Alberta Appeal Court says province can delay wage arbitration talks with unions

EDMONTON – The Alberta Court of Appeal has set aside an injunction that stopped the government from delaying wage arbitration for thousands of public-sector employees.

A judge granted the injunction in July when the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees challenged new legislation that put the talks on hold.

The union argued the legislation violated bargaining agreements, which promised wage arbitration talks after two years.

The United Conservative government said it needed to hear from a government-appointed panel first on the province’s finances.

In a 2-1 decision, the Appeal Court ruled that the judge’s decision to grant the injunction rested on errors of principle and was unreasonable.

A dissenting justice said she saw no reason to question the judge’s ruling that a delay could lead to irreparable harm in future contract negotiations.

The President of CUPE Alberta is disappointed in the court ruling.

Rory Gill said Alberta union members have a right to expect their government to abide by signed contracts.

“When Jason Kenney tears up your contract, even on small matters, it means he doesn’t respect you,” said Gill. “You wouldn’t buy a toaster from someone who reneged on a deal, because that person has demonstrated they are not honourable.”

Gill added, “”Alberta workers need to know that today’s decision is a minor legal setback, and every public sector union is committed to fighting for their interests. A deal is a deal. That’s basic schoolyard stuff.”

(With file from The Canadian Press and CUPE Alberta media release)