Employment Code Changes Protect Workers

This year the NDP government implemented changes to the employment standards code.

It marked the first time in three decades that changes had been made. They were very long overdue, to say the least.

These changes finally defended workers’ rights – especially those who are in precarious or part time work, shift work or non-unionized workers. These are workers who are often taken advantage of and are too afraid to speak up.

While some employers have been okay with implementing the changes and publicly have shown their support for workers’ rights – other have not felt the same way.

The first major issue was the raise in minimum wage, and now the latest showdown is over statutory holiday pay.

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Marty Giles, the owner of vehicle dealerships in Fort McMurray, Calgary, Cochrane and Fort McKay recently recorded a video rant and posted it on social media. He stated that the new general holiday pay was going to hurt his businesses.

Giles said that these rules are going to cost his business $103 an hour on stat holidays because of the new changes and that he is basically paying his employees to ‘sit on the couch.’

Describing them as just 'sitting on the couch' is insulting to his employees. If you value your workers, you should make sure they have much needed time off.

Business owners, especially ones who have been as successful as Giles, need to realize that these costs come with running a business. If you can't afford to have your employees make a decent wage or pay for statutory holidays, then maybe your business model doesn't work. It's time to rethink it.

The code now states that ‘all eligible employees are entitled to holiday pay, where they are paid the equivalent of a day's pay whether they work or not.’

Previously, the employer would pay the stat pay the employee had worked five of the past nine days that the stat holiday fell on. This has been practiced in Saskatchewan and is included in their labour code.

Employees and employers alike would often be confused about how to interpret a ‘work day’ or the eligibility of a worker.

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Now all shift workers are protected on a statutory holiday, whether they are spending time with their family, running errands they wouldn’t otherwise have time for or just ‘sitting on a couch.’

"We absolutely recognize that employers, and indeed all Albertans, are facing tough economic times. Through the feedback we received, we developed modern and fair rules for workplaces that balance the needs of both employers and employees," said Christina Gray, Alberta Labour Minister, in an e-mail to the Globe and Mail.

The Employment Standards Code has remained the same for 30 years and required an update so that workers would be protected and have the same rights as workers do in several other provinces across Canada. Alberta has changed a lot in 30 years, so has the way business is done and our labour codes should reflect that.


Alberta Government Plan To Do More About Workplace Bullying

Bullying is an issue that is all too common in the workplace, and it has made headlines here in Alberta the last few weeks with City of Edmonton employees speaking out against harassment at work.

When Alberta Labour Minister Christina Gray announced major changes to  Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act with the introduction of Bill 30  An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans.

One of the much needed changes will come to safety rules regarding bullying and psychological harassment.

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The Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) pointed out on their website that the most harmful forms of bullying are usually psychological and subtle – making them hard to recognize.

This can result in disrupting sleeping and eating patterns, increased use of drugs or alcohol, depression or even suicidal thoughts.

It is clear that bullying is something that needs to be taken seriously and many are applauding this move by the Alberta government to do more about it.

Being a union member also means you have a resource to reach out to if you feel you are being unfairly treated at work.

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When you are part of a union, you can reach out to a Shop Steward or Business Agent you feel comfortable sharing the issue with. They can also help you take care of your mental health, which can be greatly affected by bullying. Teamsters 362 has a full list of resources on our website that you can find here.

If you are not yet a part of a union, calling one and finding out what your rights are is also an action you could take.

Trade unions are there to stand up for all of your rights as a worker and ensure that you are working in a safe and healthy work environment –  that definitely includes workplace bullying.

Alberta NDP Government Hopes New Bill Will Better Protect Workers

The Alberta government has been paying a lot of attention to labour in our province this year, something that is long overdue.

First there was Bill 17, the Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act, that was passed in June. This saw significant changes to provincial labour law, including union certification.

Now the NDP has introduced large changes with Bill 30, An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans.

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“Every Albertan should be able to go to work and come home healthy and safe at the end of the workday. When they don’t, they deserve to have access to the medical and financial supports they need to get healthy, care for their families and return to work,” said Christina Gray, Alberta Minister of Labour at a press conference on Monday.

She explained that this bill would better protect Albertans and provide fair compensation to Albertans injured on the job.

This bill if passed would mean an improved Workers Compensation Board system with ‘greater benefits to workers to support their return to work.’ The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS) would see changes to ensure Albertan’s have the same rights as other Canadians in the workplace.

According to the Edmonton Journal, The WCB paid out 144 fatality claims in 2016, as well as more than 44,500 disabling injury claims.

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Teamsters Local 362 was happy to see that some of the proposed changes included better coverage and support for those dealing with mental health issues at work. Local 362 has fought for every workplace to have mandatory mental health support with multiple campaigns you can find here.

Bill Highlights:

Workers’ Compensation Board changes

·       Establishing an independent Fair Practices Office that helps Albertans navigate the WCB system by providing additional resources to support workers every step of  the way.

·       Establishing a Code of Rights and Conduct that outlines the rights of workers and employers, while also explaining how WCB staff would recognize these rights and conduct.

·       Improving benefits for:

· Surviving spouses and children when a worker is killed on the job.

·  Young workers who sustain a long-term injury that affects their career opportunities.

·  Enhancing coverage for psychological injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder, for all occupations where workers have experienced a traumatic incident at work.

Occupational Health and Safety changes

·       Enshrining the three basic rights of workers in Alberta’s legislation:

·  The right to refuse unsafe work. The proposed changes protect workers from any form of reprisal for exercising this right, including loss of compensation or benefits.

·  The right to know. The proposed changes ensure workers are informed about potential hazards and have access to basic health and safety information in the workplace.

·  The right to participate. The proposed changes ensure workers are involved in health and safety discussions, including participation in health and safety committees.

Alberta Minimum Wage Update: Province will raise minimum wage by $1 in October

The battle to delay the minimum wage hike in Alberta rages on, with a sharp line drawn between small business lobbyists and workers’ rights groups.

Restaurants Canada recently launched an online petition to push back the government’s plan to raise minimum wage; a new survey by the same group revealed more than half of respondents agreed “the implementation of a $15 minimum wage should be delayed.”

But on June 30 it was announced that Alberta's minimum wage will rise by $1 to $12.20 per hour on Oct. 1. This will mark the very first of a three-staged increase that will reach a $15 minimum wage by 2018.

Those who support the plan for fairer wages are very pleased with the announcement.

Alberta Labour Minister Christina Gray said that the government ‘believes that the minimum wage for full-time work should at least allow people to meet their basic needs.’

As of May 2016, Alberta’s minimum wage was officially raised from $10.20 (the lowest in Canada) to $11.20 per hour. Gray stated that increased minimum wages will “reduce poverty, lower the burden on social programs, increase worker satisfaction and lower employee turnover.”

Those who were hoping to delay the plan argued it’s not the right time to increase employee wages. Between the economic recession and the high number of job vacancies in Alberta (the province’s jobless rate rose to 7.2 per cent this year), groups like Restaurants Canada continue to be fearful the plan will result in further job losses across the province.

Local labour market data showed that almost 17,000 Alberta jobs could evaporate this year, a number almost four times higher than anywhere else in Canada.

Non-unionized workers can be at a higher risk that unionized employees; not only do they make an average of 15 per cent less in wages, but are sometimes forced to work precarious jobs with unstable hours and no benefits.

But labour minister Gray and others like the Alberta Federation of Labour are optimistic, and support the NDP government’s promise to achieve a $15 per hour minimum by 2018.



Alberta NDP Government And The Minimum Wage Debate

When the NDP won the Alberta Provincial election, the entire country seemed pretty surprised – this was the first change in power in Alberta since 1971.

With the change came a lot of promises to Albertans, perhaps most controversial of all was the pledge to raise the minimum wage to $15 within three years.

And heading into 2016, the controversy has returned with an internal document that was obtained by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. CFIB spokesman Richard Truscott said the document warns of job losses due to the hike.

According to the Calgary Herald, the note also said that ‘more research needs to be done’ before raising the wage and ‘Alberta will essentially be sailing into uncharted waters at this point.’

With low oil prices in the province, many groups, business owners and concerned Albertans have called for the NDP government to re-evaluate the decision.

Alberta lost 63,500 jobs in the first eight months of this year, according to government data.

Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP have said from the beginning that the raise would ‘create more jobs and ensure workers in the province receive a living wage.’

In October, the NDP raised the minimum wage from $10.20 per hour, the lowest minimum wage in the country along with Saskatchewan, to $11.20 per hour which makes it the third highest.

Those in favour of the increase have said that ‘cost of living has outstripped wage growth’ and a living wage would allow workers to cover basic human needs. They pointed out that raising the minimum wage would have positive effects for the overall community.

Jobs that are not unionized in the province can sometimes be precarious, with unstable hours and wages and no benefits. Those who are hired on a contract basis, and have no one to back them up when it comes to layoffs may see their jobs go first in the struggling economy.

Notley did say last week that the government may not raise the minimum wage to $15 and hour by 2018 if the economy remains as it is.

“Going forward we’re going to continue to get the best information we can. We’re also going to evaluate the state of the economy,” Notley said.

NDP Plans To Raise Alberta's Minimum Wage To $15

Fifteen is a number that have been on a lot of Albertan’s minds since the NDP won the provincial election on May 5. New Premier Rachel Notley recently announced that she is going to follow through with her plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 within three years.

Currently Albertan’s minimum wage is $10.20 and is tied with Saskatchewan for the lowest in the country.

“We will be meeting as a cabinet to discuss rolling out that process,” Notley said of the minimum-wage plan on May 20. “Without question that was in our platform and we intend to move forward on it.”

While some are excited about the potential raise in wage, others say it could be damaging to the economy and small businesses.

Amber Ruddy, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said in an interview with Metro Calgary that the $15 pledge ‘could do heavy damage to the bottom lines maintained by small business owners.’

“Large jumps in the minimum wage tend to hurt the very people they’re supposed to be helping out,” she said in the article.

She noted that owners would potentially have to cut hours, hire fewer employees, potentially even eliminate existing positions and look towards increased automation.

 Fast Facts About Minimum Wage:

  • The general minimum wage in Alberta is $10.20 per hour, except for employees who serve liquor as part of their employment where the minimum wage is $9.20 per hour.
  • On Sept. 1, 2014 Alberta increased the minimum wage from $9.95 to $10.20 an hour and the liquor server wage was increased from $9.05 to $9.20 an hour.
  • Alberta was the last province to hit the $10 general minimum wage barrier.
  • The highest minimum wage in the country is currently in Nunavit at $11 an hour.
  • Only around 1.5 per cent of Albertans earn the minimum wage, while the national average is at 6.8 percent.