Court overturns injunction on bill to delay wage arbitration for public workers
An injunction that blocked a controversial bill allowing the province to delay wage negotiations for Alberta’s public sector workers has been overturned.
The Alberta Court of Appeal set aside the injunction against Bill 9 in a 2-1 ruling Friday morning, the result of a successful appeal from the provincial government.
The injunction was put in place July 30 after the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees argued that that the incoming bill would affect workers’ bargaining agreements.
That injunction prevented the province from putting the legislation into effect, but the government announced its appeal the very next day, arguing it needed to hear from an appointed panel first before going into wage discussions.
Court ruled Friday that the injunction was unreasonable and was granted based on errors of principle.
AUPE president Guy Smith said the union was disappointed in the ruling but recognized that it wasn’t a unanimous decision.
“Every time a government like this comes into power, the first targets are the front line workers, public sector workers,” Smith said. “Workers are fed up, they’re frustrated, they’re already overworked on the front lines, there’s not enough staff, and here we have a government that’s going to make the situation even worse.”
Smith said the union is still challenging the legality of Bill 9 which will be heard in court at a later date.
Finance Minister Travis Toews said the ruling was "a win for Alberta taxpayers."
He said it ensures the United Conservative government can make decisions that will be in the best interest of taxpayers and public workers following the release of a damning report earlier this week that found the province is overspending.
A blue ribbon panel found the province has a “spending problem” and needs to implement an ambitious plan to bring spending in line with other provinces.
“We appreciate and respect the value the public sector brings,” Toews said. “We just at this point in time need to ensure that we have all options on the table so we can make the best decisions, the most responsible decisions on behalf of Albertans.”
He also called the legal challenge from the AUPE "overboard," saying the government has only delayed, not cancelled, wage arbitrations.
"This is simply a delay to become well-informed to make good decisions. Nothing else has changed here," he said. Asked about potential labour unrest, Toews said the government will "deal with that when it comes.
With the injunction overturned, arbitration hearings on public sector wages can resume after Oct. 31.