Detente or Entente Cordiale? AUPE and Hancock Government reach tentative agreement

Entente Cordiale
A simple detente or the start of a new “entente cordiale” between AUPE and the Alberta Government?

At 10:00 a.m. on April 28, 2014, Hugh McPhail, a lawyer representing the Alberta Government requested the Court of Appeal to adjourn a scheduled hearing on Bill 46, the controversial anti-labour law that had been halted by a court injection months ago. The law would have forced a regressive contract on the 22,000 government employees represented by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).

Dave Hancock MLA Edmonton-Whitemud
Dave Hancock

At 3:00 p.m. on the same day, AUPE President Guy Smith took to the podium at a press conference to announce that, after a long and tumultuous process, his union had reached a tentative agreement with the provincial government for a new contract (here are the details of the tentative agreement).

Contrasting the current and previous premier, Mr. Smith praised Premier Dave Hancock for working with him to find a resolution to the acrimonious round of negotiations. In the same breath which Mr. Smith heaped glowing praise on Mr. Hancock, he delivered a harsh shot at Labour minister Thomas Lukaszuk, who he said played no role in achieving this resolution.

We are prepared to rebuild the relationship with the government that is needed to ensure that Albertans get the quality services they deserve,” Mr. Smith said in AUPE’s press release.

By reaching a tentative agreement and abandoning the fight to salvage an unpopular law (which was likely unconstitutional), the governing Progressive Conservatives hope to avoid a nasty and very public battle with AUPE over bargaining that could have been drawn out over the course their leadership race. They may also hope this agreement could derail AUPE’s informal alliance with Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose opposition, which threatened to dog the Tories into the next election.

It is perhaps not surprising that Mr. Hancock, whose dedication to his party in unquestioned, would wish to put this issue to rest before the next PC leader leader, possibly Jim Prentice or Ken Hughes, is chosen at that party’s September leadership vote.

At least for the moment, Albertans can have hope that the current premier may take a more mature approach to labour relations than we saw under the province’s previous leadership.

Settling the negotiations with the province’s largest union was a sensible decision and the beginning of a detente at best. But if the Tories hope this announcement is a first step in creating an entente cordiale with Alberta’s labour movement and progressive voters, there is still a long way to go (backing down on the attack on public sector pensions would be another meaningful next step they could take).

10 thoughts on “Detente or Entente Cordiale? AUPE and Hancock Government reach tentative agreement”

  1. Dave Hancock is taking advantage of the situation and most progressive Albertans should thank him. He will neutralize the acid from the Lukasick (sic, did I underscore sick enough!!!) and Whorener (sic did I spell wrong? oopsy!) led Shakespearean assassination of “Redford the Gullible”. As far as the rest of us go, we now have a choice between Danielle (Wisconsin template) Smith, Raj Sherman, and TBA. Scintillating!!!

  2. AUPE demonstrated that if you fight back, this government is not as powerful as it likes to pretend. They have an offer that is far better than what school teachers and university professors agreed to accept last year without doing more than whimpering. Good for them! They are a lesson to the rest of us that acting like a mouse is far less effective when confronted by a bully than acting like a tiger. Good on Guy Smith and company for demonstrating that unions in the 2010s can still win concessions from management, and that workers without unions need to do everything they can to get into a union, and hopefully a militant one.

  3. Hancock just handed the Wildrose the next election. How much is this going to cost to give in to the big union bosses? Disgusting.

  4. “…Big union bosses…”? Seriously? Unions are DEMOCRATIC organizations. The only “bosses” are the rank & file membership. Union leaders like AUPE’s Guy Smith, HSAA’s Elizabeth Bannerman, and UNA’s Heather Smith, are elected by their membership to speak on their behalf and to bargain with employers for their wages, benefits and working conditions.

    Spare us the US-style 50s-era anti-union rhetoric; it’s pretty stale.

  5. Not as stale as your arguments. How much did Guy Smith put you up to spew such rhetoric? Or do you support the illegal job action of AUPE last year too?

  6. lol, union bosses.

    Guy Smith is my democratically elected President as AUPE. He and the volunteers on the bargaining committee (who are all AUPE members) did a great job.

    He isn’t a boss of me. He fought hard for an agreement all of my co-workers support and are happy with. He was doing what he was elected to do.

    We still are behind private sector wages for similar jobs, but its an agreement that’s the best we can achieve and a good comprimise between the government and AUPE’s original proposals going into bargaining.

  7. This deal is a positive but it is not the massive win for AUPE that its opponents would have you think. Inflation from March 2013 to 2014 was 3.9% in Alberta; at that rate it will be ~16% over 4 years while the wage increase is only 6.75% (or 6.9% with compounding). That’s a reduction in real wages not an increase.

    In relative terms it’s a win over the 0,0,1,1 that was “offered” but it’s not a win in real terms.

  8. Mr Runge: “…How much did Guy Smith put you up to spew such rhetoric?…” Nothing. I am a member of a different union than the one Mr Smith leads. “… Or do you support the illegal job action of AUPE last year too?…” The corrections workers were exercising their legal right to refuse unsafe work under the OHS Code.

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