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COLLECTIVE AGREEMENTS - Interest arbitration

Tuesday, September 10, 2019 @ 6:27 AM  

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Application by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) for an interim injunction. In August 2018, AUPE entered into a collective agreement with Her Majesty the Queen (HMQ) which included a “Wage-Reopener” provision, allowing for the determination by arbitration of wages, salaries, or pay grade adjustments. Three interest arbitrations, including one between AUPE and HMQ, began together before an arbitration panel on June 11, 2019. On June 13, 2019, the Government of Alberta introduced the Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral Act (Bill 9), purporting to delay interest arbitration hearings arising from several public sector collective agreements. Bill 9 operated as a stay of interest arbitrations until after October 31, 2019. Bill 9 received Royal Assent and came into force on June 28, 2019. On June 24, 2019, AUPE and three of its members filed a statement of claim, seeking to have Bill 9 declared to be of no force and effect as it breached the right of freedom of association provided in s. 2(d) of the Charter. Through its injunction application, AUPE was seeking to effectively stay the operation of Bill 9 so that the interest arbitration currently in progress would continue.

HELD: Application allowed. There was a serious issue to be tried regarding whether Bill 9 interfered with AUPE’s Charter right to freedom of association. The alleged harm was not the delay in receiving retroactive wage increases, but rather the harm to the bargaining relationship between the parties, only one of which could use its power to amend an agreement. AUPE established that it would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction were not granted. It was in the long-term public interest for the public to see that its government could not unilaterally change its contractual obligations through legislation that might interfere with Charter rights. The balance of convenience therefore favoured granting the interim injunction.

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees v. Alberta, [2019] A.J. No. 999, Alberta Court of Queen's Bench, E.F. Macklin J., July 30, 2019. Digest No. TLD-September92019004