Alberta Politics
The Jasons don't want you to see anything like this in Alberta, thank you very much (Photo: 20th Century Fox).

‘How can we help you bust your union?’ Alberta Government launches ‘employee support program’

Posted on October 02, 2019, 2:04 am
7 mins

The Government of Alberta launched its promised “Employee Labour Relations Support Program” yesterday. Apparently they’ll not only tell you how to certify a union, they’ll tell you how to decertify one too!

Busting a union used to be easier back in the days of the old Progressive Conservatives, who weren’t really all that progressive themselves. Back then, all you had to do if you wanted to decertify a union was get it to try to negotiate a first contract!

Alberta Labour Minister Jason Copping (Photo: Government of Alberta).

Rachel Notley’s NDP government fixed that legal problem, introducing labour laws including first-contract compulsory arbitration rules that dragged Alberta kicking and screaming into the middle of the last century.

Despite the fact the fact the NDP reforms were pretty weak tea — real middle-of-the-road stuff by Canadian standards — they were very upsetting to certain people in this province, and for that matter some outside of it.

I’m talking about militantly anti-union contractors, the fast-food industry, and the usual suspects in astro-turfing and thinktankery. Some of these folks were very generous contributors to the United Conservative cause. Accordingly, promises were made.

Among those promises was a pledge in the UCP election platform “to bring balance back to labour laws,” which is code for making it harder for unions to organize and represent their members, since before the NDP came along Alberta had the most unbalanced labour laws in Canada.

Another was to “require the Labour Relations Board to provide legal support to all union workers in order to better understand and exercise their rights.” Depending on what you take providing legal support to mean, this can be seen as being quite insulting to the hard-working members and employees of the Alberta Labour Relations Board, who already do their best to ensure union members understand and can exercise their rights.

In other words, Mr. Kenney promised his friends at the Merit Contractors, Restaurants Canada and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation — all high profile players in the Canadian Axis of Union Busting — that he’d roll back workers’ rights in Alberta. This, of course, was part of his broader social conservative plan to Make Alberta the Fifties Again.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The thing is, though, the three outfits named above don’t just want it to be the Fifties again — they want it to be the 1850s!

Of course, this kind of promise may not be as easy to keep as it is to make on the campaign trail. The Supreme Court of Canada has spoken and Canadian working people now have a constitutional right to bargain collectively, so any rollback of union members’ rights will have to meet a sterner test than what Restaurants Canada and the Fraser Institute think is reasonable.

Whatever you think of Mr. Kenney, though, it’s obvious he’s serious about being able to say “promise made, promise kept.” If he can’t, somebody’s going to be in trouble.

What’s more, if somebody at the Labour Board doesn’t say “How can I help you bust your union?” when they pick up the phone, the generous members of the Axis of Union Busting aren’t going to be happy either!

Which is presumably where yesterday’s press release and announcement by Labour Minister Jason Copping comes in.

“By launching the employee labour relations support program, we are keeping our promise to provide assistance to unionized workers in Alberta,” Mr. Copping was quoted as saying in the stilted way favoured by anonymous press release writers. “This program is part of our commitment to restore balance in the workplace by giving workers access to factual information and, in some cases, supports or advice from a neutral source.”

When you look at it, other than a quote certain to annoy the already neutral ALRB, the government announcement was pretty anodyne.

What little information is found on the government web page isn’t any different from what you would have been told if you’d just phoned the Labour Relations Board and asked them how to go about certifying a union — or decertifying one.

But who am I to say the Government of Alberta shouldn’t have two departments doing exactly the same thing? I mean, as long as no one minds if I point out another one of those promises made by Mr. Kenney on the campaign trail was to cut “red tape.”

It’s right on the government’s Red Tape Reduction Website: “If you’ve come across a government process that’s too complex, takes too long, serves no purpose, or is duplicative or wasteful, we want to know about it.” (Emphasis added, of course.)

So if you have nothing better to do this afternoon, why not contact the Ministry of Red Tape Reduction and let them know about the duplication over at the Ministry of Labour?

On the other hand, if you think the author if this blog is exhibiting un-Albertan tendencies by talking about working people’s rights, you can report him to the House Un-Albertan Activities Committee at [email protected]

This is Alberta, where the Future is the Fifties, and the opportunities to inform on your fellow citizens are growing every day!

9 Comments to: ‘How can we help you bust your union?’ Alberta Government launches ‘employee support program’

  1. J.E. Molnar

    October 2nd, 2019

    “Let’s Make Alberta Kentucky”!!

    Labour relations practices and labour rights in Alberta have been trampled on for decades by myopic conservative governments inclined to put the big-business-bosses first over struggling workers looking for a fair shake. This sham move outlined in Climenhaga’s column adds credence to the claim — one more time.

    You also have to look no further than the UCP’s shameless attempt to kill Bill 6 — the farm workers’ enhanced protection Act — a piece of legislation enacted by the NDP to protect and regulate one of the most dangerous sectors to work in within the Alberta economy. It would not surprise me one iota if this reckless and impetuous UCP government was headed towards enacting odious “Right-To-Work” legislation before its first term is concluded. After all, Jason Kenney’s covert boardroom mantra of “Let’s Make Alberta Kentucky” has a nice ring to it with shareholders, investors and venture capitalists, no?

    • Farmer Dave

      October 2nd, 2019

      UCP want to kill Bill 6 so their money contributors to their party won’t need to pay the insurance and have injured farm workers rely on government for money to survive such as AISH and on the tax payers dime.

  2. Simon Renouf

    October 2nd, 2019

    DC your comment about the fifties brought to mind the song by the great Chad Mitchell Trio lampooning Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. Here’s a taste:

    We’re the bright young men, who want to go back to Nineteen-Ten, we’re Barry’s boys
    We’re the kids with a cause, yes a government like grandmama’s, we’re Barry’s boys
    We’re the new kind of youth at your alma mater
    Back to silver standards and solid Goldwater
    Back to when the poor were poor and rich were rich
    And you felt so damn secure just knowing which were which.

  3. Rocky

    October 2nd, 2019

    “The Future is the Fifties!” I like it. That should be on our licence plates.

  4. Athabascan

    October 2nd, 2019

    I’m not surprised at all.

    Next we’ll see an anti-union snitch line. Maybe if we wait long enough kenney will create re-education internment camps for all union members – you know conversion therapy camps so everyone is pro-employer and pro-oil.

    Soon they will build it into the high school curriculum. Bosses good unions bad, just like Copping used to tell students at the U of C.

  5. Political Ranger

    October 2nd, 2019

    Well gosh darn it David!
    With all this dang-founded letter writing you got us doing, I’m going to run out of email ink !

  6. tom in ontario

    October 2nd, 2019

    I will squeal to the snitch line that the Blogger is filling Canadian heads with subversive thoughts like union solidarity, collective bargaining and how right to work laws mean right to work for less. ‘Course Jason and red tape reduction crew members who don’t move their lips when they read know all about him. Keep it up, Dave.

  7. Dave

    October 2nd, 2019

    I think Mr. Kenney’s propaganda people must have figured using the word re-education wouldn’t go over well here, so now they are calling it employee support. How nice, but I have a feeling Alberta government employees are not feeling very well “supported” by Mr. Kenney now and probably will feel even less so after his budget.

    In any event, here is a cost saving idea for them, they need to consolidate all their fancy new ideas under one phone line. It could go something like this, “press 1, if you want to report un-Albertan activities, press 2, if you want to want to report union organizing activities, press 3 if you want to hear a recorded message about all the wonderful things we are doing about climate change, etc ….

  8. PJP

    October 2nd, 2019

    I reported the Red Tape.
    My evidence? I quoted their own website’s description of its purpose and challenged them to identify whether it came from ALRB or the “ELRS” program.

    Can you tell?

    “Employees will be able to access information, resources and supports related to union matters…
    Information for employees will be available online. If employees still have questions, the online information will include a phone number and email form so they can contact Labour and Immigration staff directly. Staff will assist employees or refer them to other supports as needed.”


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