This will cost the Conservatives seats in the next election.
Edmonton (29 Nov. 2013) – Legislation introduced on November 27 is an unprecedented attack on Alberta workers, says Elisabeth Ballermann, President of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE).
Alberta legislation goes further to restrict unionized workers' rights than any in Canada
“These two new bills go further than anything we have seen before in Canada. This bullying approach to dealing with hard-working citizens should send a chill down the spine of every worker in the province,” says Ballermann, whose union represents nearly 25,000 paramedical, technical, professional and general support employees in health care.
“This is not about one union or about one group of workers trying to negotiate a contract. It’s a clear message from the Redford government that it is not willing to negotiate fairly with the public servants who provide vital, often life-saving services every day. It will hold a gun to all our heads and say accept our terms or we’ll use an unjust law to force you to accept our terms. It is seeking our unconditional surrender,” she says.
Hundreds of workers protested as bills were introduced, Conservative Government doesn't understand meaning of fair negotiations
Bill 46, the Public Service Salary Restraint Act, and Bill 45, the Public Sector Services Continuation Act, were introduced at the Legislature on November 25 while a crowd of hundreds of members of various unions protested.
“How can any union have successful negotiations with the government, when it is prepared to ignore agreements reached at the bargaining table and simply legislate what it wants to do? The government clearly doesn’t trust its own negotiating teams and it doesn’t trust the independent arbitrators. That makes it impossible to trust the government again,” says Ballermann.
“We’ve had a system in Alberta that has led to decades of labour peace. Peter Lougheed took away the right of many public-sector workers to strike, but said that in order for labour relations to be fair, they should have access to an independent arbitration system.
If this legislation passes, union members commit to taking the issue to the ballot box
“What the government is doing now is removing that one last tool our members in public services had. We are told we cannot strike to get a fair deal. Now, we cannot even rely on an independent arbitrator, because the government will ignore that and do what it wants. Quite simply, this is dishonest and dishonourable – the act of an out-of-control bully,” says Ballermann.
The HSAA President had a warning for the government and for Conservative MLAs. “This attack on our constitutionally guaranteed rights, coupled with the unnecessary attack on our pensions, has united working Albertans, including HSAA/NUPGE members, like I’ve never seen in my history in the labour movement. This is a direct assault on the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Albertans and their families. That’s hundreds of thousands of voters,” she says.
“Rest assured, this attack, this betrayal, will be a major issue in the next election. Our members are angry. They won’t vote for parties that attack them – and that could cost many MLAs their seats.”