2017 was a good year for working Albertans

Edmonton – January 8, 2018 – In the summer of 2017, Alberta’s NDP government made significant changes to some of the oldest workplace legislation in Canada. The reforms came in recognition of the fact that the nature of work and family life had transformed dramatically over the past 30 years, but the Employment Standards Code and the Labour Relations Code had not been updated to reflect those changes.

For example, Bill 17: The Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act makes sure that Alberta’s workers have the same rights and protections that most other Canadians enjoy. Highlights of the bill include first contract arbitration, card check certification, inclusion of farm workers under the Labour Relations Code, protected sick leave language, and much more.

In December, the NDP government passed Bill 30: An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans to better support injured workers and modernize health and safety rules in the workplace. The changes in the act – the first in over 15 years – stem from the first comprehensive government review of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in four decades and an independent review of the province’s Workers Compensation Board (WCB) system.

New changes to the WCB system include the removal of the cap for maximum insurable earnings, a lump sum fatality benefit, creation of a fair practices office to help workers navigate the WCB system, and extended coverage for psychological injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act provide workers with protections already enjoyed by most workers in other jurisdictions across Canada. These reforms include the right to refuse unsafe work without the loss of compensation or benefits, mandatory joint health and safety committees, the right to know about potential workplace hazards, and access to basic health and safety information in the workplace. There is also protection for workers from workplace violence and harassment.

These changes, though vigorously opposed by the United Conservative Party (UCP), simply bring Alberta in line with the protections that most workers in the country already enjoy. After 44 years of Conservative rule, it is nice to see a government that actually cares about working Albertans. Rachel Notley’s NDP government wants to ensure that workers are treated fairly on the job and are able to come home safe to their families. Rather than deriding the government’s efforts, we should be applauding them for moving the province forward.