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Thank you to the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce for allowing us to share their work with our Chamber Members also as we feel this is an important issue for businesses and employees alike.
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To all Chamber Members,

The Alberta Government has announced it will begin reviews of two distinct areas relating to workplace legislation in the coming weeks, the Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code. The reviews currently include two defined consultation opportunities:

For Employment Standards: online survey open until April 18, 2017
Alberta's Employment Standards outline the requirements all employers must adhere to in providing a fair and safe work arrange for their employees.  These standards dictate when employees qualify for overtime pay, maternity and other leaves of absence, and workplace safety.
 
See further review details
 
Take the online survey
 
For Labour Relations: written submissions accepted until April 18, 2017
 
The Labour Relations Code governs the rules of how unions are formed, operate, and negotiate with employers. Changes to the code may affect how employees form or join a union, when and how employers may initiate lock-outs, and when and how unions may strike. The Alberta Government may conduct stakeholder roundtables to garner feedback on labour relations.
 
See the review and submission details
 
 
What the Chamber is Doing to Help
 
On March 29th the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce held an open Town Hall discussion with our membership on these issues. Over 60 of our friends showed up to help us hash out the issues and come to some conclusions on these important topics. Your Chamber has crafted our own feedback based on these discussions and is engaging in an aggressive advocacy plan in order to make sure that the Voice of Business is heard. However, the more voices we can add to the cause, the louder we will be. We encourage each and every one of you to submit feedback and to encourage others to give their feedback too. Our hope is that the government will release modernized legislation that continues to maintain a fair balance and a level playing field for both employers and employees.
 
To help you understand the issues and craft your own feedback, please find attached:
 
  1. The slides from the presentation at our Town Hall meeting
  2. Our summary of the Feedback from the session
  3. A Sample letter to Alberta Labour that you can use as a template
 
We also encourage you to take a look at the Alberta Chamber of Commerce’s policy on the Alberta Labour Relations Code. It is very enlightening.
 
View the ACC policy: Alberta Labour Relations Code
 
If you have any questions or would like direction to further information on any of these topics, please contact Peter Casurella, the Communications and Policy Strategist at the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce. P: 403-321586
 
 
 
Summary of Feedback from the Session:

Issue 

 
The Alberta Government has announced it will begin reviews of two distinct areas relating to workplace legislation in the coming weeks, the Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code. The reviews currently include two defined consultation opportunities covering potential changes to the Employment Standards Code and the Labour Relations Code. As part of these consultations, the government has requested feedback from stakeholders on the issues. 
 
Background 
 
On March 29th, the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce held a town hall discussion with its membership to gather input for the crafting of our response. Over 60 members, representing a wide cross-section of industries attended and participated in the discussions. Two qualified Human Resources executives prepared and delivered a presentation on the issues, answered questions, and directed discussion. Attendees broke out into groups and together worked their way through a series of questions designed to gather feedback on the issues. The questions themselves, were primarily taken from the government’s own discussion material which they have disseminated in preparation for their own feedback sessions.  
 
We have compiled the responses from our members, summarized the conclusions, and have used this information to inform our feedback below. For more information on the feedback we received, please refer to the attached appendix. 
 
 
What we heard:  
 
Job Protected Leaves 
 
 All participants agreed that the current job-protected leave provisions that we have here in Alberta are not sufficient and that the province should expand the Employment Standards code to include other kinds of leaves. However, there was varying appetite for different kinds of leave. Some participants were only willing to consider items like bereavement, while others responded favorably to a wider range of suggestions. 
 
 When participants were asked if they supported eligibility and requirements being matched up with Federal E.I. standards, they were divided. Some felt that consistency across the board would be logical and helpful, while others rejected the idea as unnecessary, arguing that even the federal regulations provided for more leaves than are necessary. 
 
 When asked if Alberta should add more leaves for family responsibilities or illness, our participants were again divided. Many felt that what leaves are added should only address circumstances that are beyond the choice of the employee. So while many felt that things like bereavement and jury duty should be provisioned for, a job protected leave to run for office should not be.  
 
 When asked to think about potential impacts to their businesses from increased leave provisions, participants had varying concerns that ranged from the added costs and lost productivity that would accompany the frequent retraining of returning or temporary employees, to general cost increases from numerous secondary issues that would arise from more leaves. A common concern was also employees taking advantage of the legislation at the employer’s expense. The issues were particularly troubling for small business owners and there was a general concern from participants that new regulations might overly favor flexibility and provisions from employees at the expense of employers. Business owners want a fair system that also looks after their rights and concerns. 
 
Earned Leave for Sickness 
 
 The idea of adding a legislated system for earned leave for personal sickness was unanimously opposed by our participants. Individuals felt that their companies were already doing a great job of providing fair systems to handle sick-leave and expressed their hope that companies will continue to be left with choice as to what arrangements they strike with their employees on this issue.  
 
 The idea that paid leave should be considered for sickness, emergencies, or family responsibilities was also unanimously rejected. The chief concern from participants was that such a policy would have to be extremely involved in order to protect employers from the abuse of such a system, and abuses of the system would occur anyways – leading to more lost time, efficiency, and expense on the part of employers.  
 
Youth Employment 
 
 There was very little feedback on questions surrounding youth employment, indicating that it is not an issue which heavily affects our membership. What feedback we did receive indicated that youth workers should have entry-wages (i.e. a progressive minimum wage) and that safety should be a primary concern.  
 
Administration and Enforcement 
 
 Participants were divided on the issue of whether or not administrative penalties should be assessed by the ministry. For those who opposed the idea, they were not opposed to administrative penalties in general, but they expressed a general distrust that the ministry would enforce regulations in an objective manner. Many individuals expressed a concern and frustration that the ministry tends to favor the employee over the employer. What they do want is a ministry that they can trust to be objective and support both sides.  
  
Card Check vs. Mandatory Secret Ballot 
 
 Participants unanimously rejected a Card Check system. Their comments repeatedly emphasized that such a system unfairly favors unions and strips away an employer’s opportunities to engage in the kinds of discussion that normally precede certification. It also robs individual employees of their ability to freely express their opinion through a secret ballot while subjecting them to influence and pressure from the union organizers and their coworkers. It also removes the typical time for employees to engage in sober second thought preceding a vote. In all, our participants identified card check as an unfair and unbalanced system which is only in the best interests of union organizers, does not necessarily benefit employees themselves, and which would shatter any perception that the labour code is attempting to be balanced and fair if instituted.  
 
 Participants unanimously voiced their support for the current secret ballot system for union certification. 
 
Communicating Employer Concerns about Certification 
 
 Participants overwhelmingly indicated that employers should be allowed to communicate their concerns to about certification to their employees. They emphasized that the guidelines about what can be communicated should provide an equal playing field for both union organizers and employers. They support a process that allows the communications of facts and allows for false claims to be challenge, but universally agreed that this should apply to unions as well, and the Labour Board should be careful to equally enforce the rules for all parties in a certification process. In short, business owners just want to be treated fairly by the system.  
 
First contract arbitration vs. the traditional methods of strike, lockout, and decertification 
 
 Participants were either against the idea of first contract arbitration, OR they were in favor of allowing first contract arbitration as a voluntary option. No one was in support of legislated arbitration as the necessary next-step following an impasse. The overwhelming opinion was that if a union cannot demonstrate value to their members by achieving their result organically, they should not be artificially assisted in achieving their goal through government intervention. This unfairly unbalances the system to favor the formation of unions and weights the system against employers. The current system strikes an acceptable balance that our participants are happy with. 
 
Replacement workers 
 
 All of our participants emphatically indicated that employers should retain the right to hire replacement workers. Not being allowed to do so would unfairly unbalance the system in favor of unions and would take away a business’s ability to remain viable in the face of a strike, thereby placing enormous bargaining power in the hands of the union. Without being able to hire replacements, businesses would either have to capitulate to the demands of the union (in an unfair bargaining environment) or face closure, which would benefit neither the employer nor the employees.  
 
The role of the Labour Relations Board 
 
 Our participants want a Labour Relations board that equally represents both employers and employees and that actively works to create a level playing field for the promotion of a healthy labour environment that allows businesses to succeed. The rules that govern decisions made by the board need more definition so that they do not simply have unlimited power to level arbitrary decisions, and the composition of the board should be so constructed as to ensure - as far as is possible – fairness and objectivity when balancing the needs of employers against the needs of employees.  
 
 
Appendix A: Feedback 
 
Job Protected Leaves 
 
Are the existing Job-protected leave provisions sufficient? 
 
1. Yes. Add bereavement and time provisions based on relationship.  
2. No.  a. Bereavement: set days + Criteria/relation and qualifying period  
b. Most employers already have a policy to cover various leaves. Perhaps ‘personal leave’ that covers many of the unlegislated ones.
3. If they match federal regulations, then yes.
4. No – we should look at the following: a. Critically-ill child. b. Death or disappearance of a child c. Bereavement – days off depending on your relationship w. person d. Organ donor e. Citizenship – 1 day f. Minor Sickness or Injury: Do you know enough about this?
5. No
6. Bereavement – leave legislated and position protected, unpaid, 3 days, family definition? Family Responsibilities – Yikes! Is it a tightly defined term? – disagree strongly with this one. Minor Sickness/Injury – Tough one, perhaps short term disability? Maternity leave – eliminating the eligibility criteria is not a good idea. The following are NOT required: Wedding, Emergency leave, domestic violence, organ donor, family responsibilities, citizenship, run for office
7. Some need to be reviewed: Bereavement, Jury Duty, Citizenship, Critically Ill child, Organ donor, Domestic violence
8. No.
9. For Companies that have collective agreements with unions, the existing provisions are fine. For smaller companies, they are not.
10.  No. 
 
Should the eligibility and requirements for job-protected leaves be matched up with the Federal EI standards? 
 
1. Depends on what the Fed. standards are.
2. No.
3. No.
4. Yes
5. For some – Critically Ill child, organ donor, if it is a procedure requiring several months recovery
6. As long as they are reasonable and not denied based on inflexible guidelines or are the standards strictly a minimum.  
7. Makes sense
8. No – unless it is clearly defined on the federal supports
9. Why wouldn’t they be?!
10. Yes. Consistency is helpful. 
 
Should Alberta add more leaves for family responsibilities or illness? 
1. Some leaves should be supported such as critical illness or bereavement, however items such as jury duty, weddings, other personal illness etc. should not be legislated.
2. No.
3. No. 
4. Provided they only meet min. requirements. Needs to allow for employer discretion to extend beyond min…
5. For illness of family members or self
6. Yes, based on the chart provided. Consider: length of leave, how often per year, years of service, how to qualify, how would seniority be affected.
7. No
8. Yes – but rules needs clear defining
9. Bereavement – 1 day regardless, 3 day, 5 day (mother, sibling, etc.) Organ Donor – limited to close family only (mother, father)
10. As long as it isn’t paid leave, especially when you need to hire replacement workers. The employer shouldn’t have to take on extra costs all the time. – especially for small businesses. Looking at the list, some should be combined.
11. Yes, such as: Critically ill child, death and disappearance of a child, personal responsibility (but would need outlines on what this entails), bereavement, organ donor, work related injury, emergency leave, domestic violence. Perhaps changes to compassionate care could address many of the above? 
 
What are your thoughts on adding an earned leave for personal sickness? 

1. This is not something that should be regulated. Employers need to have policies that they choose and this is one of them. 2. No.
3. No - becomes entitlement or personal leave #1
4. To be an unpaid min. time allowance.
5. Because of things we have in place, sick days, long term, short-term disability, this would be less of a priority.
6. As long as it refers to a job protected leave and not paid!
7. A decision left to employers, not a mandatory measure province-wide.
8. Short term – 5 days.
9. Could benefit companies that don’t have sick days. 
 
What are your thoughts on implementing a paid leave for personal sickness, emergencies, or family responsibilities? 
 
1. Again, should not be legislated.
2. No.
3. No.
4. Will require too much definition and clarifications to prevent abuse. Not in favor.
5. If there are paid leaves, I would see individuals accessing EI for extreme situations that would need to be determined
6. A paid leave should not be legislated
7. Should rest with the employer and if they take leave, ability collect EI funds, not the employees.
8. Again short term – as for employers, the increased costs could be determined.
9. The idea is nice BUT it could be very detrimental to employers and/or easily abused. Allowing unpaid job protected leave would be sufficient. 
 
What could be some impacts to your business of changing the leave provisions? 
 
1. Changes as suggested would not make a huge impact except in areas that extend the leave. Employees returning from leave may need to have re-training which should not necessarily be an employer expense. Maybe be part of the end of leave included as retraining covered by EI. Also need to cover what happens if the position is no longer available when employee returns.  
2. Innumerable
3. Reduced manpower to complete work. Extra expense to train new employees
4. Many of the leave provisions our organisation offers to our staff or supports each situation on a case by case basis. I feel we are already doing this.
5. Legislation would restrict our ability to control how many of these leaves are granted.
6. $$$$ / loss of productivity
7. Cost increases, increased issues finding replacement employees that are casual or temporary, the risk of employers taking advantage and missing more work.
8. Could lead to companies being short-staffed due to not being able to fill leave positions or short term leaves. 
 
Youth Employment 

What are your thoughts on the current rules for adolescents and young person employment? 
 
1. Need to be relaxed i.e. entry wages
2. Meet minimum requirements
3. OK as are
4. Seems fine as is. 
 
If you were to make changes to this area of legislation, what would change? 
 
1. Make it easier for youth to be employed. Relaxed entry wages since it provides for experience/education etc.  
2. Insufficient information
3. No.
4. Ensure safety and enforcement 
 
What type of work is appropriate for 13 –15 year olds? Are there common aspects of employment that we should consider as being suitable for young employees? 
 
1. Whatever they’re capable of.
2. Need to define work allowable for this age group. Needs to apply to all groups. Farms/Corporate farms.
3. Industry depending. Risk assessment necessary. Direct supervision required.
4. Very Entry level/support 

 
Administration and Enforcement 
 
Should Employment Standards allow for administrative penalties to be assessed by the Ministry? 
 
1. No.
2. Yes. Hold employers accountable
3. Absolutely not.
4. Yes – to protect workers. $$$ often are the stick.
5.  
 
What types of violations should administrative penalties be used for? 
 
1. Education/training
2. Bad and negligent employers – 1st offenders a lighter fine. Repeat offenders, large fine. 
 
Do you think the permitting system is appropriate and adequate? 
 
1. No.
2. Yes
3. Has merit. Needs to be written in clear language. 
 
Labour Relations 
 
Are there any reasons that would support moving to a Card Check system? 
 
1. No.
2. No reason whatsoever! Keep current system. Allows for balance between parties
3. Absolutely not! Everyone effected should be involved and a chance to become fully informed of pros and cons.  
4. No! Current system has proven to work
5. No. No balance. No protection for employers.  
6. No! Card system is not transparent enough. Employers must be aware of intent to organize. Rules apply to – 10 employees or more, group to avoid small employer burden of time and cost. Mediation an option.
7. No. It gives too much power to influence and peer pressure.
8. No. It’s a huge decision that affects your career and needs to be thought through.
9. No. Process seems fine. 
 
Which certification system best balances the rights of both the employer and employee? 
 
1. Secret Ballot
2. Current system
3. Current system
4. Secret Ballot
5. Secret Ballot
6. Current – there should be open negotiations between employees/employers during this process.
7. Secret Ballot – current system 
 
To what extent should employers be able to communicate their concerns about certification? 
 
1. 100%
2. Same extent as union. Balance input is critical
3. Should have every right as it is ultimately the employers business and investment
4. As much as possible
5. Right now they are restrictive but are able to make an argument – can’t impede process. At least now they are aware it could be happening. Shift schedule – in collective agreement – i.e. if employees vote, often things can be worked out in informal conversations – it’s a balance.
6. Transparent/open communication on both sides. Getting the facts on the table/both sides, so that clear decisions can be understood.
7. Employers should be able to convey real, honest issues to the employees. Not to persuade them, but to inform them.
8. They should be able to come together with representation from all sides to be open and honest about concerns on both sides.
9. As long as it’s within the law. They should have the right to communicate. 

How to you feel about first contract arbitration vs. the traditional methods of strike, lockout, and de-certification? 
 
1. Should be better balanced benefitting both employers and employees.
2. As an Employer, we would prefer choice and under the current system with a suggestion of an arbitration prior to striking 3. Opposed – union needs to show value to the membership. If they can’t, then they should not be there – hence certification process fails.
4. Problematic for employer’s if they have no say. Arbitration is not always fair and cost and time prohibitive. Process needs to be clearly written and understood.  
5. First contract arbitration – no!
6. Don’t know enough to provide useful feedback. 
 
Is it important for employers to retain the right to hire replacement workers? 
 
1. Yes
2. Absolutely. Need regulation to protect replacement workers
3. Yes. Without an income the business will not exist.  
4. Yes.
5. Of course – across the board regardless of industry.
6. Yes. Employers must retain rights to hire a replacement (temporary) to carry on business/avoiding business losses.
7. Definitely. Unfortunately some unions have the ability to restrict replacements. i.e. ATA – you have to be certified to teach and to be teacher certified you have to belong to the ATA.  
8. Yes. Business needs to continue. 
 
What do you think the role of the Labour Relations board should be? 
 
1. Should equally represent employer/employee
2. Equal, fair representation to all parties
3. Provide free arbitrations
4. Take a balanced approach for both the employee and employer.
5. Totally balanced. What they are talking is to become more imbalanced. Info should be easy for employee to discern but employers need an opportunity as well. i.e. to support employees in a de-certification process.  
6. Roles need to be clearly defined as to their mandate and powers. Equal for both sides. Rules clearly understood.
7. Should be fair and equitable for employer as well.
8. They should monitor to ensure things are done fairly and legally. Provide guidance and resources. 
 
Any Other Comments? (Use back if necessary) 
 
1. Less legislation is better legislation
2. Keep as is. No reason to change. Protect both sides, employers and employees.
3. A decline in union requirements indicates a healthy relationship between employers and employees In Alberta…  
4. Good dialogue helps for a good healthy workplace. 
If you are interested in voicing your concern to the Alberta Labour please feel free to use this form letter or portions of it.
Copyright © 2017 Taber & District Chamber of Commerce, All rights reserved.


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