Alberta amends Labour Relations Code

Bill 26, the Labour Relations Amendment Act 2008, introduces revisions that would protect public safety, build fair workplaces for employees and promote healthy competition in the construction sector.

The Act would remove the ability of ground ambulance services to strike or lockout during labour disputes and follows through on the recommendations of a 2004 MLA committee by restricting the practices of salting and market enhancement recovery funds (MERFs) in the construction sector.

"While strikes and lockouts can be effective tools during labour disputes, they can pose a serious threat to public safety in the emergency services sector," said Hector Goudreau, Minister of Employment and Immigration.  "It's important that we act now in the best interests of all Albertans."
Currently, about half of the province's ambulance service operators and attendants can strike or lockout during labour disputes. Under the proposed changes, all ambulance operators and attendants would not have the ability to strike or lockout and disputes would be resolved through compulsory arbitration.

The Act would also introduce new provisions to prevent salting as a union organizing tactic in the construction sector. Employees would be required to have worked for an employer for 30 days to participate in a union certification vote and employees would have 90 days to reconsider their decision. The Act would not restrict legitimate attempts to unionize.

The creation of MERFs, funds used by union contractors to undercut bids from non-union contractors, would  be restricted.  Direct payments from employers to unions and unions to contractors for these funds would be prohibited and other provisions would protect workers who do not wish to contribute to MERFs.  Existing non-compliant MERFs would be disbursed and penalties would be levied should a new MERF not comply with the new rules.

"With this legislation we are enhancing fairness for workers and creating a level playing field between union and non-union contractors," said Goudreau.

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