Change Labour Law or Expect Charter Challenges, Unions Warn Government

This Labour Day long weekend, the Alberta Federation of Labour is calling on Iris Evans, Minister of Employment, Industry and Immigration, to establish a review of Alberta labour relations legislation to fix parts which have been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court or have created unnecessary labour conflict in Alberta.

"The government of Alberta has been flaunting the Supreme Court of Canada for many years in the area of labour law," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "A number of sections of the Labour Code have been implicated in decisions by the Supreme Court, yet the government has done nothing to correct these injustices."

The AFL has sent off a letter to Evans requesting a process for amending labour legislation. The letter comes after more than 50 of Alberta's top labour leaders met before the long weekend to discuss implications of the Supreme Court's latest labour decision which squashed B.C. legislation that interfered with workers' right to collective bargaining.

"The July decision by the Supreme Court fundamentally shifts the landscape of labour relations in Canada, with profound consequences for Alberta's labour law," says McGowan. "The new decision opens up many opportunities for Charter challenges in Alberta.

Unions have committed to taking the law to court. In the letter to Evans, the AFL says: "Alberta unions will be looking for appropriate cases with which to launch Charter challenges against the labour laws. And we both know a number of sections will not survive a court challenge."

It goes on to say: "But there is another option. We can work together to repair the damaged parts of the law. & Selective, well-guided amendments can improve the quality of labour relations in Alberta and bring our legislation up to the standard expected by the Supreme Court of Canada."

Over the past seven years, a series of Supreme Court decisions have ruled that the right to join a union and the right to free collective bargaining are part of the right to associate protected under Section 2(d) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The most recent overturned B.C. legislation attempting to impose a settlement on health care workers and restricting the items open to bargaining.

Alberta's legislation is widely considered to be the weakest in the country for protecting workers rights. Sections of the laws that are likely to be overturned in the event of a challenge include: prohibiting farm workers from joining unions, bans on secondary picketing, flawed and unfair arbitration system, restrictions on what public employees are allowed to bargain, and unfair rules in the construction sector.

"It is Labour Day, the weekend we are supposed to honour the efforts and contribution of workers to this province," says McGowan. "I can't think of a better time to start respecting workers' Charter-protected rights to associate and to bargain collectively."

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For more information call:

Gil McGowan AFL President  @  780.218-9888 (cell)

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