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CUPE files claim to challenge “unconstitutional” provincial labour legislation

Posted on December 15, 2022 by Sunny South News

By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News

Last week the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) filed a legal challenge  against Alberta legislation known as Bill 32.

While the UCP has maintained the party is committed to red tape reduction, the CUPE said the legislation, Bill 32, or the Restoring balance in Alberta’s workplaces bill , is itself designed to “tie unions in red tape and limit their freedom to exist.

According to release issued last week, CUPE Alberta’s president, Rory  Gill maintains, the changes to labour laws passed by the UCP were, “a kind of low-level union busting you might see in the southern US or a Central American dictatorship.”

Following the Province’s announcement committing $20 million in supports to food banks and other organizations providing emergency food supports, some critics were quick to respond by pointing to other UCP-led policies and legislation which has removed caps on insurance, and changed how union dues could be spent.

NDP’s Critic for Labour and Immigration, Christina Gray recently spoke out again about Bill 32 on Twitter, responding to the Building Trades of Alberta’s comment, that it is, “nice to see the Province is still able to give to food banks. The UCP government, through Bill 32, took away the ability of unions to do the same around a year ago.”

Bill 32 changed how unions dues could be spent. Under the legislation, “non-core” activities include charities and non-profits, such as food banks. A study authored by Jason Foster and David Simpson, found through surveying over 250 unions, the estimated total loss of donations to community organizations due following Bill 32’s enactment, was estimated at over $2.5 million and that the 38 per cent reduction in union contributions to such community organizations, “would not go unchecked,” by charitable and non-profit organizations who were, “not consulted,” during the drafting of the bill.

Building Trades of Alberta also filed advance notice on behalf of its 60,000 members, and affiliates, “to challenge the constitutionality of Alberta Labour Bill 32.”

The CUPE’s statement of claim challenges the provisions of Bill 32, including that unions are required to classify spending as “core” or “non-core”, and to annually obtain explicit written consent from due-paying members wishing to continue to deduct dues for “non-core” activities, and for employers to not collect any portion of dues for non-core activities. The claim also asserts, “the legislation contains restrictions on the freedom of association and freedom of speech of CUPE and other unions.”

In the release announcing the CUPE had filed a statement of claim, Gill said, “The UCP want unions to spend all our time collecting signatures from every dues payer,” and added that time allocated to this paperwork,  “is time not bargaining better wages and working conditions, and time not defending members. And in the UCP’s eyes, that’s a good thing,” and added the federal sector, nor any of the other provinces, face similar restrictions with respect to union activity.

Gill said, “This law blatantly tries to gag expression, it’s an attempt to stop workers from democratically governing themselves. It’s unconstitutional and we intend to prove that in court.”

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