Minister urged to give employment standards, labour code review more time

Minister urged to give employment standards, labour code review more time

Members of three opposition parties called on Tuesday for Labour Minister Christina Gray to extend the consultation period for changes to the labour code and employment standards legislation.

The government's 36-day consultation period ends Tuesday, and opposition and business groups say it needs more time. They are calling on the government to hold more open meetings across the province.

"This consultation period must be both extended and enhanced," said Wildrose MLA Glenn van Dijken.

Dijken was joined at a news conference in the Alberta legislature by PC MLA Richard Gottfried, Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann, Amber Ruddy, the director of provincial affairs for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and Dave Kaiser, with the Keep Alberta Working campaign.

The ministry has only held four private roundtable consultations with businesses over the last month. 

The government is soliciting opinions on the changes through an online survey. People can also send in written submissions.

The process has van Dijken wondering "if the fix is in."

"Unless we see open and transparent consultation, that would give us the impression that the government has made up its mind," van Dijken said.

No timeline for new rules

Ruddy said business owners have no idea what the government is proposing, so they should have more time to see what's under consideration. 

"I don't think a year would be unreasonable to review these very detailed and technical pieces of legislation that would be hitting business owners," Ruddy said.

The NDP government says the employment standards and labour codes haven't been updated since 1988. For example, Albertans aren't protected against job loss if they fall ill. 

Labour Minister Christina Gray isn't extending the deadline, but she could not explain why it would be a problem to take more time. She said the previous Progressive Conservative government held consultations but never took action.

Although she said the changes could not wait, Gray would not say when the government will introduce new legislation.

"Right now, I'm going to be reviewing the results of the consultation," she said. "I've made no determination as to what the next steps will be."

Gray said the government has received more than 4,600 submissions in the online consultation, with about 1,000 coming from employers.