Shhh! Don't utter the word "strike"

Has the Progressive Conservative government in Alberta outdone the federal Conservatives when it comes to the rights of workers?

New labour laws in Alberta don't just strip the right of members of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees to arbitration. Going forward, provincial employees also "won't even be able to talk about a strike or a disruptive labour action that could be seen as leading to a strike.

"If there's a hint of a work stoppage, just a puff of smoke from a shop floor, the union will have to forfeit $1 million a day, unless it can convince the court it didn't encourage the strike talk from locals or random militants," explains Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid.

Braid is talking about what he characterises as an "exceptionally vague ban on 'an act or threat to act that could reasonably be perceived as preparation for an employees' right.'"

Don't be surprised if this provision makes its way to the Supreme Court of Canada, though. "It's hard to imagine a more blatant violation of free speech," Baird writes.

Just down from the street from the top court in Ottawa, the Conservatives are poised on Friday to pass a giant omnibus budget implementation bill that also takes a whack at workers' rights.

The Conservative government stuffed the 322-page bill with amendments to 50 separate laws, most of which have nothing to do with budget implementation.

They include 60 amendments to the Canada Labour Code, including a watered down definition of danger to make it harder for workers to refuse dangerous work, and new rules to appeal the definition.

Twenty-three amendments to the Public Service Labour Relations Act are also in the bill, including deleting the existing definition of "essential" and replace it with one described as anything that the government in its "exclusive right" determines is or will be necessary for the safety or security of the public.

Photo: movetheclouds. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.