Alberta Politics
Jason Kenney on the campaign trail in a nice non-threatening Stephen Harper sweater (Photo: Facebook).

UCP math: 1.5 = 1 – and you’re lucky to get that!

Posted on April 02, 2019, 1:52 am
8 mins

One hour is the same as one and a half hours! Who knew?

It’s always an education to listen to the way Jason Kenney and his UCP team explain things.

Athabasca University labour studies professor Bob Barnetson (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Yesterday, the leader of Alberta’s United Conservative party was testily engaged in an epic effort to persuade Albertans that his party’s plan to let employers pay out employees’ banked overtime at straight time, instead of at time and a half as an NDP law now requires, isn’t the same thing as a pay cut.

Skeptics argued the opposite, and accused Mr. Kenney of wanting to roll back worker compensation with his proposal.

Now, this is a story that involves math and Mr. Kenney, it turned out, wasn’t very happy about being questioned about his.

So he got on Twitter and accused the NDP of not telling the truth (he’s been doing that a lot lately, which is interesting, given his own history) and went on to say: “Of course a UCP govt will keep protection for over time pay. We’re simply proposing to return to the rules that prevailed for years, including under the NDP, where workers can voluntarily agree to greater flexibility on when they work.”

A little later one of his supporters, a lawyer named Dwayne Chomyn who in the past has played a role in drafting Conservative employment legislation, explained in a tweet that “Someone from CUPE suggested today that the #UCP represents a ‘pay cut’. (This) is not true. Any banked time is paid out at time and half. But the time in lieu is taken at 1:1, not 1:1.5. That is not a pay cut per se.”

Note to readers: Always perk up your ears when you hear someone who’s trying to persuade you to do something the boss wants by using a little Latin phrase like “per se.”

That tweet prompted a round of hilarity, the general consensus of which appeared to be, as one Twitterist put it, “1 is less than 1.5, so ya, it’s a pay cut.”

Now, I’m not all that good at arithmetic myself, so I asked Bob Barnetson, a labour studies professor at Athabasca University, to unpack this mystery for me.

Right now, Dr. Barnetson explained, workers who are required to work more than eight hours in a day or 44 hours in a week must receive 1.5 times their normal pay for their overtime work.

Overtime pay, he noted, is designed to discourage employers from requiring long working hours and, instead, to encourage them to hire more workers.

But the current rules let employers and workers enter into agreements under which overtime is banked. The trouble with that, Dr. Barnetson explained, is that “employers can impose such ‘agreements’ at their discretion by denying workers overtime if they don’t agree to the employer’s terms. Banked overtime can then be taken as paid time off or as pay calculated at 1.5 times workers’ normal rate of pay.”

“The UCP indicates it will allow employers to pay out banked over-time hours at ‘straight’ time, instead of at the overtime rate,” he said “This will allow employers to evade overtime premiums by denying worker requests to use banked overtime. Instead, employers will be able to simply pay out the overtime as straight time. The result will be a significant cost savings for employers, and a significant pay reduction for workers.”

With Mr. Kenney’s rules, Dr. Barnetson said, a minimum-wage worker earning the current $15-per-hour rate (which Mr. Kenney, by the way, proposes to cut more than 13 per cent to $13 for young workers) for five 12-hour shifts, paying gross monthly earnings of $4,200, could see that drop to $3,600 under an imposed overtime agreement.

That would encourage employers to work existing employees harder, rather than hire additional staff, he noted. (So much for job creation!)

So by requiring an overtime agreement, refusing requests to take overtime as time off, and instead paying it out in straight time, Dr. Barnetson explained, “the de facto effect is to give employers a way to evade overtime premiums without actually having to eliminate overtime from the Employment Standards Code.”

He described this as a “kind of a stealth kill.”

The NDP changed the law to make employers pay all overtime at 1.5 times the employee’s regular hourly rate, no matter how it’s taken. “There is no rationale for allowing any overtime premium to be eliminated, regardless of how workers get it,” Dr. Barnetson stated.

He concluded: “Kenney is suggesting a fundamental change – payouts at straight time.

“The mechanics of overtime agreements are that, under Kenney’s proposal, an employer can force an overtime agreement on you, refuse your request for paid time off at 1.5 times, and force you to take a pay out of banked time at straight time.

“Basically he’s creating a rigged overtime system that employers will use to legally evade overtime payments.”

Got that? Legally. Evade. Overtime. Payments.

When life handed Mr. Kenney a lemon yesterday, he was the kind of politician who decided to make a pretzel, if you take my meaning. Note that Mr. Kenney also said this change would align Alberta with every other province – something it would be fair to describe as a fib.

As for that bit about how “we’re simply proposing to return to the rules that prevailed for years,” that sure sounds like the Jason Kenney we’re coming to know and not necessarily love in Alberta.

Alert readers will recall that all Canadian women didn’t have the right to vote until 1960, only eight years before Mr. Kenney was born. That sure as hell doesn’t mean a “return to the rules that prevailed for years” is a good idea.

I wonder what Mr. Kenney thinks about that?

Vriend ruling was delivered on this day

On this day in 1998, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down an Alberta Court of Appeal ruling barring gay persons from protection under the province’s Human Rights Code in the final appeal of the Delwin Vriend case. Jason Kenney, at the time a Reform Party MP in Ottawa, had pressed Premier Ralph Klein to use the Charter’s Notwithstanding Clause to override the court’s decision. Mr. Klein wisely ignored him.

19 Comments to: UCP math: 1.5 = 1 – and you’re lucky to get that!

  1. David

    April 2nd, 2019

    I’m fairly good with math, went to school in Alberta and I’m also confident 1 is still less than 1.5. I don’t know if Mr. Kenney went to school in some alternate universe, or that school he went to in Saskatchewan just didn’t have a very good math program. Perhaps he should try discovery math as a remedial program if the old fashioned program failed him. Wasn’t he and 110% of one of his candidates talking about math skills in Alberta schools recently? In any event, we can’t blame the Alberta education system for Kenney’s revisionist approach to math.

    Yes, again in Mr. Kenney’s alternate world everyone else is once again wrong, in his opinion. All those people, emails and taped conversations about kamikaze campaigns, illegal donations and intercepted PINs for voting – all wrong! Even though they were all in the same party as him at the time and some still are.

    Speaking of roll backs, it seems to be a recurring theme of the Kenney campaign. Last week he was promising to roll back protections for GSA’s and trying to pretend that was not a rollback either. I suppose in a strange way he is at least consisent in the type of bs he is peddling.

    Maybe Kenney is an alien and really does come from a strange alternate universe, where going backward is really moving forward, or maybe he is just a disingenous politician, formerly from Ottawa, trying to convince us black is white, up is down, hate is love, etc.. even though we really know better.

    Reply
  2. John B.

    April 2nd, 2019

    “… workers can voluntarily agree to greater flexibility on when they work”

    And if that one won’t we’ll find another waiting in the wiggling room that will.

    There’s nothing quite so pleasing as giving the slugs another lesson in flexibility.

    Reply
  3. Farmer Dave

    April 2nd, 2019

    From your photo of Jason Kenney, in this article, the background sure looks like the Soldiers of Odin are his body guards.

    Reply
    • tom in ontario

      April 2nd, 2019

      Or maybe his math advisors.

      Reply
    • Pogo

      April 2nd, 2019

      Now what! Your little Caesar has crossed my Rubicon! That picture is obviously the Dilbert and Gullible society, arguing over a remount of “The Life of Brian” as a musical! Proof you say? I have proof! https://youtu.be/7Lc86JUAwwg

      Reply
  4. J.E. Molnar

    April 2nd, 2019

    Check the boxes. Jason Kenney and the UCP are clearly campaigning for big business while the little guy gets stiffed and shafted repeatedly.

    ■ Cuts to the minimum wage
    ■ Revoke union certification breakthroughs
    ■ Harm farm workers by repealing WCB protections
    ■ Revoke health & safety regs
    ■ Revoke overtime pay laws
    ■ Wages freezes in public health sector
    ■ Tax cuts for corporations but not for workers
    ■ Cut regulations putting workers and the public at risk

    If Jason Kenney and the UCP’s reckless drive toward Klein 2.0 continues, it won’t just be “Back To the Future” Albertans will be complaining about, but more like “Groundhog Day” where the same day is repeated over and over again and we wake up to Ralph Klein, Stockwell Day and Steve West wannabes running the province into the ground and stiffing workers so badly they’ll be afraid to bend over.

    Reply
  5. Martin d'Entremont

    April 2nd, 2019

    Uh, math is hard?

    Reply
  6. Northern Loon

    April 3rd, 2019

    Sometimes history can also be hard and I’m pretty sure that most Canadian women were allowed to vote before 1960. However, indigenous women and men were not allowed to vote until the1960’s.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      April 3rd, 2019

      That’s the point. Read the sentence carefully. Follow the link. Canadian women on the Prairies had won the right to vote in 1916. DJC

      Reply
      • St Albertan

        April 3rd, 2019

        Shame is a lost art.

        Reply
      • Northern Loon

        April 3rd, 2019

        I thought you might have meant that, but didn’t believe you would ignore the indigenous males who also only gained the right to vote at the same time with your comment being specific to only Canadian Women.

        Reply
        • David Climenhaga

          April 4th, 2019

          Fair point. DJC

          Reply
  7. Bob Raynard

    April 3rd, 2019

    The implementation details could make this even scarier, as (possibly) unintended consequences kick in as well.

    So things are running late and the boss tells his crew they have to stay an extra couple of hours. (Forget voluntary – we know that won’t happen). Rather than get extra pay, to compensate for their extra day care charges, a worker can leave a couple of hours early tomorrow. I would assume the day care will still want a full day’s payment on the second day. For that they will get the same remuneration they were supposed to get for two 8 hour days. That very conveniently shifts some of the risk from the entrepreneur to the worker, without any corresponding shift of reward.

    The effect on a part time worker is interesting. Bill worked 10 hours yesterday, so he is owed 2 hours. Today is he is scheduled to work 6. It would appear the boss can increase his hours for today to 8 hours, then tell him to go home after the 6 he was originally scheduled to work. Presto, overtime hours with no premium. This flexibility gives an employer added incentive to hire part time workers. So much for job creation.

    One of the biggest gains the labour movement made in the early 20th century was the 8 hour day. If this is brought in I think it would really undermine what we today consider a standard in the workplace.

    Reply
    • Tana Macnab

      April 6th, 2019

      Your comment about your day being extended (non-voluntarily), and the daycare charging extra for those extended hours: I’m not sure where you get daycare – but if you have your child(ren) in daycare for 8 hours and then have to work 10 or 12 hours unexpectedly – unless you have a daycare that is open 12 hours a day – this is not going to be possible. Daycares do not operate on an hour-by-hour basis like a babysitter does, or on a drop-in basis. I guess if you have a nanny, or a private caregiver in your home, this would be workable. For parents with young children in care – particularly single-parents (mostly women) it is difficult to work a job where your hours are not predictable to arrange for suitable daycare.

      Reply
  8. Jim Thomson

    April 3rd, 2019

    As with many things in life, it’s not that simple. For many years, 1:1 compensation has been the norm for banked time especially in construction. For some jobs you might work 12 hours a day from May to October and 0 hours from November to April. The 1:1 system allows employers and their employees to swap hours worked in the summer for hours sitting at home in the winter. The 1:1.5 system of compensation is a disincentive for employers to allow accumulation of as many hours as possible in the summer for use in the winter.

    To put another way, why should an employee be paid 1.5 times more for sitting at home in the winter than they are in the summer? Not everyone works 8 hours per day in an office or shop.

    Reply
    • Murphy

      April 3rd, 2019

      In your scenario, people are not being paid 1.5 times more for sitting at home in winter than in summer. They are being paid for the time that they worked beyond eight hours during the summer. They are not being paid for sitting at home. The question is whether or not employers can make you give up half your leisure time to work for regular pay. Wages are not high enough for most people to live on four hours pay per day for six months in the off-season. Exceeding an eight-hour day should result in increased rates of compensation for forfeited personal time.

      Reply
      • Jim Thomson

        April 3rd, 2019

        Point taken, but I think it’s fair to differentiate between seasonal occupations where lots of overtime is expected vs normal year-round employment.

        Reply
        • Murphy

          April 4th, 2019

          Why? If work is seasonal, there is clearly a differential derived from the limit on the time available to do the work. Why would this not be reflected in the compensation for that higher value work? The work has to be completed in a shorter time-span than non-seasonal work, so it should cost more than non-seasonal but otherwise equivalent work. If the employer requires sixty-eight hours work to be done in a week as opposed to forty-four hours work in a week, there is a logical premium on that extra work. Employers simply don’t want to pay it.

          Reply
    • john B.

      April 3rd, 2019

      Is the 1:1 banking system in reference a legacy practice based on complicity between employers and steadies to defraud the old UIC system under which stamps were issued in accordance with calendar weeks? That would seem to make sense. Otherwise, pick up your time when you do your time. Stay out of the line-up of victims for the next bankruptcy fraud. Then again, maybe that risk is minimized in certain religious environments. But in any case, why bother continuing now? Historical practice?

      Reply

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