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Government bill an attempt to stifle teacher voices

August 27, 2020 Kim Clement, ATA News Staff


Unions vocal in criticism of UCP’s Bill 32

A bill that ATA president Jason Schilling says is an attempt to silence organized labour has been passed by the Alberta government.

Bill 32: Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act, was introduced in the Alberta legislature on July 7 and received royal assent on July 29.

The bill will require unions and associations like the Alberta Teachers’ Association to obtain opt-in approval before using member dues on political and advocacy functions.

“This government wants to prevent teachers’ voices from being heard on issues such as classroom conditions in the face of COVID-19, class size, support for inclusion and adequacy of funding for public education,” Schilling said.

Unifor called the bill an attack on the rights of working people.

“Jason Kenney is using government regulations to benefit his friends in big business,” said Unifor western regional director Gavin McGarrigle in a news release.

The United Nurses of Alberta criticized the bill for being undemocratic.

“Bill 32 creates an unnecessary administrative burden for unions and interferes in a democratic process that is determined by our members,” said UNA president Heather Smith.

The government has stated that Bill 32 provides “employees and employers with clearer and more transparent rules, promoting fairness and productivity.”

The bill also makes changes to rules for holiday pay, work averaging agreements and group layoffs.

Schilling said the legislation is built on a faulty premise that members don’t have a voice in how their dues are spent. The Association’s governance processes, such as the Annual Representative Assembly, are democratic and transparent to members whose elected representatives vote to set the organization’s budget, including funds to support public advocacy, he said.

“Five hundred teacher delegates vote every year on a line-by-line budget and on the annual fees,” said Schilling. “And if members don’t support the leadership Provincial Executive Council provides, they have an opportunity to vote us out every two years.”

He said the bill introduces a significant amount of red tape and bureaucracy for the Association including increased administrative costs that would have to be borne by members, including those who choose not to support the advocacy efforts.

Schilling also noted that the practical effect of the legislation will be realized through regulation, and the precise impacts, including effective dates, remain unknown. ❚