AFL expresses concern about new Human Resources minister

EDMONTON - The president of Alberta's largest workers' organization has some serious concerns about the man who has been appointed minister of the new Human Resources and Employment department.

AFL president Audrey Cormack says a number of "red flags" were raised when she reviewed Clint Dunford's record as an MLA and former Minister of Advanced Education.

"As the new Human Resources minister, Mr. Dunford is now responsible for upholding the rights and interests of Albertans in the workplace," says Cormack. "But based on his track record, I'm not entirely sure that he's the best person for the job."

Cormack says her concerns are based on a number of controversial statements and policy positions taken by Dunford over the past few years. Cormack's list of concerns include the following:

  • In November 1997, Dunford said he would like to see the government abolish the minimum wage. He was quoted as saying that wages should be established by the market with no government-guaranteed minimum. "Eventually, labour is going to find its own level based on supply and demand," he told a reporter from the Edmonton Journal.
  • In an in-depth interview on the Alberta economy published in the Edmonton Journal in January 1998, Dunford suggested that too many working people take advantage of good economic times to bid up their wages and benefits. Ignoring his earlier arguments about letting the market decide wages, he heaped scorn on workers who capitalize on market conditions to improve their income.
  • In April 1998, Dunford was one of several cabinet ministers who supported a plan to raise salaries for deputy ministers and other top provincial bureaucrats by up to $38,000 per year. Dunford's support for huge salary increases for senior bureaucrats came at the same time that the government was negotiating much more meager wage increases with rank-and-file public sector workers.
  • Throughout his tenure as Advanced Education minister, Dunford allowed tuition fees to rise dramatically at universities, colleges and technical schools throughout the province. As recently as this winter, he was quoted as saying that tuition increases are inevitable.

"I am deeply troubled by some of the positions that Mr. Dunford has taken over the years," says Cormack. "How can workers be confident that their interests are being taken care of by a minister who says the minimum wage should be abolished and that workers should not be allowed to share in the success of their employers during good economic times?"

Despite her concerns about Dunford's controversial remarks and policy positions, Cormack says she is willing to work with the new minister in order to protect the interests and uphold the rights of working Albertans.

"Our big concern is that workplace issues like health and safety and the enforcement of the Employment Standards Code and the Labour Code are going to get lost in the shuffle now that the Labour department has basically been merged with the Family and Social Services department," says Cormack. "We will be watching the new minister and reminding him of the importance of these functions. And we will work with him to make sure that the rights of Albertans in the workplace are not ignored."

For more information call:

Audrey Cormack, AFL President   @   483-3021(wk)/499-6530(cell)/428-9367(hm)

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