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Edmonton Bargaining in the Broader Public Sector Conference

Edmonton • November 8, 2021
Virtual Event

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Monday, November 8, 2021

Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 9:30 AM - 9:35 AM  

Panel 1

Uncertain Times: How will Alberta's economic and political situation affect bargaining?

9:35 AM - 10:50 AM

Panel Summary

In his speech introducing Alberta's 2021 budget, Minister of Finance Travis Toews proclaimed that "addressing public sector salary structure is required to protect government services and ensure a sustainable fiscal trajectory for the province." Subsequently, broader public sector employers presented their union counterparts with demands for significant wage cuts. Does the provincial government's fiscal situation justify such extraordinary demands? Even if those demands are fiscally prudent, can unions possibly accept them, or are widespread labour unrest and attendant economic upset inevitable consequences? Will the government's wage restraint policy produce broader economic prosperity or more hard times? In this session, experts will address these and the following questions:

  • What is the current economic situation — provincially, nationally, globally? Nearly two years after COVID-19 became the predominant global concern, are economic forecasts more reliable now than they were for much of the pandemic?
  • Is the current economic situation and forecast consistent with the assumptions that the government made in the 2021 provincial budget? Is it now harder or easier for the government to generate revenue than was assumed at budget time? Do current and projected borrowing costs make deficit spending a better or worse policy choice?
  • Is the government's spending in response to the pandemic, and its commitment to keeping Alberta's net debt-to-GDP ratio below 30 percent, in line with other governments that have maintained strong economic and fiscal positions during COVID-19?
  • Are the government's planned expenditures on infrastructure the type of public sector investments that are likely to promote economic recovery? Are any salutary effects of these investments likely to be offset by cuts to employment and employee compensation in health care and education, sectors that have buoyed the economy in recent years?
  • Given the current economic and fiscal situation, what are reasonable employer and union expectations? Would it be reasonable for the government to give employers more latitude? Is a change in mandates likely?
  • Is there any period in history with a set of economic and political circumstances comparable to those that currently exist in Alberta that may provide guidance on the economic, political, and labour relations developments that are in store?


10:50 AM - 11:05 AM

Monday, November 8, 2021

Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 9:30 AM - 9:35 AM  

Panel 2

Winning in a No-Win Scenario: Guidance on productive bargaining in Alberta's conflicted environment

11:05 AM - 12:20 PM

Panel Summary

Finding the common ground that makes negotiating a collective agreement possible can be difficult at the best of times. However, when external factors such as funding cuts and government-imposed mandates seriously limit the options available to unions and employers, an already-challenging process can become next to impossible. Particularly acrimonious bargaining, inability to reach an agreement acceptable to both sides, and/or imposition of an outcome on parties can make future rounds of bargaining more onerous and can poison union–management relations during the term of the agreement.

Join this session to learn how to preserve union–management relationships during a conflict-laden round of bargaining and even come to an agreement despite apparently impossible odds. Guidance will be provided by two experienced negotiators who sat across from each other and managed to reach an agreement despite negotiations punctuated by escalating job action, a high-profile public relations battle, and legislated wage restraints.

Conference Ends

12:20 PM

Keynote Speakers


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Conference Session

HRPA Continuing Professional Development

This program has been approved by CPHR Alberta for 2.5 Continuing Professional Development hours.