April 30, 2012
Industry weighs in on Alberta election results
The Progressive Conservative (PC) party in Alberta won a majority in the recent provincial election and received a mandate to implement their political platform, which includes changes to labour legislation that will affect the construction industry.
“The result of the election on the construction industry and the province is the best case scenario,” said Christian Labour Association of Canada Prairies director Wayne Prins.
“The PCs have been duly warned by the electorate to make changes, but all the previous plans are still intact. There is a good government in place that is working on a lot of important things and they have been reminded not to be complacent after 41 years in government.”
The Progressive Conservatives, led by Alison Redford, won 61 ridings and receiving 44 per cent of the popular vote.
This is the 12th successive majority victory for the PCs in Alberta, which has a 41-year-run in government and is one of the longest provincial dynasties in Canadian political history.
“The election victory by the Progressive Conservatives is affirmation that the province will move forward on the energy file,” said Bill Stewart, vice president of Merit Contractors Association in Alberta.
“We are seeing change, which means doing things differently, engaging new people in the process and moving forward in a positive way.”
Redford, who was re-elected in her riding of Calgary–Elbow, became Alberta’s first elected female premier.
She became premier in October, when she won the leadership of the party.
“Most of the pollsters and analysts said the PC party had a 10 per cent chance of forming either a majority or a minority government,” said Prins.
“It was very interesting how the expectations and the predictions going into the election changed so drastically in the first few hours, as the results started coming in.”
Pre-election polls pointed to a Wildrose Party majority, but that didn’t materialize.
The party was only elected in 17 ridings with 34.5 per cent of the popular vote.
The Liberals took five seats, while the NDP claimed four ridings.
“I think you can say that there were two approaches to infrastructure that were put forward,” said Stewart.
“There will be a continuation of funding for infrastructure development and construction on several major projects will continue.”
For example, during the election campaign Redford promised that if elected the PC government would undertake an aggressive school construction program to build 50 new schools at a cost of about $1.2 billion, over a four year period.
In addition, the party also promised to renovate 70 existing schools, which will cost another $1.2 billion.
According to Stewart, the PCs made a number of key pledges during the 28-day election campaign.
“Some interesting things were included in the PC platform, which included wall-to-wall collective bargaining units, financial disclosure, treatment of union members who work for non-signatory companies and paycheck protection, with respect to using union dues for non-collective bargaining and grievance purposes,” he said.
The government plans to implement the Paycheque Protection, Transparency and Freedom to Choose Act, which will make it mandatory for unions to provide existing and prospective members with annual financial statements that summarize and disclose how dues were spent.
This legislation will also give members the ability to opt-out of the proportion of union dues that fund activities unrelated to collective bargaining and grievance administration.
“The whole concept of voluntary or optional dues is a bit ridiculous because it will not help labour,” said Prins.
“We look at this in the same way as citizens of a country paying taxes. What would happen if the government came along and said people don’t have to pay taxes.”
He said CLAC relies on the Rand formula, which requires workers to pay mandatory trade union dues regardless of the worker’s union status.
It is designed to avoid what the unions call free loaders.
This is when an employee opts out of the union simply to avoid dues, but is able to benefit from the union negotiated collective agreement, such as higher wages, job security, health care and pensions.
The PC government also plans to enact amendments to the labour code that will enable parties to negotiate single collective agreements for all workers of a company or a project, instead of separate agreements for each trade.
“The real question here is whether the PCs will follow suit, like Saskatchewan, where the government actually legislated the use of wall-to-wall agreements in the construction industry for unions who participate in construction, but are not one of the traditional trade specific construction unions,” said Prins.
This legislation will also ban the practice of imposing fines against union members who work for non-union employers or employers with a non-signatory union.
According to Prins, CLAC has a policy that no one should be forced to sign a union membership card, but they should pay union dues.
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