Alberta aims to broaden right to strike with essential services bill | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Alberta aims to broaden right to strike with essential services bill

March 15, 2016 - 5:21 PM

EDMONTON - Alberta has introduced legislation to expand the right to strike for about 150,000 public-sector employees.

Labour Minister Christina Gray said Tuesday the legislation would bring Alberta into compliance with a Supreme Court ruling last year.

"It is intended to balance the interests of employers and employees while protecting public health and safety," Gray told reporters after Bill 4 was introduced in the legislature.

"At the end of the day we want to ensure labour disputes are resolved in a timely manner with as little impact on the public as possible."

Alberta traditionally has banned strikes and lockouts involving public-sector workers, but the Supreme Court ruled that the right to strike is a fundamental right for unionized employees.

The bill sets out parameters for strikes while keeping essential services going in areas such as health and police services.

It supports the right to strike for all employees of government, Alberta Health Services, agencies, boards, commissions and non-academic staff at post-secondary institutions.

Nurses, paramedics, and correctional officers would be allowed to strike, but police and firefighters would not.

Police and firefighters will continue to use binding arbitration to resolve impasses in bargaining.

Teachers already have the right to strike.

Under the bill, workers who can strike must first negotiate an agreement with the government on the conditions of any job action so that essential services could be maintained and public health and safety not threatened.

The government would bring in third-party "umpires" to help if both sides can't reach such an agreement. Those umpires would also rule on any disputes once the deal is reached.

The bill is titled An Act to Implement a Supreme Court Ruling Governing Essential Services.

It will amend the Public Services Employee Relations Act and the Labour Relations Code.

Guy Smith, head of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, the largest public sector union in the province, lauded the bill.

"It's a fundamental shift for labour relations in this province," said Smith.

"What is does do essentially is balance the playing field. It levels the playing field to make sure that workers' rights are protected and recognized."

Smith said the goal in bargaining is always to get a deal and not to strike.

"Sometimes having the right to strike actually compels both parties to seriously get to that deal when needed."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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