June 18th, 2024

Guest column requires a bit more context

By Lethbridge Herald on March 9, 2022.


The guest golumn by Christopher J. Nicol (Lethbridge Herald, 2022-02-19) regarding the “opaque labour relations environment” in post-secondary education (PSE) requires a bit more context.  

Dr. Nicol seems to lay the blame for the new negotiating paradigm between faculty associations and university governors squarely at the feet of the former NDP government albeit aided and abetted by the subsequent introduction of even more restrictive legislation by the current UCP government.

Yes, in 2017, the NDP passed legislation to include PSE, among other sectors, under the Alberta Labour Relations Act thus allowing the PSE sector the right to strike and lockout provisions as part of the collective bargaining process.  Prior to that change, the PSE sector was referenced only under the Post-Secondary Learning Act and its employees were forbidden from strike action as part of collective bargaining. 

A form of arbitration known as final offer selection was the only mechanism available to resolve a deadlock. 

 The context Dr. Nicol fails to reference, however, was that the legislation was introduced to align Alberta with a 2015 Supreme Court ruling in favour of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour which had challenged the Government of Saskatchewan on the right of “essential workers” to strike.  (Saskatchewan Federation of Labour v. Saskatchewan, 2015 SCC 4 (CanLII), [2015] 1 SCR 245, <https://canlii.ca/t/gg40r&gt;, retrieved on 2022-02-19).

Essentially, this ruling said that the right to strike/lock-out was an essential tool in the collective bargaining process for any worker and that a denial of this right was in violation of Section 2(d) (i.e., freedom of association) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (The Constitution Act, 1982, Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11, <https://canlii.ca/t/ldsx&gt; retrieved on 2022-02-19). The inclusion of PSE workers in the Alberta Labour Relations Act with the right to strike and lock-out provisions was not plucked out of thin air by the NDP government based on some early 20th century model of labour relations.  It was a necessary order of business to align Alberta with the Supreme Court ruling on the rights of workers to use strike action (i.e., the withholding of their labour) as a tool in the process of collective bargaining.

Leona Jacobs


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Southern Albertan

Hear, hear Leona! Right on!


While this legislation might be welcome by the public when it applies to those who make a modest wage it certainly does NOT gain favor from the public when those who make huge money to begin with cry for even more. Ms Jacobs, you are completely out of touch with reality. Have you ever worked in the *real* world? Probably not; but you sure know how to ferret out scraps of info to support your case. Read Alvin Shier’s most recent letter to see how most of us feel.