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MLA Donovan mixed on labour legislation

Posted on December 18, 2013 by Vauxhall Advance

Controversial labour legislation that increases fines for illegal strikes and eliminates the option for binding arbitration in contract negotiations has raised protest amongst public sector employees in the province.

Bills 45 and 46 passed third and final reading in the provincial legislature earlier this month.

Bill 45 increases fines for Alberta unions that strike illegally to $1 million per day.

“Right now, I think one of the pros to Bill 45 is we need to be able to have that debate,” said Little Bow MLA Ian Donovan. “Obviously Bill 45 deals with illegal strikes. With unions, the question is anytime something’s illegal — there’s a process and a way to do things. I don’t agree with them doing wildcat or illegal strikes.”

Donovan is opposed to wildcat strikes in essential service occupations, noting a previous illegal strike in the province prompted the government to reconsider existing legislation.

Bill 46, the Public Service Salary Restraint Act, applies to negotiations with the Alberta Union of Public Employees (AUPE) and eliminates the option of going to binding arbitration.

AUPE represents roughly 22,000 front-line government employees in the province.

“Bill 46 goes into how the AUPE and the government mandate back and forth on what they’re doing,” said Donovan.

“Our Wildrose stance when we went into the election was no pay increases for two years, and then a one or two per cent once the books were balanced. To me, we have to stick to that.”

The right to arbitration in contract negotiations for unionized employees in essential services has been a long-standing alternative.

“The question is, do you take away someone’s right to go back to arbitration? Unfortunately that’s what Bill 46 does. To me, that isn’t dealing in good faith with somebody. There was a process put in place, back in the Lougheed days with essential services, for arbitration so the two sides could come to an agreement,” said Donovan.

Donovan is still gauging the opinions of his constituents on the potential impacts of the twin labour bills, and what Albertans think about them.

“Whether you’re pro union or not, taking away the chance for arbitration that has been a long-standing side to it — I’m still talking to my constituents to see what their thoughts are on it. There’s pros and cons to Bill 46. Back in the Klein era when he was doing cuts, he was still able to negotiate agreements with AUPE. I’m trying to figure out if that’s still applicable.”

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