The Province of Alberta has invited residents and stakeholders to participate in a review of its labour legislation.
The review focuses on the Employment Standards Code and the Labour Relations Code, neither of which has undergone significant updates since 1988.
The laws cover hours of work, overtime, general holidays, special leaves and collective bargaining rules.
"It’s good to finally know after all these months of speculation," said Darrel Reid, vice-president, policy and advocacy for the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA).
Heading the review is Andy Sims, an arbitrator and mediator practising throughout Western Canada. Reid said this is encouraging as Sims has a lot of respect in the labour community. Based in Edmonton, Sims served nine years as chair of the Alberta Labour Relations Board plus 21 years as a vice-chair. He also sat as a vice-chair of the Canada Industrial Relations Board for three years and chair of the Alberta Public Service Employee Relations Board for three years.
Prior to the formal announcement, the PCA had been alarmed at discussions around changing the province’s labour laws.
"Alberta has a diverse pool of labour models and that diversity is what makes Alberta’s construction industry strong, competitive and attractive," said Paul de Jong, PCA president. "We want to ensure that any changes being considered do not weaken a leading industry in this province, and put it at risk."
Reid noted that the PCA is encouraged that the government has indicated that changes being contemplated will not be sweeping.
"In that sense we are pleased that they heard our message that now is not the time for big bold labour experiments in Alberta," Reid said. "However there is still a significant question about process and timing."
He said that there needs to be enough time to consider the changes but the province hasn’t provided anything specific for stakeholders to comment on nor is it clear if the April 18 deadline is for the entire process or just the initial part of it.
"This is somewhat good but some work still needs to be done," Reid said.
The Alberta Federation of Labour and the Building Trades of Alberta did not respond to requests for comment before press time. According to a release from the province, some of Alberta’s workplace rules are currently out-of-step with the rest of Canada and these areas need to be reviewed.
"Alberta has some of the oldest labour laws in the country. Work life in Alberta has changed a lot over the last 30 years and we need to ensure our laws are kept up to date," said Christina Gray, minister of labour in a statement. "We want to ensure Albertans can go to work and contribute to our economy while still being able to care for themselves and their families."
The public can provide input on Alberta’s workplace laws until April 18. Albertans can find more information about how to get involved by visiting work.alberta.ca/leg-review.
The government stated it is seeking feedback on maternity, parental and compassionate care leaves as well as introducing leave for the care of critically ill children.
Officials are also collecting comments on other job-protected leaves in relation to the federal employment insurance program.
The collective bargaining process and improving enforcement and administration will be areas of discussion.
The reviews intend to include direct engagement with business and industry associations, trade unions and social agencies over the coming weeks.