Prentice announces repeal of Bill 45 after meeting with union leaders

WATCH ABOVE: After meeting with public sector union leaders at Government House, Premier Jim Prentice announced Bill 45 will be repealed. Shallima Maharaj reports.

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jim Prentice said he intends to honour previously signed union contracts and will repeal Bill 45 in a press conference held after meeting with the leaders of Alberta’s public sector unions on Thursday afternoon.

Bill 45 (Public Sector Services Continuation Act) was passed in December 2013 to punish the union with steep fines and civil liabilities if it wages an illegal strike. It increased the penalties for wildcat strikes and included a provision that fines unions up to $1 million a day once an abatement order is made by the court. It was never put into force.

“Repealing Bill 45 is a clear indication that we want to work with our public sector workers to develop legislation that ensures fairness for all – employers, employees and Albertans as a whole,” said Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Ric McIver in a statement.

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WATCH: Premier Prentice says he will repeal Bill 45 

Earlier this month, the leaders of the AUPE, the United Nurses of Alberta, Health Sciences Association and the CUPE Alberta sent a letter to the premier requesting a meeting. Prentice has said public-sector unions must do their part in light of low oil prices, which have taken billions of dollars out of the provincial economy, although this week he has softened his rhetoric on deep spending cuts.

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READ MORE: Looming Alberta budget cuts have union leaders fearful of what’s to come

“This is not about rolling back contracts, it’s about working together to find solutions…that reflect the fiscal circumstances that we’re in,” said Prentice Thursday afternoon.

“We recognize that prior to my becoming the premier, contracts were negotiated, had been signed with different unions; clearly they have to be respected. We cannot rollback what was previously agreed to.”

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In regards to Bill 45, Prentice said the recent Supreme Court decision that struck down the Saskatchewan law preventing public sector employees from striking was “important” but didn’t influence his decision for a “different framework for labour negotiations” in Alberta.

“We need to work together with the unions, with leaders, to define…an approach to essential service legislation that reflects their input,” he said. “We will move forward and define essential service legislation that is respectful of the rights of employees as it is of the rights of taxpayers.”

READ MORE: Prentice says Alberta budget to be so radical, will demand mandate to implement

The government will bring down its next budget on March 26th.

With files from Slav Kornik and Emily Mertz

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