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Bills 45 and 46 undemocratic, un-Albertan

Posted on December 04, 2013 by Richard Einarson

When the Wildrose agrees with the NDP and the Alberta Liberals are onside with the Alberta Party, something must be up.

Last week the PC government introduced two bills. Bill 45 imposes huge fines not just for staging an illegal strike but for talking about staging an illegal strike. Bill 46 effectively eliminates the right for public sector employees to take their contract grievances to arbitration.

Both of these bills strike at the heart of the grand bargain Peter Lougheed made when he took away the right to strike from all provincial public sector workers, including those who don’t provide essential services (which in itself tilts Alberta's existing deal with public sector unions in the government's favour). In return, he promised that contract disputes could be referred to an arbitrator.

I've been asked why I would support Alberta's largest public sector union when I'm not a 'union guy'. I may not be a union member and in my career as an entrepreneur I certainly always tried to get the best deal possible, but above all I'm an Albertan and so are the 22,000 members of AUPE.

Everyone deserves the right to negotiate the best possible deal - nothing more, nothing less. These bills make arbitration irrelevant, impose a wage settlement and mean the government doesn't need to bother trying to work out a fair deal.

And who are the members of AUPE? I received this note the other day which I think sums up the role of AUPE members perfectly:

Each week I visit my ailing mother at the Rosefield Centre in Innisfail, where I have gained a growing appreciation for our workers in the public sector. But government cutbacks have made their work extremely difficult. Each visit I see how they are short staffed, overworked, and run off their feet, which has a direct impact on the quality of life of our seniors, who have helped build our province. This will be a sad legacy to leave, if we fail to reverse the direction these two bills. That government proposes to remove their right to arbitration is nothing less than a direct insult to them and the good work they are doing. Their story is repeated throughout our province. Something must be done.” 

I'm all for getting a good deal for taxpayers; it's important to keep costs under control. But the best way to get value for money is to have an engaged workforce. The most successful organizations, including my own business, have strong organizational cultures and strong cultures are rooted in trust. If the province negotiates in good faith I think they’ll find a willing partner.

Imposing a settlement only further damages the relationship between the province and its public sector union. Unfortunately, the relationship between the province and most major stakeholders, (doctors, nurses, teachers and public sector unions), may be damaged beyond repair and that's why it's time for a fresh start.

If you share my concern with these bills I encourage you join our letters to your MLA campaign.

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