Dark day for labour relations in Alberta

EDMONTON - By ramming Bill 27 through the Legislature, the Alberta government has abandoned all pretence that it is an impartial third party when it comes to labour relations in the province, says the Alberta Federation of Labour.

"The employers in the health care sector asked the government for a free hand to deal with their workers, and thats exactly what this new law gives them," says AFL President Les Steel.

"The door is now open for an all out assault on health care workers and their contracts. We've already seen the attack ads against nurses being run by the regional health authorities. Bill 27 is the next piece in the puzzle."

The government has tried to downplay the significance of Bill 27 by arguing that it is merely an attempt to streamline administration as the province moves to fewer regional health authorities. But the AFL says it is about much more than that.

"This law strips the right-to-strike from thousands of community health care workers; it undermines the right of health care workers to choose their own unions; and it removes power over labour relations from impartial tribunals like the Alberta Labour Relations Board and hands it to the provincial cabinet," says Steel.

"Basically what they've done is rigged the game. They've stacked the deck and tipped the playing field. They're using the law to bludgeon health care workers and weaken their power at the bargaining table."

Steel says the government may feel smug now that they've used their overwhelming majority to push this blatantly anti-labour piece of legislation through. But he says there will be a price to be paid.

"This government pays lip service to the importance of health care workers," says Steel. "They say they want to attract and retain more people. But at the same time they're stabbing these workers in the back. How are we supposed to attract health workers to this province and maintain a motivated workforce when the government is so eager to gut their contracts?"

Steel also thinks the government has another thing coming if they think they can enforce labour peace by passing draconian laws.

"They may think they can force health workers into submission with strike bans and threats of huge fines," he says. "But this isn't a strategy for labour peace; it's a recipe for confrontation. Unions in this province will not stand idly while our members' rights and contracts are stripped."

For more information call:

Les Steel, AFL President (780) 483-3021 (wk) / (780) 499-4135 (cell)

- or -

Gil McGowan, AFL Communications (780) 483-3021 (wk) / (780) 910-1137 (cell)

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