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On August 1, 2022, another section of Bill 32: the Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act will take effect. Bill 32 has been touted as providing employees and employers with clearer and more transparent rules, promoting fairness and productivity in the workplace. The changes to take place on August 1, 2022 change employers’ responsibilities with respect to payment of their union dues.
August 1, 2022 changes
Bill 32 adds an identical provision to the Labour Relations Code, Police Officers Collective Bargaining Act, Public Education and Collective Bargaining Act, and the Public Service Employee Relations Act. This new provision requires the relevant union to divide its union dues into one of two categories: Core Activities and Non-Core Activities.
Non-core activities refer to “political activities” or activities related to other social causes or issues, charities or non-governmental organizations, organizations or groups affiliated with or supportive of a political party, and other activities that do not directly benefit due payers in the workplace.
On the other hand, Core Activities refer to activities that more directly benefit union members in the workplace, such as: collectively advancing for workplace goals; participating in legal proceedings; supporting or representing union members in proceedings, investigations or hearings; educating and training union members; negotiating and administering collective agreements; and engaging in activities that relate to the operation and governance of a trade union.
The relevant union must provide information to its members about the dues required for each of these categories and can no longer require members to pay for Non-Core Activities unless the member elects to pay.
How can employees make an election?
Employees have until July 31, 2022, to make an initial election as to whether they would like to pay union dues for Non-Core Activities. The union must inform the employer of any elections made by employees, and fees must be deducted from wages in accordance with those elections.
Any election must be in writing and signed by both the union member and an officer on behalf of the union. Once an election is made, that election remains in place until revoked. A revocation must also be in writing and signed by both the union member and an officer on behalf of the union. Unions are required to notify employers of any election or revocation made.
Employees will be given the opportunity to make or revoke an already made election in two instances. The first is where there is a “material change to the amount of non-core dues”. The second is that there must be, at minimum, one election or revocation period per year. Election or revocation periods may occur more often than once per year, if prescribed by the specific collective bargaining agreement between the parties.
What does this mean for employers?
Starting August 1, 2022, employers with unionized employees should not deduct fees for Non-core Activities unless the employee has made an election to pay Non-core fees. Employers can expect to be informed of any revocations, because if the union does not inform the employer of a revocation and the union wrongly collects the dues, the union may be forced to repay those wrongly collected dues.
Bill 32 does not provide for any express liability for the employer in the event that the union is improperly paid. However, this may cut both ways. There is no express limitation of liability for the employer if the employer negligently pays more dues than the union can collect. As such, employers should take care to ensure all elections or revocations provided by the union are up to date and that the union is not receiving fees that it is not entitled to.
There is no express provision in Bill 32 which requires unions to advise employers of the relevant election or revocation periods. However, it may be worthwhile for employers to ask when the election or revocation periods are expected to take place. This would allow employers to be prepared to update employee election records accordingly.