As the economic recovery from COVID-19 continues across Alberta, the Grande Prairie and District Chamber of Commerce believes a recently introduced provincial bill could make a big splash with business owners. Bill 32, the ‘Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act,’ proposes to make significant changes to standard workplace practices, particularly in regards to unions.
Chamber Executive Director Larry Gibson says any action to help businesses get back up and running is a step in the right direction.
“If it’s passed [and] gets through the house, anything we can do right now to restore balance, get our businesses back up and running, save them time and effort, and gain some efficiencies so they can hire more people is a welcomed effort right now,” he says. “We think some of these changes are definitely going to bring that balance back so that it can help some of our employers in our area.”
Much of the red tape reduction proposed within the bill suggests putting more control of agreements in regards to things like payroll, deductions, administrative penalties, holiday pay calculations, and rest periods into the hands of employers.
These would also include new rules for workers under the age of 18 and would expand what is acceptable for youth workers as young as 13. The province has yet to release specific details outside of noting employers will be responsible for the health and safety of young workers, as well as a requirement that they are trained and capable of completing a designated job. Exactly what jobs youth will be eligible to work has also not yet been specified.
“I know when labour was really tight they had reduced some restrictions to get some individuals in the 13 and 14-year-old category into the workforce and I’m hoping the details when they come out on this allows those individuals in those categories to take on some of these jobs,” says Gibson. “Of course we want to make sure that their safety is protected as well and I think a lot of that is going to come out in the details but it definitely gives our youth the opportunity to get out there and start to see what the workforce is all about.”
One of the proposed changes to the rules for unions suggests in the event of an illegal strike, dues will be suspended, and in the event of an illegal lockout, employers will be required to pay employees union dues. The inclusion of additional criteria has also been proposed to determine whether picketing is lawful, and unions would require permission from the Labour Relations Board to picket somewhere other than their workplace.
A date has yet to be established when the bill will be debated in the legislature.