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Appeal Court says Labour Relations Board must consider AUPE call for 'excluded' civil servants to be part of union

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The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees moved a small step closer yesterday to its never-quite-openly stated goal of reaching 100,000 members thanks to a favourable Appeal Court ruling that will require the Alberta Labour Relations Board to consider whether close to 6,800 civil servants were improperly excluded from union membership by the province.

The 6,774 direct employees of the Alberta government are mid-level managers, human resources and labour relations officers, budget officers, systems analysts, financial auditors, office staff of the Lieutenant Governor, the cabinet, the Legislative Assembly, deputy ministers and the like.

Some are clearly properly excluded from union membership, but AUPE argued in a policy grievance a large number, probably most of them, and certainly many rank and file information technology staffers, should never have been be excluded from being part of the union by a stroke of someone’s pen.

When AUPE asked an arbitrator to consider the policy grievance on the inclusion of the 6,774 in its membership rolls, the arbitrator said no on technical jurisdictional grounds. An order by a Court of Queen’s Bench justice upheld the arbitrator’s refusal, and AUPE appealed the ruling to the Alberta Court of Appeal.

Yesterday, three judges of the Appeal Court ruled that the judicial review decision was wrong and allowed AUPE’s appeal.

The ruling is highly technical and its details are likely only to be of interest to lawyers and labour-relations specialists. What’s important is that if it’s not appealed to a higher court, it will kick the question of whether the 6,774 employees should be AUPE members to the ALRB to be fully considered.

If the Labour Board rules that some or many of the employees belong in the union, the government of Premier Alison Redford probably won’t kick up too much of a fuss about it because, with an election looming, the way things sit now sure makes it look as if civil service management is seriously bloated.

And, nowadays, thanks to its unconstitutional and un-proclaimed Bill 45, the government can hardly argue they’re needed on the job in case there’s a strike!

AUPE membership currently stands at around 85,000.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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