Last week, the Government of Alberta announced in the Throne Speech and subsequently introduced for first reading, Bill 5, the Public Sector Employers Amendment Act, 2023.
The bill was characterized as addressing transparency and accountability in public sector compensation, particularly focusing on non-unionized public sector employees.
The bill does not affect teacher collective bargaining, centrally or at the local level, because teacher collective agreements are covered by separate legislation, the Public Education Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA) that is distinct from the Public Sector Employers Act.
In fact, the bill will tend to make public sector bargaining in other sectors more closely resemble the process governing teacher bargaining in that public sector employers, including Alberta Health Services, Covenant Health, and certain public agencies like Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission, will be required to formally provide their compensation proposals to Finance Minister for approval in advance of bargaining. This is already the case for other public sector entities and, indeed, for the Teacher Employer Bargaining Association.
It is important to note that the legislation does not give the Minister control over the outcome of collective bargaining, only the capacity to more explicitly coordinate the position of the employer in the bargaining process.
One promising aspect of the legislation is the provision in Bill 5 to repeal the Reform of Agencies, Boards and Commissions Compensation Act (RABCCA), which was initially focused on regulating executive salaries. RABCCA has had the effect of placing the Alberta Teachers Retirement Fund (ATRF) at a competitive disadvantage as it effectively placed arbitrary caps on the salaries of senior managers and specialists that were below market, making it difficult for ATRF to compete for talent with the private sector and even with public sector entities that were exempt from its application.
Although the proposed legislation in its current form would not affect teachers in Alberta, the Association will continue to monitor the bill as it makes its way through the legislature and ensure you are advised of any developments of interest or concern.
Updates from ATA Provincial