AUPE sues over wage law

EDMONTON — Alberta’s largest public sector union has filed a lawsuit against Premier Alison Redford’s government over a new law that imposes a contract on union members.

EDMONTON — Alberta’s largest public sector union has filed a lawsuit against Premier Alison Redford’s government over a new law that imposes a contract on union members.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees claims that the law violates the charter rights of workers to act collectively and also breaches their rights to liberty and security.

“The deprivations of liberty and security of the person caused by Bill 46 are not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice,” reads the statement of claim filed in Court of Queen’s Bench Thursday.

The allegations in the statement of claim have not been proven in court.

The lawsuit does not sue for a specific dollar amount, but asks a judge to reinstate the union’s right to binding arbitration and to make the province reimburse workers for wages the union believes they would lose under the imposed deal.

The imposed four-year contract kicks in at the end of January unless the province and the union reach an agreement.

It would freeze wages in the first two years and give one per cent increases in each of the following two years.

Redford has said the law is necessary to ensure that public sector wages stay in line with wage restraints faced by teachers and physicians.

She has said that despite Alberta’s growing economy, the thousands of newcomers arriving to live and work in the province is putting a strain on resources to build more homes, schools, roads, hospitals and other infrastructure.

Bill 46 was tabled earlier this month with little notice in the final days of the legislature’s fall sitting.

The government imposed time limits on debate to pass the bill in less than a week.

It also passed a companion bill that immediately imposes escalating six-figure fines and penalties on unions that engage in illegal strikes or even talk publicly about launching such illegal action.

Redford said Bill 46 was necessary after the AUPE walked away from contract talks and filed for binding arbitration.

The AUPE said it was the province that did not engage in meaningful talks, necessitating first mediation and then arbitration.

The union, in the lawsuit, also stresses that the right of binding arbitration was granted under former Progressive Conservative premier Peter Lougheed.

In the 1970s, Lougheed’s government recognized that binding arbitration was a fair giveback for taking away the union’s right to strike.

Redford, when asked last week about the Lougheed promise, said her government didn’t start until 2011.

The AUPE represents 80,000 workers, including 22,000 who work directly for the provincial government.

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