Top Ten Reasons to Amend the Alberta Labour Code

The Alberta Labour Relations Code was written in 1988 and has remained virtually untouched since that time.  Over the coming months, I will be writing a new blog series titled “Top Ten Reasons to Amend the Alberta Labour Code” in an effort to initiate an online discussion about the need to update this antiquated (cold-war era) legislation.

Much has happened in the world since 1988, including significant labour legislation changes in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, as well as Europe, the USA and most developed countries throughout the world.  The time has come to update this 23 year old piece of legislation in Alberta.

The governments of British Columbia and Saskatchewan have responded with labour code changes that made their workforces more nimble, fair and competitive.  As a result, these provinces have created a labour relations environment that is more conducive to attracting investment to their provinces.

In response to these changing circumstances in western Canada and around the world, a group of construction leaders formed a coalition to find ways to combat Alberta’s increasingly uncompetitive construction sector.  The group is called the Construction Competitiveness Coalition and its participants operate in both union and non-union environments.  Most of their recommendations are based on labour code changes that have already taken place in other provinces and jurisdictions around the world.  I will write a detailed blog about each of the recommendations in the coming months.

The opportunities for Alberta to become more competitive through Labour Code amendments generally fall into three (3) categories:

  • Creating economic advantages though cost and schedule certainty;
  • Creating bargaining structures for today’s workplaces; and
  • Improving fairness for employees and employers.

The top ten reasons to amend the Alberta Labour Code are:

Recommendation 1:   Amend Division 8 to address potential issues under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Recommendation 2:   Adopt legislation similar to that in British Columbia, which allows for the continuation of collective agreements in situations where a union becomes the bargaining agent for a workforce and there is an existing collective agreement in place for that workforce.

Recommendation 3:   Amend the Alberta Labour Code to allow contractors to complete existing work under the labour obligations that existed prior to certification.

Recommendation 4:   Amend the Alberta Labour Code to allow for certificates in the construction industry that cover all of the employees working for an employer.

Recommendation 5:   Amend the Alberta Labour Code to put into law a provision that allows for early renewal of collective agreements when all parties are in agreement and employees consent.

Recommendation 6:   Maintain the current approach to the “build up principle” in construction.

Recommendation 7:   Amend the Alberta Labour Code to prohibit unions from fining workers for the crime of working with an employer not affiliated with the union.

Recommendation 8:   Amend the Alberta Labour Code to prohibit unions from using union dues to support activities other than fulfilling the union’s obligations under the Code unless the union obtains prior consent of the employee.

Recommendation 9:   Improve Alberta Labour Code provisions that address market enhancement recovery fund (“MERFs”), which are illegal bid subsidy schemes.

Recommendation 10: Amend the Alberta Labour Code to clarify limits on the use of picket lines.

If you are still reading, you must be wondering what much of this means!  These are complicated but critically important matters.  Many of these policy recommendations have been implemented throughout the country and around the world and despite fierce opposition from union leadership, they have resulted in better, more competitive workplaces and happier workers.

I look forward to diving into each of these recommendations over the coming months and engaging in this important dialogue.


7 thoughts on “Top Ten Reasons to Amend the Alberta Labour Code

  1. As Mr. Pilarski knows well as a vice-president of one of its member groups, the so-called Construction Competitiveness Coalition is not in fact motivated by the altruistic desire to make Alberta “more competitive” – the legislative changes he suggests would in most instances have the opposite effect – but to tilt the playing field in favour of inefficient CCC companies that find themselves in competition with corporations that have a mature working relationship with their unionized employees.

    In other words, the competition at the heart of this effort is the inability of many of the CCC members to compete with unionized firms.

    Notwithstanding that, many of the individuals involved in this well-funded effort are part of the extremist group on this continent that hopes to weaken the labour movement because unions are one of the few sources of funding for political efforts to counter the extreme market-fundamentalist views now prevalent in corporate circles. This is what is behind one of the positions the CCC will be advocating in this blog through their spokesman Mr. Pilarski: the effort to prevent unions from speaking on behalf of their members in the supposedly fair marketplace of ideas.

    Mr. Pilarski cites Premier Brad Wall’s victory in Saskatchewan as evidence for support for the idea of depriving working people of their Constitutionally protected right to bargain collectively in a meaningful way. A weak case can be made for this, I suppose, but it seems more likely the Wall government’s success is driven by its quite moderate approach in other areas and the current relative buoyancy of the Saskatchewan economy. We shall see if the worst aspects of its labour legislation survive a Supreme Court test, or are even pursued by Mr. Wall, now that he has such a strong majority. More meaningful evidence of the real trend in North America, I would suggest, are the election results in the U.S. state of Ohio, where voters yesterday overwhelmingly voted to repeal Republican legislation curbing public employee bargaining rights. In the Ohio case, voters had an opportunity to vote directly on the kind of labour law Mr. Pilarski proposes, rather than to weigh a range of policies put forward by an otherwise fairly reasonable government. The Ohio results, however, were reflected in other state election results yesterday throughout the United States.

    We have to respect the CCC for their determined effort to lobby government representatives and use their corporate funds to to relentlessly push their anti-union program, as well as their willingness to work with one union – even if it is a union most labour organizations condemn as signing employer-friendly contracts. But we need to realize nevertheless that this effort is fundamentally self-interested and would not only assault the rights of all working people, including those without unions who benefit from the improved conditions unions negotiate, but would make Alberta a less competitive market and a less desirable place to live.

    1. Mr. Climenhega, thank you for your comments! While I respect your highly biased opinion as a paid communicator for Alberta’s nusing union, the United Nurses of Alberta, I question your knowledge of the constuction industry.

      The recommendations in the report represent real and practical solutions to the ever escalating cost of construction in Alberta, particularily in the industrual sector – Alberta’s most important strategic industry.

      Your assertion that anyone in the Construction Competitiveness Coalition is “anti-union” is baseless inflamatory rhetoric. The companies represented in the Coaltion have both union and non-union relationships with their employees within their organizations.

      I personally believe strongly in employee choice and have many very close and respected friends who are card carrying building trade union construction workers. They too agree that these recomendations will benefit the constuction industy.

      While I support and respect the role that unions play in society, I do NOT support the concept of union monopolies – competition and choice make for a better society. The recommendations contained within the Construction Competitiveness Coalition report will restore balance and increase accountability within the Alberta Labour Code and into Alberta’s constuction industry.

      I hope that you continue to provide your opinion as we dive deeper into each recommendation over the coming months. I look forward to educating you about the unique and unfair labour relations circumstances in the construction sector.

  2. Looks like you have been unable to create discussion. I assume that is because most people are aware that your premise of Alberta not being competitive is not true, that all the building trades have now settled long term collective agreements, that the current Labour Relations Code is working just fine and the “issues” you speak of are merely dangerous rhetoric created by Merit and CLAC for their own political and financial benefit. None of the employees, unions or employers operating under the Labour Relations Code think there is any reason for changes.

    1. Ha! Since both you and Mr. Climenhaga commented I will classify that as dialogue and conclude that the blog series has had a great start!

      I suspect that as I provide more explaination about these highly complicated areas, more people will get involved in the discussion. Thank you so much for helping me kick the blog series off – I look forward to your continued participation.


  3. Mr. Pilarski dismisses my view that members of the Construction Competitiveness Coalition Project (CCCP) are anti-union as “baseless inflammatory rhetoric.” However, if these companies are not anti-union, what motivates their campaign against the provisions of the Labour Code that allow unions to effectively represent their members?

    After all, as I am sure Mr. Pilarski will concede, most members of the CCCP and the Merit Contractors do not even have employees who come under the Labour Code. These companies are mostly non-union employers and therefore their employee relations are governed by a separate piece of provincial legislation – the Alberta Employment Standards Code.

    Those that do employ union members work only with a Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC), arguably one of the few unions that can be said to behave in the way the CCCP wrongly accuses other unions of acting!

    So if these companies are such great employers, concerned only with the rights of their employees, why are they obsessing over the Labour Code? After all, despite its relative antiquity (considerably less than that of the Bible, the U.S. Constitution and other documents Mr. Pilarski’s allies in this fight presumably support on fundamental grounds) it seems to be working pretty well.

    The answer, obviously, is that they ARE anti-union and that they wish to make it hard for effective unions to organize in their workplaces, and for unions to advocate on behalf of all working people.

  4. Top Ten Reasons to Screw Albertan and Canadian Workers and Taxpayers by Amending the Alberta Labour Code

    Top Ten Reasons to Maximize Profits for Big Oil and Grow Profits and Market Share for the union-of-convienience that is Christian Labour and Non-Union Shops by them bribing the goverment into changing the Labour Rules so that any type of collective bargining is impossible which will essentially make Alberta a RIGHT-TO-WORK state like Alabama.

  5. While not in the construction industry, I am (unfortunately) a union member of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta. I am constantly dismayed and angered by the leftist extremists who dominate my union (and seemingly all others) and seek to spend MY hard-earned union dues on their own biased and highly arbitrary personal goals. My union should be using my dues ONLY to bargain for my working conditions – the end. They do not have my permission to spend my money on anything else (not that it matters to them).

    I wish you all the best in your fight against the leftist extremists who steal other peoples money to spend on their own visions.

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