This is the second article in our three-part series highlighting recent changes to Alberta’s labour and employment legislation.  Here we focus on changes to Alberta’s labour relations regime. As a result of recent enactments, a number of significant changes to Alberta’s Labour Relations Code (“LRC”) are now in effect, as outlined below.

Certification:  “Card-based” certification has been implemented generally (not just in particular sectors).  If between 40% and 65% of employees sign union cards, a vote will still be required, and certification will only occur if a majority of employees vote in favour of certification. If over 65% of employees have signed a card, certification will occur without a vote. The Alberta Labour Relations Board (“ALRB”) may order a vote in any situation where there is doubt as to the authenticity of the support or where the ALRB feels it is necessary.

First Contract Arbitration: First contract arbitration will now be directed to end difficult negotiations between an employer and union. The post-certification freeze on changing terms and conditions of employment has been extended from 60 days to 120 days. Unions may request assistance from the ALRB if 90 days have elapsed and no collective agreement has been reached.

Expanded Arbitrator Powers: Unions and employers may ask for a supervised strike or lockout vote prior to the expiry of a collective agreement. Arbitrators may extend the time available for a grievance matter after the expiration of the time frame set out in a collective agreement. Arbitrators may also:

  • make interim orders;
  • expedite proceedings;
  • set dates;
  • work with parties to resolve differences; and
  • apply solutions in accordance with other employment legislation.

In addition, various incremental changes are now in effect.

 Subject Change
Unfair Labour Practices Employers now bear the onus of proving that their actions of discipline, dismissal or alleged intimidation do not constitute unfair labour practices.
Dependent Contractors The definition of “employee” under the statute now includes dependent contractors who only work for one employer. As a result, contractors may now unionize and bargain collectively.
Essential Services Continuing care facilities, and health care laboratories and blood supply services are now included within the essential services provisions of the LRC. Strikes will be allowed; however, essential services agreements must be in place to ensure continued operation during labour disruptions.
Remote Site Access New provisions to the LRC facilitate communication between unions and employees in remote or inaccessible places.
Electronic Hearings and Submissions Electronic hearings and submissions are now permitted in grievances and arbitrations.
Union Review Process Where a union’s review process is approved by the ALRB, an employee will have to use that review process for complaints of unfair representation against the union.

See here for our first article in the series in which we outlined the changes to Alberta’s employment standards.

   Many thanks to Ben Sakamoto for his assistance in drafting this article.