About 100 union members and supporters raised their voices and flags against the provincial government’s Bill 9 legislation at a rally outside Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre on Monday.
Bill 9, the Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral Act, overrides collective bargaining agreements with unions and delays contractually mandated wage talks.
Karen Weirs, vice-president with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, said members are angry the province is interfering with their bargaining rights.
“They took away our rights as unionized workers. They went against the charter. It is our constitutional right to have a collective agreement.
“It was negotiated in good faith, and they’ve taken that away,” said Weirs, who walked with Red Deer AUPE members over the lunch hour Monday.
She said whether people are fond of unions or not, everyone should be worried about what government is doing.
“If they can interfere with public-sector worker contracts, they can interfere with any contract. That’s a huge concern and it should be a concern for Albertans.
“(Members) had a deal, and the deal has been broken. The trust of the government has been broken,” Weirs said.
Trudy Thomson, vice-president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, said rallies like the one in Red Deer help educate the public and allow union members to share their frustrations about Bill 9.
“The rationale sounds very logical, just slowing things down, but bargaining is a right that we have.
“We are in the middle of a collective agreement. We’re not allowed to break it. We don’t think anyone else should be allowed to break it,” Thomson said.
Red Deer city Coun. Dianne Wyntjes, a former representative of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, reminded the crowd of Red Deer’s victory to keep the Michener Centre open.
“Our advocacy was successful then and we can be successful again. Never underestimate your phone call, the conversations you have with elected officials. They do make a difference. I stand with you today in solidarity as a city councillor and join with you in your struggle against Bill 9,” Wyntjes said.
As a city councillor, Wyntjes said she is also concerned about what the government’s blue ribbon panel on government spending will recommend and the impact it may have on municipal funding.