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The Art of the Possible: Alberta's Changing Labour Landscape


November 22, 2015 at 10:30am - 11:45am


Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science, University of Alberta
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with Bob Barnetson and Ian Hussey

Labour laws in Alberta have been developed for the benefit of the employer for decades. What kind of renegotiation can happen to create change that creates more of a level playing field for working Albertans? 

Overcoming legal barriers to fair labour practice

Now is the time for change as Alberta’s New Democrat government considers revising Canada’s most regressive labour laws. Currently the legal framework that governs unionization and collective bargaining poses a profound barrier to workers seeking to exercise their associational rights in Alberta’s workplaces. Some labour advocates call for the end of mandatory certification votes, first-contract arbitration, and meaningful remedies when employers interfere with union organizing. Others suggest more fundamental change. For example, instead of certifying workplaces, some advocates argue for unionization on a worker-by-worker basis (so-called minority unionism) in addition to the existing system of exclusive majoritarian unionization. This talk will examine the options in this time for change.

Dr. Bob Barnetson is an associate professor of labour relations at Athabasca University. His research focuses on the political economy of workplace injury, farm workers, and child labour in Alberta.

Alberta's fight for $15: The politics and practicalities of raising the minimum wage

In the 2015 Alberta provincial election, the NDP pledged to raise the provincial minimum wage to $15/hour by 2018 if elected. Since winning a majority, the NDP have reaffirmed their commitment, and on October 1st took the first step toward that objective by raising the general minimum wage to $11.20. This presentation looks at the political economy of the minimum wage, addresses the trade-offs the government is making in raising the minimum wage, discusses the practicalities of hiking the minimum wage in pre-announced increments and some of the ways these increases will affect small businesses, and analyzes why there are sound economic and social reasons to raise the minimum wage to $15.

Ian Hussey is a research manager at the Parkland Institute, where his work focuses on political economy and labour studies. In June, Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Lori Sigurdson mentioned Hussey's work for Parkland as part of the Government of Alberta's rationale for raising the minimum wage. Hussey is currently completing his PhD in sociology at York University.