Alberta Introduces New Bill Regarding Labour Laws

After much public debate, the Alberta NDP government tabled Bill 17: The Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act. This marks the first amendments to Alberta’s labour laws in nearly 30 years.

In early March the NDP started to consult the public about what changes should be made, and these new laws have taken 10 weeks to put together.

Labour leaders around the province have applauded many of the changes included in the bill, pointing out we have been out of step with the rest of Canada for too long.

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But of course there was opposition.

The Wildrose and Progressive Conservatives have stated that they believe the changes should be split into two bills to allow for more consultation.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean said the NDP is trying to pressure opposition parties to vote for all of the changes in the bill by including them with ‘compassionate leave for workers.’ He also added he thinks secret ballot voting for unionization should still be used every time.

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Some of the highlights from the bill include:

·      The minimum work age will be raised to 13 from 12 years old.

·      Employers will be prevented from docking employee pay if a customer leaves without paying

·      Job protection for unpaid leave for personal reasons such as illness, injury, domestic violence, family responsibility or disappearance of a child.

·      Unions could be certified without a secret ballot if more than 65 per cent of employees had verified membership cards, but less than 60.

·      Family members who are employed on a family farm would be exempt from employment standards.

More Provinces Commit To Raising Minimum Wage

Minimum wage has been a hot topic in the news this month. On May 4 The NDP government in Nova Scotia announced a plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, phased in over 3 years.

On May 1 Quebec raised its minimum wage $11.25 from $10.75 and Manitoba has hinted at raising their minimum wage as well.

But many have said that the hike in Quebec and the proposed hike in Manitoba is not enough, and advocates across Canada say that many provinces do not have a minimum wage that is enough for people to live on.

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Inequality is an issue in Canada. A recent study by the conference board of Canada ranked us 13 out of 16 peer countries on the measure of inequality and we had the fourth highest poverty rate.

Craig Riddell from the University of B.C.’s Vancouver School of Economics pointed out in an interview with the Globe and Mail that between 1982 and 2010 the bottom 90 per cent of Canadians counted a total growth n family income of 2 per cent, while the top 10 percent experienced 75 per cent.

“The distribution of the gains have been extremely uneven and most of the benefits have gone to the people at the very top,” he said.

The Alberta NDP government has said that they will officially raise the minimum wage to $15 and hour by Oct.1, 2018.

Critics have said that this increase will hurt businesses already suffering in the recession, while those supporting the raise in wage argue the impact on businesses won’t be very significant.

Currently the living wage in Calgary is $18.15 and in Edmonton it is $16.69.

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Joining a union is something that can benefit all workers when it comes to wages, health and welfare and job security.

Union workers earn $4.88 per hor more than non union, with women earning $7.76 per hour more, aboriginal workers earning $8.47 per hour more and new Canadians earning $3.49 per hour more.

As the year goes on it will be interesting to see how many other provinces and territories jump on raising the minimum wage.

Building Trades of Alberta Makes Recommendations For Changes to Alberta Labour Code

This year the NDP government will be taking a look at Alberta labour laws, many of which have been untouched since 1976.

Labour Minister Christina Gray told CBC News that the government is ‘committed to reviewing Alberta’s labour laws to ensure they reflect today’s workplace.’

"In some cases, Alberta's labour legislation has not been reviewed in decades. The nature of work life in Alberta has changed a lot in that time," said Gray.

The Executive Board of the Building Trades of Alberta, including Teamsters Local 362 Secretary - Treasurer and Principal Officer Rick Eichel, submitted their recommendations to the provincial government when they review the laws.

"It's been over thirty years since any progressive changes have been made to our labour code and these amendments will be extremely welcomed by the working people of our province," said Eichel.

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Here are just a few of the issues the executive board feels should be changed:

Double Breasting

Double breasting, also known as spin-offs, is a major issue in Alberta especially in the construction industry. It allows employers that have unionized employees, to have a ‘spin-off’ or separate arm of the company that is non-unionized. This circumvents the bargaining process and puts ‘worker against worker.’

The executive board recommends changing the laws that allow this to happen so easily.

Certification Related Issues

When employees want to unionize in Alberta, they are forced to vote twice to do this. They first vote outside of the workplace to join a union, and then must vote again at a ‘formal vote’ held in the workplace. This allows employers time to pressure or inappropriately influence the employee to vote against the union.

The executive board recommends amended to allow for automatic certification, as is provided for in most other Canadian jurisdictions, if the Union applies for certification with proof of support by more than 50% of the bargaining unit employees.

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Access to Sites

Many workers in Alberta are employed and housed in remote locations where they live in camps that are under strict control of the employer. Union organizers have no ability to meet privately with workers on site or on their days off. This is ‘highly detrimental to their ability to exercise their right to join a union.’

The executive board recommends that union organizers have access to such remote sites on terms set by the Alberta Labour Relations Code.

To view the full list of recommendations visit

Fort McMurray Update: Alberta government working to bring residents back home

It’s been almost two weeks, and still the city of Fort McMurray sits abandoned against a backdrop of flame and ash.

While the Alberta government has committed to grinding out a schedule to return the 80,000-something evacuees home, fire officials say the blaze is expected to take months to extinguish.

Despite what is projected to become one of worst financial disasters in Canadian history, there are a few silver linings to these thick, ashen clouds.

If you need help or want to help the people of Fort McMurray click here.

Almost 2,500 buildings (mostly residential homes) were lost in the fire, but Fort McMurray fire chief Darby Allen says, “85 per cent of the city is still intact.” And for probably the first time ever, Albertans pray for this spell of cooler weather to continue to give firefighters even the slightest advantage over the relentless blaze.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is doling out high praise for the teams of firefighters who banded together to save 25,000 homes as well as the hospital and local schools in town.

Because of the magnitude of the disaster and its relation to the oil sands, Alberta finance analysts say Canada’s economic growth projections are being scaled way back.

Evacuated from the Fort McMurray office, Teamsters Local 362 is still working diligently to support the citizens of Fort McMurray and mitigate the devastation in any way possible.

If you need help or want to help the people of Fort McMurray click here.

For those in need of shelter, please visit our website at Teamsters Canada is matching donations from the National Joint Council and other local unions, which will go to the Canadian Red Cross.

A trust fund is also being established for monetary donations for the short and long-term aid of our membership and community — please visit our website for more details.

Our thoughts are with the people of Fort McMurray. Together strong.