The Alberta Labour History Institute has made a submission calling for fundamental changes in labour law philosophy to the provincial government committee that is reviewing Alberta’s labour laws. Our submission, which you can download here in PDF format, details the ways in which labour law throughout Alberta history has largely been used to deny workers the right to unionize, to have safe workplaces, to strike, and to demonstrate solidarity with strikers. Alone among Canadian provinces, Alberta allows construction employers to shed a union by “double breasting,” that is creating a dummy company without a union to which they can shift employment from a unionized firm so as to break a union contract. Alberta labour legislation has also encouraged legal recognition to “company unions” such as the Christian Labour Association of Canada, which organizes employers rather than workers. The result of all of this is that Alberta’s trade union “density”, the percentage of workers who are unionized, remains the lowest in the country.
Based on historical evidence and best practices in other provinces and other countries, ALHI recommends:
1. Removing the prohibition on trade unions being openly present in or near to non-unionized workplaces so that they can present their arguments to workers in favour of unionization.
2. Allowing unions to receive certification after signing a majority of members or after an early vote when they believe that they have signed close to a majority of eligible workers.
3. First-contract legislation.
4. A legal prohibition on the right of employers to hire scabs during a strike or lock-out.
5. Protection for workers not on strike to respect a picket line without fear of reprisals.
6. A ban on double breasting.
7. An end to clauses in the Labour Act that discriminate against construction workers in ways that virtually cancel their rights to unionize and strike.
8. A prohibition on company-dominatred unions.
9. Pay equity legislation to cover all working people.