United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney says his proposal to deal with banked overtime is simply a return to former rules that no one complained about when they were in effect for years.

The NDP government made changes to labour and employment standards that took effect on Jan. 1, 2018, which meant that one hour of banked overtime would translate into an hour-and-a-half of time off.

Kenney wants to return to a straight hour-to-hour exchange. If workers aren’t able to take the time off within six months, banked overtime would be paid out at time and a half.

The proposed change was listed in the UCP platform released on Saturday. The overtime change was criticized by some workers, and by GilMcGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, who supports the NDP.

Kenney dismissed the criticisms when asked about them at a news conference in Edmonton on Monday. 

“The NDP, of course, is running a fear and smear campaign,” Kenney said. “All we are proposing is that we return to exactly the same rules that existed for, as far as I know, decades in Alberta without any, as far as I know, reported abuses.” 

Kenney’s proposal would affect the overtime hours employees can bank and later take as time off.

The rollback would be part of the “Open for Business Act” the UCP wants to introduce as its second bill if it forms government after the April 16 election.

Kenney said the rollback is being proposed in response to restaurant servers who wanted to work more than 40 hours during weeks where tips are good, such as during the Calgary Stampede.

The party is not proposing an end to paying time-and-a-half when people decide to take their overtime in cash rather than in days off. 

Asked how a UCP government would prevent employers from forcing workers to bank all their overtime instead of paying time-and-a-half in cash, Kenney said he was not aware of any such past abuses by employers. 

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