From the Calgary Herald
The NDP government will introduce essential services legislation this spring as the prospect of significant public sector strike action becomes a new reality in Alberta.
The Notley government is responding to a Supreme Court decision in 2015 that recognized the right of public sector employees to strike but allowed governments to designate some workers as providing essential services who are unable to take job action.
It will be a fundamental change for Alberta, which has long had many of its government workers covered by a blanket ban on striking.
“What this does, it shifts the landscape dramatically,” Guy Smith, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, said in a recent interview.
“It’s now providing to a majority of our members a right they never had before. So that obviously changes the dynamic at the bargaining table because without that legal right, the tools in the tool box were pretty limited when it came to contract negotiations, and employers knew that.”
Smith said the change will make contract negotiations more fair but won’t automatically mean more labour action.
Bargaining for AUPE’s new contract in 2017 promises to be tough as the NDP government grapples with a massive deficit caused by low oil prices.
Among the workers that have been forbidden to strike in the province are all unionized Government of Alberta employees, post-secondary faculty and staff, and police, fire and emergency medical personnel.
As well, nurses, general support staff, and professional and technical employees at approved hospitals are not allowed to strike.