Board strikes part of Alberta Labour Code barring nurse practitioners from unionizing

Portions of the Alberta Labour Code preventing nurse practitioners from being represented by a union violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Alberta Labour Relations Board has ruled.

In a 19-page ruling published Monday, the board agreed that the section of the code referring to nurse practitioners contravened the right to freedom of association.

“We conclude one of the purposes was to deny nurse practitioners the ability to engage in collective bargaining —  a purpose which substantially interferes with freedom of association” the labour board said in its ruling. 

The constitutional argument put forward by United Nurses of Alberta and two nurse practitioners — Jessica Wakeford and Rochelle Young — was initially contested by the provincial government.

However, the government withdrew its intervention in October 2018. 

Nurse practitioners have their master’s degree or doctorate and are permitted to diagnose illness and conditions, treat and manage acute and chronic illness, and prescribe medication.

The United Nurses of Alberta represented nurse practitioners until 2003, when legislation was passed in Alberta barring them from belonging to a union. In a Monday news release, the union said it looks forward to welcoming nurse practitioners back into its membersship

It was part of a health reform package introduced by the government of then-premier Ralph Klein to address labour relations issues by amalgamating bargaining units.

The board suspended the effect of its ruling for 12 months “to allow the government time to consider its options in light of the board’s decision.”

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