Bill 9: Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral Act What You Need to Know

On June 13, 2019, the provincial government tabled Bill 9, 'Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral Act'.  Bill 9, when passed, will essentially adjourn any Public Sector wage re-opener arbitrations until the fall.  This will allow the government to review the Blue-Ribbon Panel Report that is expected on August 15, 2019, in order to make decisions regarding public sector compensation and the government's goal of achieving a balanced budget.
The Act operates by suspending any wage re-opener discussions between public employers and unions from the date of pronouncement until October 31, 2019.  The Act applies to the collective agreements between the employers and unions listed in the Schedule to the Act.  This includes the Government of Alberta and its public service, Alberta Health Services, school authorities, post-secondary institutions and other government funded entities. 
If a wage re-opener arbitration has already commenced, but no decision has been rendered, the Act postpones the decision until at least October 31, 2019.  Both parties to the wage re-opener interest arbitration will be allowed to make further submissions, before a decision is rendered, within a reasonable time after October 31, 2019.
For those wage re-openers that have not yet proceeded to arbitration, the Act states that no arbitration hearing will be commenced, conducted, or completed until October 31, 2019.  Parties are still allowed to give notice of the desire to commence an arbitration process, select an arbitration panel and chair, and secure dates.  However, the parties must wait until at least November 1, 2019 to commence the interest arbitration.
Where a collective agreement for any of the affected parties provides for a wage re-opener arbitration to be completed by a deadline between June 30, 2019 and October 1, 2019, the Act sets a new deadline of December 15, 2019 for its completion.  For collective agreements with a deadline between October 2 and November 30, 2019, the new deadline is March 15, 2020.
As is noted above, the Act will very directly impact employers who have negotiated wage re-opener language into their collective agreements.  Additionally, the Act and the rescheduling of the interest arbitrations for the wage re-openers may also have strategic impacts on ongoing and upcoming collective bargaining in the public sector.  Finally, we note that the findings from the Blue-Ribbon Panel mentioned in the Act will have a broader impact on collective bargaining that goes beyond the public sector.  The findings the panel makes regarding the health of Alberta's economy are likely to play a part in future bargaining around compensation.
Neuman Thompson will continue to provide an ongoing analysis of the potential impact of this Act on public sector bargaining.  We look forward to answering any questions you may have and engaging in discussions surrounding these issues.