Alberta's labour reform aims to help food industry

Bakers Journal
July 08, 2019
Written by Bakers Journal
Restaurants Canada is pleased that Alberta’s government ushered in critically needed labour reforms, which will provide welcome relief for the province’s struggling foodservice sector.

Bill 2: An Act to Make Alberta Open for Business, which passed third reading in Alberta’s legislature, acts on many of the recommendations that Restaurants Canada made during the provincial election. This legislation, combined with the new Job Creation Student Wage that came into effect on June 26, will go a long way to help foodservice businesses regain solid footing following recent setbacks.

Alberta's new labour reforms include:

Restaurants now have the flexibility they need to provide more youth with critical first-time job experience. The new Job Creation Student Wage that came into effect on June 26, Alberta’s employers are now permitted to pay a wage of $13 per hour for the first 28 hours worked by a student between 13 and 17 years of age while school is in session. For every hour over that, students must be paid the full $15 minimum hourly wage. During school breaks and summer holidays, the youth rate applies to all hours worked. As the number one source of first-time jobs, this will help the foodservice sector provide more opportunities for young Albertans to get back to work.

Only employees who regularly work on a general holiday will be entitled to receive holiday pay, and they must work 30 days in the last 12 months to qualify for it. This change, which comes into effect on Sept. 1, better reflects the realities of restaurants, which typically operate outside the realm of the regular 9-5 work week and have had a hard time paying workers for a day when they wouldn’t regularly be working.

Workers will have the option to develop straight-time banked overtime hour arrangements with their employer. Flexible averaging agreements will be repealed to accommodate changes to how banked overtime is compensated. Currently, employees can choose to be paid for overtime at time-and-a-half, or receive 1.5 banked time off. Instead, Bill 2 will allow employers and workers to make straight-time banked hour arrangements, where employees can still choose to bank overtime hours, but at a 1:1 ratio. The intention behind this is to give employees more flexibility to be able to take time off for personal commitments without losing employment hours. These changes will come into effect on Sept. 1.

A mandatory secret ballot will be restored for all union certification votes, as well as a 90-day period for unions to provide evidence of employee support for certification. These changes will improve balance and enhance freedoms for workers.

“Over the past few years, a lot of smart, responsible restaurant operators have been finding it incredibly hard to justify expansion plans or even keep their doors open at all in this province,” said Mark von Schellwitz, Restaurants Canada Vice President, Western Canada in a press release. “Our industry’s call for action was heard loud and clear. Alberta’s new government has taken swift and decisive steps to help employers continue contributing to vibrant communities and create more jobs, especially for youth.”

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