Bill 32, proposes to amend Alberta’s Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code.
The purpose of Bill 32 is to support economic recovery, restore balance in the workplace, and get Albertans back to work.
The Goal is to provide employees and employers with clearer and more transparent rules promoting fairness and productivity in the workplace.
Employment Standards Code
The Employment Standards Code use to have different rules for terminations depending on if the organization was terminating 50, 100, or 300 employees. Now, under the new legislation, there will be only one set of rules regarding the termination of 50 or more employees in a four-week window.
*This termination notice is not required for termination of seasonal or employees hired for a definite term or task.
Under the new legislation, the Employer now has more time to pay an employee’s final pay. Employees must receive final pay no later than the following:
This will benefit employers by allowing them to pay an employee’s final pay in accordance with their normal pay schedule. These changes will reduce the cost of having to process specialty payments.
Simplified holiday pay. General holiday pay was on “average daily wage” with a calculation of being 5% of the employee, general holiday pay, and vacation earned in the four weeks proceeding the general holiday. The new “average daily wage” would average the employee’s total wages over the number of days they worked in either the:
Employers now have the ability to make deductions from employee earnings without employees consent. Employers can deduct the following earnings once notice is given to the employee:
Before COVID-19, a temporary layoff is deemed to be a termination of employment was 60 days within 120 days. Now, this has been extended to 90 days within a 120 day period. The maximum layoff period for temporary layoffs related to COVID-19 is to remain at 180 days.
Previously, employers were required to provide notice to employees for a temporary layoff. This requirement has been removed.
An averaging agreement is an agreement between an employer and employee that allows an employer and employee to average the number of hours worked over one, two, three or four weeks, and eliminates the need to pay overtime for the hours covered by the agreement.
Now, the Employment Standards Code refers to it as Averaging Arrangements instead of Averaging Agreements. Employees’ consent is no longer required and an arrangement of two weeks’ notice is all that is required. The “Averaging Period” would be a maximum of 52 weeks, up from 12 weeks. Daily overtime would no longer need to be provided unless it was included in the arrangement. Averaging arrangments do not need to have an end date unlike averaging agreements did.
The list of the types of jobs that 13 and 14-year-olds can do without needing a government permit would increase. These jobs include food services industry roles (as long as the youth worker is working with someone who is at least 18 years of age), light janitorial work in offices, coaching, and tutoring. It would still be the employer’s duty to be responsible for there health and safety and make sure they are properly trained.
Under Bill 32, employees can continue to accumulate vacation time while they are on a job-protected leave of absence.
Previously, employers would have needed to provide 30 minutes of rest time within, or immediately after, each block of five consecutive hours of work. The change to the legislation enables employers and employees to have greater flexibility to agree on the employee’s rest period schedule, provided that the schedule still complies with the legislation’s minimum requirements.
Under the new legislation, employers and unions are now able to agree to override certain Employment Standards Code provisions relating to maximum daily hours of work, shift changes, temporary layoffs, hours of work averaging, and days of rest under a collective agreement.
Changes to the Employment Standards Code will take effect on November 1, 2020.
All except for three changes that would take effect on August 15, 2020:
Employees would have to opt-in to the payment of union dues that are unrelated to core union activities.
In the event of an illegal strike, the Board could suspend the deduction and remittance of union dues for up to six months. In the event of an illegal lockout, employers could be required to pay employees’ union dues.
First Contract Arbitrations
The first collective agreement that is entered into between an employer and a union is referred to as the “first contract.” In the event that disputes arise between the employer and union during the negotiation of the first contract, the Alberta Labour Relations Board can order the dispute to be referred to arbitration. This is known as first contract arbitration.
Under Bill 32 legislation, first contract arbitration would become an “option of last resort.” The Board could only declare that a dispute be resolved by arbitration if:
Picketing and secondary picketing is now subject to stricter rules. Picketing would be deemed wrongful if it obstructs or impedes a person from crossing the picket line.
Secondary picketing involves picketing at locations other than a normal place of employment. As of now, unions are now required to get approval from the Alberta Labour Relations Board before engaging in secondary picketing.
Remedial certification allows the Board to certify the union as a remedy, even when the union has been unable to prove majority support among the employees when the employer commits an unfair labour practice. An unfair labour practice includes:
The new changes would limit when remedial certification can be used. The Alberta Labour Relations Board must first determine that a representation vote does not reflect the true wishes of the employees in the unit because of unfair labour practice. Then, remedial certification can be ordered only if no other remedy would be sufficient to counteract the effects of the prohibited practice.
Reverse Onus Rules
The onus of proving certain unfair labour practice complaints currently rests with the employer. This is known as the “reverse onus rule” as the employee is not required to prove the action they are complaining of; instead, the employer must prove the unfair labour practice did not occur.
Under Bill 32 legislation, the “reverse onus rule” for employers is now limited to cases of employee discharge and dismissal only.
Early Renewal of Collective Agreement
In 2009, an Alberta Labour Relations Board decision significantly restricted the ability of parties to a collective agreement to enter into an early renewal of the agreement.
The new legislation reinstates the ability to renew collective agreements early.
This allows greater flexibility to ensure that collective agreements are consistently serving their purpose. Early renewal of collective agreements would be permitted under certain conditions:
Consequences for Prohibited Practices by the Union
Unions will face tougher consequences if they conduct certain unfair labour practices with respect to an application for certification to be the bargaining agent for a group of employees.
Previously, a union would have to wait 90 days to re-apply for certification in these circumstances. Under the new legislation, the waiting period would be increased to six months.
Union Disciplinary Powers
Currently, unions may penalize members who work for employers without a relationship to that union. The proposed legislation would provide better protection for members who seek employment outside of the union. This may be a necessary action when the union cannot provide the member with work. The union would no longer be able to penalize a union member for taking a job outside of the union if:
Changes for the Construction Industry
Existing collective agreements would remain in force after a successful union raid. The change requires that the new union is to adapt to the terms of the existing collective agreement. That is unless the union successfully applies to the Alberta Loabour Relations Board to amend terms of the agreement that they are unable to abide by.
Industrial unions are now able to form “all employee unions” by representing all employees who work for the same employer, regardless of their trade.
The Alberta Labour Relations Board can now apply the “build-up principle” to account for circumstances where a larger workforce is expected in the future. The build-up principle allows the Board to refuse a certification application if the number of employees does not constitute a substantial and representative segment of the union.
The Labour Relations Code will be adjusted to allow the Minister of Labour, instead of the Provincial Cabinet, to have the power to approve major project agreements. Changes to the major project rules also allow:
Arbitrators no longer have the power to provide relief from the grievance procedure time limits that are set out in collective agreements.
Arbitrators are no longer required to make decisions in accordance with the general principles of Canadian labour arbitration; the proposed change would allow a more Alberta-focused approach to decision making.
Alberta Labour Relations Board Powers
The Alberta Labour Relations Board’s ability to dismiss applications without a hearing has expanded to situations where an application has been “filed with improper motives,” as well as where the application is otherwise an abuse of process.
The Alberta Labour Relations Board now also has the power to summarily dismiss a duty of fair representation application once the applicant worker has rejected a reasonable settlement offer.
All certification and revocation timelines would be removed. previously, an application for board certification would have had to be completed within 20 or 25 working days of receipt of the application for certification.
Under the new rules, the Alberta Labour Relations Board is required to complete inquiries and consideration of an application “as soon as possible,” and no later than six months after the application is filed. This will only be varied under exceptional circumstances.
The new changes will also allow the Board to hear more cases with the Chair or Vice-Chair sitting alone, as opposed to a full panel of Board Members. This will apply for matters including:
Finally, the new legislation will repeal the legislated standard of review for Board review of grievance arbitration decisions. The Albert Labour Relations Board will need to look to the common law to determine which standard to apply in the future. The new changes will also provide the Alberta Labour Relations Board with the express ability to award costs with respect to reviews of these decisions.
*For reference and more information see;
Bill 32 - Restoring Balance in Alberta's Workplace
Alberta Employment Standards Code
Albert Labour Relations Code