Home|Conferences & Workshops|Bargaining in the Broader Public Sector Conference - Edmonton

Bargaining in the Broader Public Sector Conference

November 7, 2017
The Westin Edmonton

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CPHR Alberta Continuing Professional Development

CPHR Alberta Continuing Professional Development

CPD hours for this event can be logged online, through your CPHR Alberta member profile.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Registration and Breakfast 7:45 AM - 8:45 AM  
Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 8:45 AM - 9:00 AM  

Panel 1

Through a Glass Darkly: Alberta's economic outlook in 2018

9:00 AM - 10:15 AM

Nathan Jackson
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees
Joseph Marchand
Associate Professor, Department of Economics
University of Alberta
John Rose
Chief Economist, Financial Strategies and Budget
City of Edmonton

Panel Summary

More than two years after oil prices began their descent and sent the Alberta economy into a downturn and a year after the most expensive natural disaster in Canadian history – the Fort McMurray Wildfire – the economic situation is starting to improve for the province. However, as appears to be the case throughout Canada and internationally, the recovery is expected to remain moderate. In this session, leading economists will discuss the economic forecast for the province, explain how economic conditions are likely to affect future bargaining and employment trends in the broader public sector, and identify key economic indicators to watch as you develop your priorities for future rounds of bargaining.

  • What do the key economic indicators signal for the short- and long-term economic situation in Alberta and Canada? How do the following affect the economic outlook: the exchange rate for the Canadian dollar, changes in interest rates, the rate of inflation? What factors are driving/slowing economic growth?
  • What is the status of the labour market in Alberta and in Canada as a whole? Were more jobs gained or lost in 2017? What is the nature and quality of these jobs? What is the outlook for employment in 2018? What do these general trends in employment mean for employment in the broader public sector?
  • How do recent public sector settlements compare to recent settlements in the private sector? Have recent wage adjustments kept pace with rising costs of living? Do recent legislative changes, including those implemented through Bill 4, An Act to Implement a Supreme Court Ruling Governing Essential Services, and Bill 7, An Act to Enhance Post-Secondary Academic Bargaining, appear to be exerting an upward or downward pressure on wages?
  • What role does the government's fiscal capacity – its ability to generate revenue – play in broader public sector negotiations? What factors – for example, general economic conditions, federal government policies, policies of the U.S. government – have the most influence on the government of Alberta's current fiscal capacity? How are the fiscal policy and capacity of Canadian governments affected by the uncertainty regarding U.S. trade and tax policy created by the election of Donald Trump?
  • Given the province's most recent fiscal update and economic statement, what is the government likely to prioritize in the next budget and how will this affect bargaining? How much information regarding bargaining priorities can be gleaned from government and ministry business plans published annually with the provincial budget?

BREAK (with refreshments)

10:15 AM - 10:45 AM

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Registration and Breakfast 7:45 AM - 8:45 AM  
Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 8:45 AM - 9:00 AM  

Panel 2

Taking the Pulse: Legislative changes and recent settlements in Alberta's public sector

10:45 AM - 12:00 PM

Scott McCormack
Executive Director,
System Excellence

Alberta Department of Education
Kristan McLeod
Union Counsel
Chivers Carpenter
Timothy Mitchell
Employer Counsel
Norton Rose Fulbright
Sharon Vogrinetz
Assistant Executive Secretary
(Retired), Alberta Teachers'
Association; Labour Relations Consultant

Panel Summary

Since coming to power in 2015, Alberta's NDP government has passed a number of legislative amendments designed to update and improve workplace laws in the province, including the Fair and Family Friendly Workplaces Act, which makes several major changes to the Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code with significant implications for broader public sector bargaining. In this session, seasoned labour relations practitioners will review recent legislative developments in Alberta and the key implications for the bargaining table. Topics to be discussed include:

  • What amendments does Bill 17 make to Alberta's Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code? How are these amendments expected to impact bargaining in the broader public sector? How is the introduction of first contract arbitration and card check certification expected to impact public sector negotiations?
  • How has Bill 7, An Act to Enhance Post-Secondary Academic Bargaining, modified the labour relations regime for faculty and graduate students in Alberta's post-secondary institutions? How do the transitional provisions included in Bill 7 affect labour negotiations in this sector? What challenges do such legislative changes pose for those at the bargaining table?
  • How has the passage of the Public Education Collective Bargaining Act and the establishment of a bi-level bargaining structure impacted collective bargaining for Alberta teachers? What lessons can be drawn from the first round of negotiations conducted under this new model of collective bargaining?
  • What lessons can parties draw from contemporary settlements reached in the broader public sector? How have recent legislative amendments impacted settlements?


12:00 PM - 1:15 PM

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Registration and Breakfast 7:45 AM - 8:45 AM  
Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 8:45 AM - 9:00 AM  

Panel 3

Raising the Stakes: Negotiating essential services agreements and bargaining under a strike/lockout model

1:15 PM - 2:30 PM

Pemme Cunliffe
Labour Relations Consultant

Gwenneth Feeny
Manager of Research,
Essential Services and Pensions

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees
David Harrigan
Director of Labour Relations
United Nurses of Alberta
Scott Palmer
Strategic Negotiations Lead
Public Sector Working Group
Treasury Board and Finance

Government of Alberta

Panel Summary

Labour relations in Alberta experienced a seismic shift last year as the dispute resolution mechanism for bargaining impasses in most of the broader public sector changed from compulsory arbitration to strikes and lockouts. On May 4 of this year, collective bargaining for public post-secondary institutions also became subject to a strike-lockout dispute resolution regime and other provisions of the Labour Relations Code, such as protections against bad faith bargaining and other unfair labour practices. In this session experts will explain how these changes affect strategy at the bargaining table, provide updates on the negotiation of essential services agreements, and give their views on whether parties should agree to voluntary interest arbitration.

  • How have employers and unions in Alberta fared so far in negotiating essential services agreements under the new regime? What obstacles have been encountered? What approaches have proven successful?
  • What role do effective information gathering and disclosure have in the new strike-lockout regime? What sort of external economic, political or social factors should the parties consider when establishing their positions and engaging in negotiations? How should parties use negotiations and settlement agreements in other industries or sectors? How is this different from using such information under a compulsory arbitration regime?
  • When is a party likely to adopt "hard bargaining" as a strategy? How do labour boards draw the line between "hard bargaining" and bargaining in bad faith? What labour board remedies should an aggrieved party seek as a remedy for bad faith bargaining in order to prevent or resolve a work stoppage?
  • What role has the provincial government been playing in recent negotiations in the broader public sector? What role should it play to encourage freely negotiated collective agreements? What types of legislative restraints on or interventions in bargaining will survive Charter scrutiny?
  • Are different communications strategies necessary in bargaining when a work stoppage is a possibility (as opposed to when disputes are settled by arbitration)? What information should the union reveal to its members during bargaining? What information can the employer give to employees about offers it has made, is making, or will make to the union? What information can be disclosed to the media?
  • In general, what strategies can unions and employers use to reach freely negotiated collective agreements without work stoppages? Is there a role for interest-based negotiation? When is voluntary mediation and/or interest arbitration an appropriate and effective way to resolve intractable disputes?

BREAK (with refreshments)

2:30 PM - 2:45 PM

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Registration and Breakfast 7:45 AM - 8:45 AM  
Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 8:45 AM - 9:00 AM  

Panel 4

Grievance Arbitration Decisions Affecting the Public Sector: Political speech, whistleblowing, and privacy

2:45 PM - 4:00 PM

Ayla Akgungor
Employer Counsel
Field Law
Clayton Cook
Union Counsel
McGown Cook

Panel Summary

In an era of social media, 24-hour news coverage, and rapidly evolving technology, the lines between an individual's professional and personal life can quickly become blurred. In this context, privacy rights, whistleblowing, and employee political activity can become highly contentious issues for workplace parties. As grievance arbitration of these matters may influence collective bargaining, it is important for those involved in the negotiation process to understand recent arbitral caselaw. In this panel, leading counsel will review key recent grievance arbitration decisions relating to privacy, whistleblowing, and political speech, and discuss their significance for bargaining in the broader public sector. Topics to be discussed include:


  • How do federal and provincial laws in Canada protect employee privacy rights? Following the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling in Irving Pulp and Paper, is a balancing of interests approach now mandated in all cases where employer rules impact on employee privacy rights?
  • Under what circumstances will video surveillance evidence be admissible at arbitration?
  • When can employees be disciplined or discharged for breaching third-party privacy rights? Is dismissal more likely to be upheld for employees working in public service or with vulnerable persons, such as teachers or healthcare providers?
  • What collective agreement language should parties consider negotiating with respect to employee privacy rights? What about language concerning confidentiality and third-party privacy rights in the workplace?


  • What statutory protections exist in Canada for employees who disclose wrongdoing within public bodies? When, if ever, can an employee be disciplined or discharged for alleged whistleblowing activities?
  • Do employees have any freedom to express criticism of their employers during off-duty hours? Does it matter if the employee's comments were intended to be private? What if this criticism is expressed on social media?
  • What are some examples of how workplace parties have addressed the issues of academic freedom and whistleblowing at the bargaining table?

Political speech

  • When, if ever, can political speech or activity by a public sector employee justify discipline or discharge? Does it make a difference if the individual identifies himself or herself as a public sector employee during the course of political activity?
  • How should workplace parties deal with questions of political speech and activity within policy or collective agreement language?


4:00 PM


4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Keynote Speakers

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Ramping Up for Bargaining in a Strike/Lockout Era: Practical advice from the experts

9:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Rick Wilson

Jeannine Arbour
Labour Relations Officer
United Nurses of Alberta
Pemme Cunliffe
Labour Relations Consultant

Workshop Summary

When bargaining under a regime of compulsory arbitration, unions and employers have a tendency to judge proposals based on how an arbitrator might rule, while under a strike/lockout regime a party's strategy will be guided by its assessment of what the other party's "bottom line" is and how far the other party is willing and able to press an issue. In this hands-on full-day program, Lancaster House brings together top union and employer negotiators to share proven strategies and tactics tailored to bargaining under the threat of a work stoppage.

Workshop participants will learn how to:

  • Assemble negotiating teams with the skills and knowledge necessary for bargaining under the new regime
  • Interact with their principal and obtain a mandate
  • Gather information necessary for bargaining
  • Create ground rules and organize bargaining
  • Recognize and use effective tactics
  • Make effective use of mediation and voluntary arbitration

Workshop leaders will emphasize how the changes to legislation governing collective bargaining in Alberta's public sector affect every step of the bargaining process.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Navigating Interest Arbitration: Working with the mediator, drafting the brief, and presenting the case

9:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Irene Holden

Garry Sran
Research Officer
Alberta Union of Public Employees
Bill Rigutto
Union Representative
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees
Ryan Wood
Interest Arbitration Negotiator and Economist
Bass Associates

Workshop Summary

Where the portion of a bargaining unit required to provide essential services during a strike or lockout in the public sector is so great that it substantially interferes with meaningful collective bargaining, the Essential Services Commissioner may make a declaration of substantial interference and either the employer or the union may apply for compulsory interest arbitration. For bargaining disputes involving police and firefighters, interest arbitration continues to be the only option. As a result many employer and union representatives will require the skills and knowledge necessary to be effective advocates in interest arbitration and will benefit from this session.

Attendees will leave this interactive workshop knowing how to:

  • Comply with legal obligations that arise in negotiation, mediation and arbitration
  • Structure negotiations and the mediation process to minimize the issues in dispute
  • Choose an appropriate arbitrator and nominees
  • Gather all necessary information and present it in a compelling brief
  • Present a persuasive case at the hearing
  • Analyze an award to determine whether an application for judicial review is likely to succeed



Click here to find out more information regarding CPD and the hour requirements in your province.

CPD hours for this event can be logged online, through your CPHR Alberta member profile.

Conference Sessions

  • This program has been approved by CPHR Alberta for 5 Continuing Professional Development hours.


  • This program has been approved by CPHR Alberta for 5.5 Continuing Professional Development hours.