Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Government appoints DIB in senior care strike

The government has appointed a dispute resolution tribunal (DIB) which makes a non-binding recommendation to forestall another strike in Alberta's private senior care facilities. A DIB appointed in a different (but basically identical) dispute between the two parties yielded a recommendation for the employer to pay more (as did a mediator report) and the employer declined. The newest DIB appears likely to run a similar course.

The government's rationale for the DIB is that patient care was in jeopardy. AUPE (representing the workers) has noted in a sharp letter to the premier that the proper legislative mechanism to use if public safety is threatened is a PET (public emergency tribunal) which could issue a binding settlement. The government may be shy of PETs after the 2002 teacher strike where the courts threw out the PET because it was being used to solve a political (rather than an actual) emergency (obviously I'm paraphrasing the court--I'm on vacation and too lazy to look up the chief justice's actual words).

I can't imagine that is a real issue here--there is (apparently) an emergency. Unless there isn't an emergency. But then why would the government intervene with a DIB if there is no emergency and there are zero prospects of a settlement?

Further, it seems strange the government would (1) use the wrong legislative mechanism in a way (2) that is likely to be ineffective to (3) basically stall a strike. Unless the government is trying to pull the private-sector employer's ass out of the fire, a fire caused by the employer paying substandard wages. Ah, the myth of the neutral state in labour relations.

-- Bob Barnetson