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Alberta trades union ‘concerned,’ requests meeting with Kenney after ‘right-to-work’ policy resolution approved by UCP members

A file photo of the UCP logo.
A file photo of the UCP logo. CREDIT: Facebook/United Conservative Party of Alberta

An Alberta trades union has requested a meeting with Premier Jason Kenney after his party approved a policy resolution this weekend to prevent employers from being required to deduct union dues without written consent from an employee.

“I, along with the more than 60,000 hardworking Albertans within the Building Trades of Alberta, are concerned over this development,” BTA executive director Terry Parker wrote in a letter to the premier that was also posted to the union’s website on Monday.

“And while I understand just 670 UCP members voted in favour of Policy 3, I strongly urge the province not to adopt this party policy as government policy.”

At the United Conservative Party’s annual general meeting over the weekend, Policy 3, which calls for making Alberta a “right-to-work” jurisdiction, passed with 80.77 per cent of members voting yes to the resolution and 18.98 voting no.

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The resolution proposes amending labour legislation so that “no worker can be required to join a collective bargaining unit to be awarded or hired in any role.”

“Further, no employer can be compelled to deduct union dues without the prior written confidential consent of the employee,” the resolution reads.

“Any coercion, intimidation or undue influence on the employee to join and/or pay should have specific, meaningful penalties and sanctions.”

In a radio interview with Global News Radio 770 CHQR’s Danielle Smith on Monday, Kenney spoke about his government working to “bring balance back” to Alberta’s labour laws “but right-to-work (legislation) was not part of that.”

“In terms of resolutions (that) were passed this weekend, we’ll take those into account two years from now when we develop our platform for the next election,” he said.

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Watch below: Some Global News videos about labour legislation in Alberta.

The policy resolution notes that “capital and labour are highly mobile, and jurisdictions are aggressively competing to attract skilled, entrepreneurial and industrious labour, as well as business investment.”

“Labour law is an integral part of a policy environment conducive to competition, entrepreneurism and investment.”

READ MORE: Alberta introduces labour bill to change overtime pay, reduce youth minimum wage

Parker said he believes the right-to-work resolution would likely not overcome a Charter challenge should the Kenney government try to implement the policy proposal and argued it “could also lower Albertans’ wages, benefits, protections and more by curbing the ability of unions to collectively bargain.”

“This would do serious harm to both union and non-union workers provincewide, and result in devastating economic consequences,” he wrote.

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He added that the effect of what he believes would be reduced incomes would have a damaging effect on the provincial economy and the government’s tax revenues, without having the desired effect of creating more jobs.

“This would have a destructive snowball effect for many small businesses, shops, restaurants and more,” he wrote. “We can’t let that happen. We all know our economy is in desperate need of support given the current double-whammy of COVID-19 and the collapse of commodity prices.”

The BTA is not the only union to express concern with the right-to-work resolution.

“This weekend, the UCP held its AGM, showing us once again what kind of government we’re up against,” the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees tweeted with a thumbs-down emoji.

“Members endorsed a resolution to not only support a two-tiered health-care system, but also right-to-work legislation.”

READ MORE: UCP approves policy resolution to create private health-care system in Alberta 

On Monday, Opposition Labour Critic Christina Gray issued a statement on the policy resolution.

“Jason Kenney continues to lead the most anti-worker party in Canada,” her statement reads in part. “These types of laws, typically pushed by the far right, only serve to drive down wages and undercut the benefits negotiated by all workers in a workplace.

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“They want to pit Albertans against each other, just to help make sure their bosses can pay them less.”

Gray called on Kenney to reject the policy proposal.