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Heads Up: Labour + Employment Laws Are Changing Again

On Monday May 27, the UCP-led Government of Alberta introduced Bill 2: An Act to Make Alberta Open for Business. Bill 2 passed its first reading and is aimed at reversing some of the legislative changes made by the NDP during its time in government. If passed, Bill 2 will amend the Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code to remove certain obligations placed on employers under the previous legislative scheme.

Regarding the Employment Standards Code, Bill 2 proposes a return to previous general holiday pay provisions which distinguished between whether or not the holiday fell on an employee’s regular work day. Under this approach, employers are only required to provide holiday pay where the holiday falls on a date which would have been a regular work day for the employee. Bill 2 also proposes a return to previous overtime provisions which provided that banked overtime can be taken as time off work on a 1:1 hour-for-hour basis. Bill 2 retains the NDP amendments allowing overtime to be banked for up to 6 months before it must be taken or paid. These provisions will come into force on September 1, 2019.

Regarding the Labour Relations Code, Bill 2 proposes restoring the requirement for a mandatory secret ballot vote for certification applications. A representation vote will still require 40% support to proceed, but “card-based certification” based on 65% support will be struck. Voting will become mandatory and majority support will still be required on any vote on certification. Bill 2 also proposes reducing the time allowed for unions to sign up members in support of certification from 6 months back to 90 days. These changes are slated to apply to any application for certification made on or after May 27th, 2019. Bill 2 also proposes strengthening the “marshalling provisions” under the Code to allow the Labour Relations Board to make orders to streamline and limit duplicative employment-based proceedings in multiple forums. Finally, Bill 2 provides authority to “establish a program to provide support and assistance to employees” with respect to matters under this the Labour Relations Code, the Police Officers Collective Bargaining Act, the Public Education Collective Bargaining Act and the Public Service Employee Relations Act”, although the specifics of this program remain to be seen.

Bill 2 will take us back to the way things were before the NDP instituted changes to the legislation discussed above, but not all the way back. Certain changes made by the NDP, including the $15.00 minimum wage (with the exception of a reduction for youth) and averaging agreements, remain in place. although the fact that banked overtime will revert to a 1:1 ratio may mean fewer employers will wish to implement averaging agreements once Bill 2 is passed.  All in all, Bill 2 brings in changes that most Alberta employers are likely to find favourable.

More legislative changes affecting Alberta workplaces are expected in the near future. Contact one of our experienced lawyers in our Labour and Employment Group if your organization needs help understanding and navigating this new legislative landscape.