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Labour reforms in Alberta aim to help struggling foodservice sector


July 8, 2019
By Canadian Pizza

Edmonton – Restaurants Canada is pleased Alberta’s government is quickly carrying out critically needed labour reforms, such as a Job Creation Student Wage, which the organization said will provide welcome relief for the struggling foodservice sector.

Bill 2: An Act to Make Alberta Open for Business, which passed third reading in Alberta’s legislature on July 5, acts on many of the recommendations 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, the organization said in a news release.

“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 for Western Canada. “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.”

With the new labour reforms:

  • Restaurants have the flexibility to provide more youth with first-time job experience. Unemployment for Albertans aged 15-17 years old in Q1 of 2019 was 21.5 per cent – almost triple the general rate. Thanks to 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, Restaurants Canada said.
  • 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, the organization said.