In A Flash

Ground Shifting Again for Alberta Employers – Premier Announces Employment & Labour Changes Under Bill 2 – An Act to Make Alberta Open for Business

Bill 2: An Act to Make Alberta Open for Business (“Bill 2”) was put forward to Alberta’s legislative assembly yesterday afternoon, May 27, 2019. At the press conference to announce the changes, Premier Kenney said the changes aim to “bring fairness and balance back to the workplace” and to “get Albertans back to work.”

Bill 2, which is not yet law, is expected to pass in the near future.  Under Bill 2, the United Conservative Party government proposes to make various changes, many of which have the effect of undoing some of the legislative changes brought about by the NDP government in 2017, through their introduction of Bill 17: The Fair and Family Friendly Workplaces Act (“Bill 17”). These changes will almost certainly be welcome news to employers in Alberta.  Below, we summarize the changes that will be of most interest to employers:

Student Youth Minimum Wage – to take effect June 26, 2019:

  • The minimum wage will be reduced to $13.00-per-hour for workers aged seventeen or younger (currently $15.00-per-hour). The new lower wage will apply for the first 28 hours worked in a week by a student while school is in session. For every additional hour worked in a week after that, they must be paid the full $15 minimum hourly wage. However, during breaks from school and summer holidays, the new $13.00 an hour youth rate will apply to all hours worked by a student.

Employment Standards Code – to take effect September 1, 2019:

  • The method for calculating general holiday pay will again recognize the distinction between the general holiday occurring on a regular and irregular workday (this distinction was previously removed under the NDP government’s Bill 17).
  • In order to be eligible for general holiday pay an employee must work for at least 30 days in the 12 months preceding the general holiday (this eligibility requirement was previously removed under Bill 17).
  • Overtime will be permitted to be banked at a 1:1 rate under an overtime agreement (currently, employers are required to give those hours at a ratio of 1.5 hours off for every overtime hour banked, as a result of Bill 17). This means no more Flexible Averaging Agreements.

Labour Relations Code – if the Bill receives Royal Assent, the effect is that the changes below will have come into force on May 27, 2019:

  • The mandatory secret ballot vote process will be restored, and unions will no longer be able to gain bargaining rights without a majority of employees voting in favour of union representation. This is a welcome change, as it will ensure that union certification is actually based on the wishes of the employees affected.
  • Signed union cards (the method by which many employees show their support of a union to the Labour Board) will remain valid for a period of 90 days. Currently cards remain valid for a six month period, as a result of Bill 17.  This will considerably shorten the length of union organizing drives and the resulting disruption on business operations.
  • The current “marshalling” provisions in the Labour Relations Code will be strengthened. These provisions are aimed at reducing the duplication of employment claims in multiple forums (such as labour relations, employment standards, human rights, workers’ compensation, arbitration, and privacy).

Labour Change for Unionized Employees – to take effect October 1, 2019:

  • A program will be put in place to provide support and assistance to employees to help them to better understand and exercise their rights under the Labour Relations Code, the Police Officers Collective Bargaining Act, the Public Education Collective Bargaining Act, and the Public Service Employee Relations Act.

Premier Kenney also repeated his recent promise to introduce further labour and employment amendments in the fall of this year.  Based on his May 27, 2019 comments to the press, those changes are expected to include the following:

  • Preventing workers from being forced to fund causes and political parties without clearly deciding to do that and Unions being able to show that the workers have done so.
  • Reversing the replacement worker ban in the public sector.

While it was not announced, we also expect to see changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act in the fall.   Stay tuned for more details as they become available.

A copy of Bill 2 can be found here.

If you have any questions regarding the impact of any upcoming changes to Alberta’s workplace laws, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.

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