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April 12, 2017
The government has opened up the Labour Relations Code review to engage Albertans. The Building Trades of Alberta, along with other labour groups including the AFL, AUPE and UFCW have taken the lead in providing the government with strong direction regarding what needs to be done to the Code in order to make it fair, current and more in line with the legislation found across Canada. Have a look at the BTA submission to the government on our home page at www.bta.ca.
In response, many groups who support non-union jobsites are trying to coordinate efforts to get their message to the government. They have been saying that the legislation as it currently exists is fair and balanced and any changes to it would only serve to upset that balance. They say that the current structure of the labour legislation is creating a stable investing environment that encourages businesses to come to Alberta; that it contributes to the Alberta Advantage. They say that with everything that the government has to deal with, now is not the time to open up legislation and review and update it.
Let’s have a look at the arguments that the other side is trying to use when they fight changes to the Code and see why they don’t hold water.
First, the current legislation is anything but fair and balanced. The power and the choice is in the hands of the employer. Interestingly, the same groups that are arguing that the Code is fair and balanced argued the opposite under the previous government! But now that the government is willing to have a look at the Code and to level the playing field, they claim Code needs no changes. It is easy to see that they are not interested in fair – they are looking to maintain the advantages they have had over workers for years. The BTA has always fought for the rights of workers, and we are finally in a position to have a government that will consult with us.
The second argument that opponents to opening up the Labour Code use is to claim that the current laws create a favourable, stable investment environment. Alberta has always been a resource-rich province which encourages national and international investment, but the type of investment that an economy attracts makes a difference too. Countries with abhorrent human rights practices and no safety or workers’ rights unfortunately draw a lot of investment due to the cheap labour and lack of regulation. Obviously no-one is advocating for that in Alberta, but if we don’t ensure that the workers, the people who live in Alberta and help to build the province, receive appropriate protection and rights under the Labour Code, then we are headed down that road.
Finally, opponents of updating the Labour Code say that now is not the best time to take on this project. When would be the best time? When oil is back over $100/barrel? When then existing legislation has helped marginalize unions by maintaining the balance of power in favour of employers? Review of legislation is kind of like having kids: there is never a good time to do it and by the time you think it is a good time, it’s too late.
The best time to look at labour laws and finds ways to improve the protections available to workers will always be RIGHT NOW.
The fact of the matter is that Alberta has some of the oldest labour laws in the country. The laws were created by an anti-labour government to assist employers. The BTA is working to try to get the laws changed and to create an even playing field. Visit our home page to review the submission that the BTA sent in to the government regarding the changes needed for the Labour Relations Code to truly be fair.
How can you get involved? Help make the changes recommended in our submission a reality by connecting with your MLA and letting them know how you feel. At a minimum, visit www.enddoublebreasting.com and add your name to the list of concerned Albertans. By adding your name to the list, a letter will be sent to your MLA on your behalf, asking him or her to support legislation which will help end the practice of double-breasting.
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