Friday, December 13, 2013

AUPE files suit over Bill 46

AUPE has filed a court challenge of Bill 46, which displaces collective bargaining with a government imposed settlement for Alberta's civil servants. You can download the statement of claim here. The basic arguments are three:

  • Freedom of association (s.2(d) of the Charter)) requires a meaningful process of collective bargaining and Bill 46 infringes on that by unilaterally termination of bargaining and imposing a settlement outside of the agreed to process.
  • The right to liberty and security of person (s.7 of the Charter) protects workers from being forced to work under terms coerced, dictated and imposed by the state.
  • Various international agreements and accords to which Canada (and thus Alberta) is a party to protect collective bargaining and have been violated by Bill 46.

I expect this challenge is part of a broader strategy of resistance. At least I hope so, because as compelling as a human rights-based approach is to policy wonks and unionists, it just doesn't resonate with your average worker or citizen.

By contrast, the blatant unfairness of the government's actions (changing the rules in the middle of the game to advantage themselves) screams "illegitimate" and may be a useful way to shift the discussion away from the "the taxpayers can't afford rich settlements" narrative that right-wing commentators harp on. Hell, even a child knows it's unfair to change the rules in the middle of the game.

This song (alas only audio), while written about BC Premier Gordon Campbell's 2002 rewriting of BC health-care contracts (which was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2007), captures this unfairness sensibility about right: "A contract ain't a contract anymore".

EDIT: While I was out shovelling snow, it occurred to me that I meant to mention AUPE's efforts in this regard via their "Alberta Way" ads (this will teach me to blog on only one cup of coffee):

This is a good start but would be more effective if there was a popular protest element to reinforce its measured tone. The Premier's efforts to wrap herself in the death-shroud of Nelson Mandela, for example, cries out for e-ridicule in the light of her government's Bills 45 and 46.

-- Bob Barnetson

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