A photo of Alberta Opposition leader Rachel Notley, with NDP Labour Critic Christina Gray, at yesterday’s Labour Day news conference.
Alberta Opposition leader Rachel Notley, with NDP Labour Critic Christina Gray, at yesterday’s Labour Day news conference. Credit: Brad Gibbons

Opposition Leader Rachel Notley vowed Monday to reverse two United Conservative Party (UCP) policies that reduced overtime payments for many working Albertans and lowered minimum wages for young people if the NDP forms government after the next election. 

Notley said at a Labour Day news conference in Edmonton that the NDP is committed to restoring Alberta’s employment standards legislation to put it back in line with the Canadian mainstream, reversing UCP changes that guaranteed lower overtime pay calculations for workers.

She also promised to restore the single general minimum wage, eliminating the lower $13-per-hour minimum wage for Albertans under 18 years of age.

“Not only have wages fallen far behind during a period of historic inflation and the steep rise in the cost of living but we are seeing reports that more Albertans than ever are struggling,” Notley said. “If Alberta’s NDP forms the next government and I am fortunate enough to be your premier, we will make sure Albertans get the fair pay they’re owed.”

Specifically, she said, an NDP government would guarantee that all overtime pay owed is paid at time and half, even if it is banked. 

The UCP currently allows employers to force workers to bank their overtime hours as time-off-in-lieu, calculated at straight time, and the NDP estimates its change would return fairness to more than 380,000 Albertans who work overtime, especially non-unionized workers in the energy sector.

In addition to eliminating the lower $13-per-hour differential youth wage introduced by the UCP, Notley and NDP Labour Critic Christina Gray who appeared with Notely, promised never to introduce a differential wage for liquor servers. 

“The UCP cut wages for young workers, driving many to look for work and other opportunities outside of Alberta,” she said. “And last year, we broke 30-year records for young adults leaving this province.”

“As we move into a period of massive, multi-billion-dollar surpluses, we refuse to stand by and allow working people to fall behind,” Notley said. 

“Danielle Smith, Brian Jean, Travis Toews, none of them will stand up for working people’s wages,” Notley added, naming the candidates to replace Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. “I will. Alberta’s NDP will continue to stand up for our province, ensuring Alberta remains the best place to live, work and raise a family.”

Meanwhile, in his Labour Day message, Kenney said … well, nothing.

That is to say, Kenney didn’t bother to publish a Labour Day message. Perhaps he thought his “Alberta Day” message on Sept. 1 was a good enough note on which to end the summer.

The task of delivering a Labour Day message was left to Labour Minister Kaycee Madu, who despite not having very much to say, managed to devote 186 words to the task on the government’s website

Said Madu: “As Alberta’s Minister of Labour and Immigration, I offer my heartfelt thanks to workers in every sector of the economy. I appreciate your extraordinary efforts as we rise to today’s challenges. Alberta’s government is proud to support you throughout your career journey.”

After a plug for a UCP job-training program, Madu touted the government’s occupational health and safety website as a contributor to worker safety and said the UCP is updating the Occupational Health and Safety Code, a plan that given the UCP’s past approach to regulation and worker rights should be viewed with grave concern by working people. 

NOTE: I expect to be on the road this week, which may mean fewer Alberta Diary posts that usual. Things should return to normal next week. DJC

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...