Post-secondary Labour Relations Review

On May 4, 2017, Bill 7: An Act to Enhance Post-secondary Academic Bargaining received Royal Assent. Bill 7 extends the Charter-protected right to strike to academic staff members and academically employed graduate students at Alberta’s public post-secondary institutions, and provides formal recognition of postdoctoral fellows associations.

This legislation was developed as part of the Government of Alberta’s commitment to modernize Alberta’s labour laws following the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2015 decision on freedom of association in Saskatchewan Federation of Labour v. Saskatchewan. In that decision, the Supreme Court of Canada found the right to strike is constitutionally protected and can be limited to the minimum extent necessary to protect essential services.

The Government of Alberta conducted extensive stakeholder consultation on the post-secondary labour relations model between August to December 2016, which included an online call for submissions, discussion sessions, roundtable sessions with key stakeholders, and in person meetings. Labour relations expert and former chair of the Alberta Labour Relations Board, Mr. Andrew C.L. Sims, Q.C., assisted in the consultation and provided advice to the Minister of Advanced Education on policy and legislative options for the new labour relations model.

The key changes to post-secondary labour relations in Bill 7 include:

  • transitioning academic staff members, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows to the comprehensive labour relations model in the Labour Relations Code;
  • applying essential services provisions in the Labour Relations Code to academic staff members, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows;
  • allowing employees to choose their representation in collective bargaining, following a minimum five-year transition period;
  • providing greater balance to the process by which the board of governors of an institution designates its staff as academic or non-academic; and
  • creating the authority to establish postdoctoral fellows associations at universities.

The official news release for Bill 7 can be found here.