The Alberta government has introduced a new bill that proposes major changes to rules governing unions, including limits on where and how striking workers can picket.
The province says Bill 32, the Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act, will provide employees and employers with clearer and more transparent rules promoting fairness and productivity, including more clarity about rest periods and temporary layoff notices.
This is in an effort to keep businesses open and more Albertans employed while saving employers time and money.
Alberta’s Labour Minister Jason Copping says the bill will restore power in workplaces after former rules favoured unions.
“Our government was elected on the promise of supporting employee choice and to bring balance back to Alberta’s labour laws,” Copping said in a press release. “This bill will do just that and also help businesses save time and money, letting them focus on getting Albertans back to work while protecting workers.”
The new bill would prohibit any picketing that interfered with anyone coming and going across picket lines so as not to disrupt businesses or cause economic harm.
Legislation includes clarifying that employees continue to accumulate vacation time while on a job-protected leave and clarifying rules for rest periods and flexibility in scheduling breaks.
It would also make transparent to employees how unions are spending their money, and give employees a choice to having any of their union dues directed to political parties.
The full list of proposed changes includes:
• Clarifying that employees continue to accumulate vacation time while on a job-protected leave.
• Clarifying rules for rest periods and flexibility in scheduling breaks.
• Restoring balance to the relationship between employers and employees with updated rules for union certification and revocation, such as removing strict timelines and remedial certification provisions.
• Increasing employee choice by ensuring union members are not forced to fund political activities and causes without explicit opt-in approval.
• Balancing employee rights to fair collective bargaining, striking and picketing with the need to protect businesses and our economy from harm, and ensuring Albertans continue to receive services they rely on.
• Preventing unions from disciplining members if they take a significantly different job with a different employer.
• Updating rules for collective agreements will allow an existing collective agreement to remain in place if employees in the construction industry choose a new union before it expires.
• Changes to collective agreements and first contract arbitration will reduce red tape, encourage stability and help employers and employees work together to reach agreements.
• Increasing transparency and democracy in the workplace by making sure employees know how unions are spending their money.
• Changing rules for the construction industry to ensure workforce stability and to attract major projects and investment
• Updating rules for temporary layoff notices to help employees stay attached to their jobs longer.
• Adding flexibility to rules for hours of work averaging arrangements to make it easier for employers to set up arrangements, create schedules, and calculate overtime.
• Helping youth find work, and reducing red tape and administrative burdens by expanding the types of jobs 13- and 14-year-olds are allowed to do without first needing a permit.
• Providing flexibility to the Labour Relations Board to expedite processes and efficiency during an emergency.
• Creating simpler and more flexible rules for general holiday pay, group terminations, payment of final earnings upon termination, payroll processes and paying administrative penalties to help employers save time and money in their daily operations.
• Making it easier for employers to apply for variances and exemptions.
• Allowing unions and employers to agree on standards that may work for them.
• Enabling the Labour Relations Board to serve employers, employees and unions more efficiently by reducing administrative burdens, costs and unnecessary hearings.
To help inform these proposed changes, 5,421 responses were received during an online public survey conducted in November 2019.