The second and last part of this article focuses on the Labour Relations Code’ impending changes.
LABOUR RELATIONS CODE
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the areas of the Labour Code where the government is contemplating change is geared to enhancing union powers and increasing union involvement in Alberta. Also, any changes are likely to lead to a more robust Alberta Labour Relations Board, in concert with broader legislative changes that will impact all unionized workplaces.
In particular, the government is considering whether to:
- Mandate a “Rand formula” in collective agreements, which involves the obligatory payment of union dues regardless of a worker’s status (i.e., workers would no longer be able to opt-out of a union and avoid paying union dues where they benefit from the collective agreement);
- Change the Labour Code’s definition of “employer” and “employee”, which could bind more successor employers to collective agreements;
- Give employees greater freedom in choosing, changing, or cancelling union representation (i.e., the introduction of a “card check” system);
- Make certain unfair labour practice allegations are subject to a reverse onus provision, thereby putting the burden on the employer to contest an employee’s accusation;
- Broaden the Board’s mandate to adjudicate a wider range of workplace disputes;
- Augment the Board’s power, procedures, and remedial options; and
- Undertake a general review of the Labour Code to see where Alberta’s labour laws depart from the Canadian mainstream (in a way which the government determines is “without benefit”).
Given that the legislation is due for an update, and the NDP’ orientation towards improved rights for workers and unions, it seems likely that the changes to the Employment Standards and the Labour Code can occur throughout this term of the NDP’s mandate.
The government says these changes are necessary to offer a “family-friendly workplace”. What remains unclear, though, is the extent to which these changes can co-exist with a “business-friendly workplace” since many of the proposed changes tip heavily for employees and unions, while Alberta’s economy remains in a fragile state.