The process to review Alberta’s workplace laws is moving too fast and is stacked in favour of organized labour, according to Amber Ruddy of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
“We’ve seen a lot of union influence in the potential changes coming down,” said Ruddy, echoing comments made during question period this week by Wildrose Leader Brian Jean.
Premier Rachel Notley strongly disagrees with any notion the deck is stacked in favour of unions.
“I would say that’s not true,” said Notley. “I would suggest it’s an open process and we are going out and asking questions of all stakeholders.”
In March, the Ministry of Labour announced it would seek public input on the employment standards code and the labour relations code. Both pieces of legislation have not been updated since 1988.
“The last time the labour code was reviewed in Alberta, Rick Astley was in the top 10,” quipped the premier as she addressed the need for a review during Tuesday’s question period in the legislature. “We’re going to do that in a balanced way that talks to people from both sides and moves the matter forward in a way that strengthens our economy and creates more jobs for Albertans.”
Among the areas the province is seeking feedback on are maternity, parental and compassionate care leaves, other job-protected leaves and the collective bargaining process.
The premier insists the process to review and change labour laws is an effort to modernize them, making them more in line with the expectations of 21st-century workers.
“You know, [Alberta] is the only province in the country where someone can be fired for having a sick day,” Notley cited as an example. “We don’t know if that continues to reflect the kind of modern workplace most Albertans believe they have a right to.”
Ruddy is concerned the government has not allotted enough time to consult with the public given the scope of the review.
“We really need to extend the amount of time,” said Ruddy. “Ontario is doing a similar review and they’ve spent upwards of two years reviewing proposals and hearing from stakeholders.”
“These very informed stakeholders, who are interested in the issue of the labour code, will have more than enough time to make submissions,” Notley said. “Dithering is not the way to go, but we are going to make sure they have time to submit their positions and then we’ll review them in due course.”
The last day for public comment on the review is Apr. 18.