Five things you need to know about the Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral Act (formerly Bill 9)
The attack began in the early hours of June 20 when the UCP dropped Bill 9 to abolish the June 30 deadline AUPE members employed by Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Government of Alberta (GOA) were promised for third-year wage arbitrations. The government passed the legilsation also knowing it could potentially undermine the rights of many other members working in post-secondary education, and boards and agencies who won wage reopeners in bargaining.
On June 28, Bill 9 received royal assent. It's now the law, but the battle is far from over. Here’s what you need to know to continue your fight against this unfair legislation.
1. The UCP cut off debate to ram Bill 9 through the Legislature.
Not only is the government trying to take away your legally negotiated rights, they also undermined the democratic rights of elected representatives to speak on your behalf. Opposition voices in the Legislature were silenced, so workers’ voices need to be heard in other ways. The fight is not over. In fact, it's only just begun.
2. This is the first step in a bid to freeze or cut your wages.
The UCP government wants to delay arbitration hearings on your wages until Oct. 31, 2019, well after its hand-picked “Blue Ribbon” panel reports in August with recommendations on where to cut spending.
The government has stacked this panel with people who agree with that approach. Janice MacKinnon, the chair of the panel, has previously called for two-per-cent cuts to public-sector pay and claims that the government has a right to legislate wage rollbacks on union members.
*Spoiler alert*: The panel’s report will argue we can’t afford to invest in public services or even a modest wage increase, while conveniently ignoring both our revenue problem, and the government’s recent decision that it can afford a huge corporate tax giveaway. The government will use the report to justify an attack on our wages, our jobs or both.
3. If they break these contracts now, how far will they go?
We all know a contract is a contract, but apparently not when it comes to working people. About 60,000 AUPE members working for AHS and the GOA are affected by Bill 9. These members have accepted two years of wage freezes, with the legally binding agreement of wage arbitration in the third year. This arbitration hearing began on June 11, continued on June 17, and was scheduled for June 21 and 22. The Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral Act has stopped those last two meetings in their tracks.
The impact of the legislation isn’t just on the members in AHS and GOA, but all members who count on the stability of the terms outlined in their collective agreements. For example, more than 10,000 members working in some Post Secondary Education worksites and some Boards and Agencies are scheduled to enter wage-reopener arbitration as well.
4. They’re trying to legislate because they know that an independent arbitrator might make a decision they don’t like.
The arbitrator considers all economic conditions and evidence submitted by both parties, and makes an independent ruling based on the facts.
There is no economic or labour-relations justification for wage freezes or rollbacks. If the government can afford massive tax breaks for profitable corporations, it can afford modest increases for front-line workers.
But why would they let the facts get in the way of their political agenda?
5. AUPE members won’t accept being treated this way.
AUPE members know a deal is a deal. They expect the legally binding rules established in their collective agreements to be mandatory, not optional. And they expect our province's leaders to be honest about the state of Alberta's economics, not overestimating the deficit and using it as an excuse to shortchange working people. That's why AUPE is fighing back in the courts and on the ground, joining forces with other unions affected by the legislation, while union Executive continues to engage conversations with electeed leaders and activists across the province.
In a show of defiance and solidarity, members gathered at the Legislature on June 13 to protest this unfair and illegal attack.
Since then member-led information pickets have been springing up across the province. Where will the next one be? To organize a safe and legal information picket, please contact us at 1-800-232-7284 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We can talk you through the process.
It's crucial to remember that refusing to work as a form of formal protest can put you at risk. Please contact us if you have questions. We can help ensure you work within the legal framework and stay safe while still voicing your concern and solidarity with your fellow public-sector workers across the province.
Make sure your email address and phone number is up to date at www.aupe.org/update-me so we can reach you, and we can keep fighting back together.
Don’t forget, we’ve been here before and we’ve won.
In 2013, a previous Conservative government tried to use legislation to impose pay deals on workers. We stopped them. Now, we need to stop them again.