Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) members held an information picket outside of Leduc Community Hospital to rally against the UCP government’s Bill 9 in Leduc, on Tuesday, July 9, 2019.
Ian Kucerak / Postmedia
An Alberta justice has put a temporary halt to the province’s controversial Bill 9 as it relates to the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees in a decision Tuesday.The province’s largest union took the government to court to seek an injunction against Bill 9, or the Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral Act, which delays wage negotiations for about 70,000 public sector workers.The AUPE, which represents 95,000 workers, and the United Nurses of Alberta, which acted as an intervenor in the case, argued the bill violated labour rights.According to the written decision by Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Eric Macklin, he had to look at the harm or potential harm to each party and the public interest.“It is in the long-term public interest for the public to see that its government cannot unilaterally change its contractual obligations through legislation that may interfere with charter rights,” said Macklin.The order to grant the interim injunction also includes “a direction that any wage increases awarded through the interest arbitration shall be held in abeyance until this claim is finally determined.”In court on Monday, government lawyer Alan Meikle said if an injunction were to be granted, the province would not be able to get up-to-date economic information it believes is necessary to present its wage decision before an arbitrator.However, in his decision, Macklin took issue with that argument.“Given the current highly publicized economic climate in Alberta, it is unclear what other information (the government) would be seeking on Alberta’s economy and financial state to support its position,” said Macklin.“Further, Alberta’s economy and financial state is constantly evolving and changing, so a snapshot at one point in time may not reflect the situation later in negotiations.”In a statement, the AUPE said the decision to “uphold the collective bargaining rights of AUPE workers is a fundamental victory for all workers in Alberta.”“We fought for the rights of workers and we won. The judge agreed with us that the government cannot arrogantly deny our collective bargaining rights,” said Guy Smith, president of AUPE. Arbitration hearings will now take place between Aug. 7 to 9 and affect about 60,000 AUPE members employed by the Government of Alberta and Alberta Health Services.“While we have won this particular battle, we will continue to fight for the rights of our members against the UCP’s Bill 9,” said Smith.— With files from Emma Graney