June 6, 2017 (Edmonton) Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark released the following statement after the passing of Bill 17, The Fair and Family Friendly Workplaces Act:
“I’m glad to see the changes to employment standards, particularly regarding job-protected leave. I proudly voted in favour of the Employment Standards changes in this bill. If that was a standalone bill, I would have voted in favour of job-protected leaves like bereavement leave, compassionate care leave, parental leave, leave for victims of domestic violence, leave to participate in a citizenship ceremony and long term illness and injury leave. These are welcome changes. They’re good for Alberta and the changes are long overdue.
I was also happy to see my amendment accepted by the NDP that added balance and security for both temporary and long term workers when people return from job-protected leave.
Unfortunately, the changes to the Labour Code did not provide the same benefits to Albertans that were found in the changes to Employment Standards.
The NDP are addressing a lot of problems that Alberta does not have and does not need to solve. They’ve done this for ideological reasons; the debate laid bare what they think of business and employers and job-creators in Alberta.
They are calling this a ‘modernization’, when really they are repealing modern policy measures, such as secret ballots for unionization drives.
This bill aims to increase ease and frequency of unionization and union density, while directly increasing costs for businesses and impacting our competitiveness. I strongly support expanding job-protected leave, but now is not the time to put in additional barriers and cumulative effects for industry and small business in this province.
Albertans who want to join a union can do that today using the core democratic principle of a secret ballot. They don’t need the help of a union-friendly government to expand the footprint of unions in Alberta.
One of my biggest concerns is how rushed this bill was. The NDP introduced two pages of amendments after midnight and pushed them through the Legislature with very little time for the opposition to review them. And before the bill was introduced there were very few actual consultations that directly involved employers and employees. Talking to employer and union advocacy organizations must be supplemented with public consultation and meaningful dialogue with employers and employees, and the NDP missed the mark.
The government should have paused to consult on the draft legislation through the summer to give Albertans a chance for input on the dramatic changes proposed to Alberta’s Labour Code.
My specific concerns about Bill 17 are as follows:
- Allows for a non-secret ‘card check’ process to certify a union vs. a secret ballot
- The timeline for unionization drives doubles from 90 days to six months
- Eliminated prohibition on “salting”, allowing unions to place temporary workers on job sites for the sole purpose of supporting unionization
- Imposed first-contract arbitration, tilting the playing field towards new unions and against business
- Despite claims the updates were required because it had been decades since labour legislation was reviewed, the NDP rejected multiple amendments to establish mandatory review periods
- The government introduced two pages of last-minute amendments well after midnight and rushed them through the house, a process that could have been avoided if they had simply taken more time to write the bill.
These changes are another brick in the wall for Alberta business. The NDP have made it more expensive to invest in Alberta, and Bill 17 will slow our economic recovery. We’ve already seen a flight of capital out of our province, these changes are only going to make it worse. “Albertans deserve better.”
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