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.