UNA will be vigorous and determined in defence of members’ free speech and collective bargaining rights: Heather Smith

Alberta unions including United Nurses of Alberta were informed Friday of a “labour relations consultation” meeting next Saturday by Shawn McLeod, the deputy minister of labour and immigration.

The purpose of the one-hour meeting, according to McLeod’s email, is to discuss legislation intended to “protect workers from being forced to fund political parties and causes.”

The government is holding meetings “with a number of parties” to discuss its campaign promise “to bring back balance to labour legislation,” McLeod said in the email.

United Nurses of Alberta will send representatives to one of the meetings but will make it clear it does not relinquish any rights by doing so, including its members’ fundamental rights protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It was not immediately clear why the Alberta Government would schedule a brief “consultation” on a weekend during which the United Conservative Party is holding its annual general meeting.

“They want to silence us because they have given themselves through Bill 21 the ability to interfere in collective bargaining, before we start, during bargaining, and even afterward,” President Heather Smith said.

“They don’t want us advocating about health care, pharmacare, safe staffing, or ending workplace violence,” she said. “We have already demonstrated that we will stand up for our members and for the public, and that is why they are in a hurry to silence us.” 

“As is the case with all Albertan and Canadian unions, United Nurses of Alberta will be vigorous and determined in its defence of members’ fundamental rights to free speech and free association, including the right to bargain collectively,” she concluded.