The UCP has rigged several laws against workers, including changes to overtime averaging, increased powers of the UCP-appointed Labour Board, changes to injured workers' benefits, and more. You can learn more about these harmful changes to Alberta’s workplace laws below.
Bill 32 permits overtime pay or time-off entitlements to be averaged over a 52-week period. Extending hours of work averaging to such an extreme length suggests the policy goal is to minimize overtime costs for employers and rob workers of earnings.
Document iconDownload Fightback Factcsheet Issue #7 - Bill 32 and Overtime Averaging
The Code formerly permitted an hours of work averaging agreement to be made by an employer and employees. Hours of work can be averaged over a maximum of 12 weeks for purposes of calculating overtime pay or time-off entitlements.
Under Bill 32, the Code will permit an employer unilaterally to implement a written “averaging arrangement” for employees not covered by a collective agreement. An averaging arrangement can average hours of work over up to 52 weeks without a variance or exemption.
Grievance & Arbitration
Bill 32 makes subtle changes to the Labour Code that restrict arbitrators’ power and gives more power to the UCP-appointed Labour Board.
Document iconDownload Fightback Factsheet Issue #8 - Bill 32 and Arbitration
The Labour Board may review awards only in special circumstances.
These U.S. type changes allow a politicized Labour Board to intervene in normal labour relations and employer lawyers will be urging them to review and set aside awards, without the existing reference to grounds of fair hearing denial, or unreasonableness.
Injured workers' benefits
Bill 47 removes many legal responsibilities of employers to workers. One change is the removal of the critical responsibility for employers to pay health and dental benefits to workers off work resulting from an injury on the job.
The diminished financial responsibility of employers to injured workers is a key factor in making all workplaces more dangerous.
Document iconDownload Fightback Factsheet Issue #6 - Bill 47 and Injured Workers' Benefits
Employers were required to pay health benefits for injured workers while they were absent from work or unable to perform their regular duties due to a work injury for up to one year following the accident. Injured workers were entitled to the same benefits they had before the accident.
Typically, worker’s spouse, adult interdependent partner, or dependants covered under the worker’s health benefit plan were also eligible for continued coverage after the accident.
Employers that did not extend health benefits were penalized.
Employers will no longer have to contribute to health benefit plans (typically covers family) for injured workers who are off work. This cost will be borne by the injured workers.
Eliminating the financial responsibility for injured workers’ benefits reduces employers’ incentive to make workplaces safe for workers.
This will return Alberta to the pre-2017 culture of unreasonably denied WCB claims.
Reinstating Injured Workers
One of the key changes in Bill 47 is the removal of an employer’s obligation to re-employ injured workers when they are ready to return to work.
The omnibus bill puts employer profits ahead of workers’ health and safety and would return the Workers Compensation Board to a corporate model that denies many injured workers the compensation to which they are entitled.
Document iconDownload Fightback Factsheet #5 - Bill 47 and Reinstating Injured Workers
Employers are obligated to reinstate an injured worker and accommodate them.
Employers will not be legally obligated to reinstate an injured worker. Employers may do so voluntarily.
Employers have a duty to accommodate disabled workers through human rights legislation. This is typically a lengthy (approx. two years) reinstatement process with the Human Rights Commission. During the process, WCB can reduce or terminate an injured worker’s benefits via a process known as “deeming”.
While employers technically have an obligation to accommodate injured workers, Alberta no longer provides an effective way for workers to appeal when employers fail to meet this obligation.
Bill 47 upsets the well-established “hierarchy of controls” (elimination, substitution, engineering or administrative controls). Instead of properly mitigating workplace hazards, it dramatically shifts the training onus onto workers instead of employers.
Document iconDownload Fightback Factsheet #4 - Bill 47 and Safety Training
Clear legislative requirement that employers ensure workers are adequately trained to protect their health and safety: before the worker begins performing a new work activity; uses new equipment; performs a new process; or is moved to a different work site.
Only imposes the more general requirement that employers must ensure workers are adequately trained in all matters necessary to perform their work in a healthy and safe manner.
Medical Review Panels
The workers’ compensation system is the product of a special compromise between workers and employers—one that is nearly a century old in Alberta. It is not a system designed around an “us versus them” approach, but rather “we’re all in this together”. Bill 47 threatens to radically alter workers’ role in health and safety oversight. Medical review panels will also be dismantled with the goal of saving government expenses rather than compensating injured workers.
Document iconDownload Fightback Factsheet #3 - Bill 47 and Medical Review Panels
Medical panels are used by the workers’ compensation system to provide an impartial, independent decision-making process to resolve disagreements in medical opinion that arises between workers and the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB).
The medical panels would be abolished. Instead, the WCB would assume responsibility for compiling a roster of physicians to conduct medical examinations as directed by the WCB.
Joint Health and Safety Committees
One of the most important battles Alberta workers have won is the right to be involved in the workplace decisions that impact our safety. This generally takes the form of a joint health and safety committee with equal representation from workers and the employer.
After all, if strong health and safety provisions are not in place and enforced by the employer, it is workers who are in danger. Too many workplace fatalities could have been prevented with more proactive planning with direct input from workers on the job.
Alberta Bill 47 proposes radical changes to the workplace health and safety laws, including the thousands of joint health and safety committees (JHSCs) across the province.
Document iconDownload Fightback Factsheet #2 - Bill 47 and Joint Health and Safety Committees
- All employers and worksites with more than 20 employees must have a JHSC
- Mandatory committee member training
- Workers select their representatives
- JHSC involved at every stage of prevention
- Many worksites with more than 20 workers exempted from JHSC requirement
- No training requirements
- Unclear how worker representatives are selected
- Limited JHSC involvement and roles
Right to Refuse Unsafe Work
You have a right to refuse to perform any work you think will injure you or your fellow workers, but Bill 47 rolls back your right to refuse unsafe work.
Document iconDownload Fightback Factsheet #1 - Bill 47 and The Right to Refuse Unsafe Work
- Your employer must tell you if the work you’re assigned has been refused by somebody else for safety concerns.
- You can refuse unsafe work that has “dangerous conditions”.
- Workers who have refused unsafe work participate in the workplace investigation.
- If you are disciplined by the employer, you can file a complaint with a provincial Occupational Health and Safety Officer.
- Your employer is only required to tell you after the other worker has contacted Occupational Health and Safety Alberta, which can only happen after the employer has written a report.
- You can only refuse unsafe work if is an “undue hazard”, a far higher standard that includes an “immediate threat” requirement. This likely excludes your ability to refuse work that could result in a COVID-19 exposure, since the illness will not manifest immediately.
- No requirement exists to involve the worker or their union in the investigation.
- Unionized workers may only use the grievance process. In some workplaces, this could be a significant new administrative burden.
Alberta Bill 1: Silencing the Government's Critics
The so-called "Critical Infrastructure Defence Act" is an unprincipled attempt to criminalize dissent that you might expect to see in countries suffering under dictators rather than a Canadian province.
The limits placed on peaceful protest and free speech in Bill 1 are almost certainly doomed to fail when court appeals are finally resolved, but the UCP government knows that. Silencing critics and undermining opposition, even temporarily while court cases crawl through the system, is a heavy-handed tactic to use the power of government to bully its own citizens.