Alberta premier hands out earplugs during debate on bill affecting union rights

EDMONTON — Premier Jason Kenney passed out earplugs in the legislature overnight as his government invoked a time limit on debate over a bill that strips some bargaining rights for 180,000 public-sector workers.

The bill was passed following the all-night session during Kenney walked up and down the aisles dispensing earplugs to United Conservative caucus members so they could tune out criticism from the Opposition NDP.

The New Democrats say limiting debate and using earplugs shows Kenney has no respect for the democratic process or for workers rights.

In a statement, Kenney’s office says the earplugs was a light-hearted response to the government having to listen to anger and vitriol from the NDP.

The bill was introduced less than a week ago and Kenney’s government invoked time limitations on all three stages of debate.

It imposes a delay on wage talks for unionized workers who took pay freezes in the first years of their contracts, but had the right to reopen pay negotiations this year — with arbitration if needed.

The government says the delay is only until November, but unions and the NDP predict arbitration will never take place and the government will begin imposing wage cuts as early as this fall.

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