There’s a New Sherriff in Town

cowboy with lasso silhouette at small-town rodeo
Sascha Burkard

And her name is Notley!

The Canadian West may be getting a little wilder in the coming months. The Progressive Conservative (PC) Party held power in Alberta for 43 years and in a historical election last year the NDP won a majority Government. Times are changing in the Labour Relations world for Alberta.

For the first time since the 1970’s the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) will have the right to strike.  This is a historic turn for provincial labour laws as the Progressive Conservatives have denied the AUPE the right to strike since its formation.

Under Notley’s NPD government, Labour Minister Christina Gray introduced new legislation that will give approximately 150,000 unionized workers and over 77 different bargaining units the right to strike under what is commonly known as Essential Services Agreements.

Click here to watch Minister Gray’s announcement.

Essential Services agreements are a method to balance the constitutional rights of unionized workers to strike versus the right of a government to protect the safety of the public by ensuring there is access to needed government services.

The AUPE contracts will be expiring in 2017 and the union will be negotiating for the first time under this new legislation. However, everyone knows that Alberta is currently in a drastic economic slump with oil being under $50.00 a barrel. From a labour economics point of view, the union may not want to pull its strike card out this round of negotiations.

Guy Smith, the President of the AUPE, believes the union will be restrained and willing to work with an NDP Government.

Click here to read the article.

After four decades of Progressive Conserve rule in Alberta, the NDP and the Public Sector Unions will be dancing to a much different song sheet in this round of upcoming negotiations. It will be very interesting to watch a pro-union government negotiate with its unions in a very tough economic climate. This is where the “relations” in labour relations really gets tested. Hold on to your cowboy hat and watch how the Wild West unfolds during this upcoming, unprecedented round of negotiations.


Discussion Questions:

  1. Research the benefits and the negatives of essential services agreements.
  2. Explain the terms the “chilling” and the “narcotic” effect of public sector bargaining and provide solutions to reduce their impact.