Less than a week after it was introduced, Bill 9, the Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral Act passed early Thursday morning. The bill suspends wage re-opener arbitration hearings until late October.
The bill passed around 7 a.m. after the government forced closure on third reading of the bill a few hours earlier.
The affected 180,000 public sector workers include nurses, social workers, hospital support staff, correctional officers, conservation officers, toxicologists, restaurant inspectors, therapists and sheriffs.
MLA for Lethbridge-East, Nathan Neudorf says the delay allows The Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances, an independent group of advisors and experts that is currently reviewing Alberta’s finances and economy to report their findings. The panel will provide a report to the minister of Treasury Board and Finance by August 15th.
Alberta’s finance minister Travis Toews won’t promise that public sector workers will get their legally mandated wage arbitration hearings if they don’t happen as planned this fall. He will only say the government intends to hold the hearings in the fall.
The NDP say Premier Jason Kenney was laughing as he passed out earplugs during the debate on Bill 9. New Democrat Thomas Dang said Kenney handed out earplugs to more than twenty UCP members so they could tune out opposition criticism during an all-night session.
Kenney’s office says it was a harmless attempt to boost government caucus morale amid what are described as “hours of NDP insults and lies”.
Bridge City News reached out to the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) for comment on the bill’s passing, but a spokesperson from the union did not immediately return our request.