The Alberta Labour Relations Board and the Human Services Ministry Employment Standards Division

The Alberta Relations Board (ALRB or the Board) consists of an independent committee appointed to impartially pass judgement on matters related to the Alberta labour laws. The ALRB deals with companies, unions, and workers in the formation of unions, the establishment of Union Contracts, and the settlement of disputes between these parties.

Within the Alberta government’s Human Services Ministry, the Employment Standards branch is responsible for the policies and programs related to the employment of workers in Alberta. This branch of government is an avenue for workers to receive help in dealing with work related issues or lodge complaints if the minimal workplace conditions are not being met at their place of employment.  In Alberta, a document called the Employment Standards Code lays out these basic regulations regarding topics such as hours of work, wages, and holidays.

It is important to distinguish between these two bodies of government because they focus on two different areas of labour legislation. The Employment Standards department cannot process matters relating to the formation and operation of unions, and the ALRB cannot deal with employment standards issues.  To access the services provided by the ALRB you must be involved in some stage of the unionization process, whether it be organizing a workplace, negotiating a contract, or belonging to a union. 

The Alberta Labour Relations Board

The Alberta Labour Relations Board is comprised of a number of appointed board members, some of whom represent employers, and others who represent unions.  The ALRB is responsible for the interpretations and the applications of the Alberta Labour Relations Code (the Code). The Code contains legislation outlining the rights and responsibilities of workers, employers, and unions regarding unionized and unionizing workplaces.  For example, some articles of the Code stipulate the protections offered to workers wishing to unionize, others dictate the process by which a Union Contract is negotiated. 

Where there have been violations of the Code, complaints can be filed and the Board has the power to penalize the responsible party and order changes in their labour practices.  Commonly, disagreements between unions and employers arise regarding the applications and interpretations of the Code.  For example the Employer and the Union may have different ideas about which groups of workers should be included in the processes of negotiating a Union Contract and to whom the Contract should apply.  When these kinds of disputes arise, the ALRB encourages both parties to try to resolve the issues without any intervention from the Board.  However, when the parties are unable to find a solution amongst themselves, a hearing is held so the Board can listen to the parties’ arguments and order a resolution.

An ALRB hearing is comprised of a three member panel, containing one chairperson from the Board, and two part-time board members. The part-time board members are selected by the two parties, the Union and the Employer. Together, the three board members will be presented with the issues and make recommendations on how to resolve the matter.  Once the Board members have come to an agreement, they have the authority to issue decisions that must be abided by both the Union and the Employer. If either party disagrees with the ALRB’s decision, they may challenge the decision in Court. 

Why are there delays at the ALRB?

The ALRB deals with all matters regarding the Code across the province. They are responsible for processing all union applications and investigating all labour complaints, processes which can be intensive and time consuming.  Due to the demand on their services, establishing available hearing dates at the Board can take up to two months, creating many delays. Further, arranging dates can be incredibly difficult as union representatives, legal counsel, company representatives and witnesses must all be available on the same dates.  Further delays are caused if the hearings are not completed within their allotted dates, meaning more dates must be scheduled which are once again agreeable to all parties involved. 

United Protections Services and the ALRB

As you are aware, UFCW Local 401, your chosen Union, has been working for over a year on having your right to join the union of your choice recognized.   The process has been dragged out as a result of many factors.  The efforts of your employer, United Protection Services (UPS), to avoid unionization with UFCW Local 401 through the absorption of United First Nations Corp., and the partnership with the Speciality and Temporary Employees Union (STEU), have caused UFCW Local 401 to file many unfair labour practice complaints with the Alberta Labour Relations Board.  These complaints require hearing, and wait times for dates and decision can be long.