus

Two cases of the new deadly strain of coronavirus have been identified… Continue reading

Most Read