March 2015: Sign the BWA petition; BWA campaign turns a mirror on Tory mismanagement; Looming TFW deportations highlight inhumanity of program

Urgent Action

Sign the Better Way Alberta petition

The Better Way Alberta coalition is urging the government to fix the province’s broken revenue system. And we’re asking you to sign our petition. Join the thousands of Albertans who have already signed, and help be part of the solution.

The Petition

We the undersigned residents of Alberta, petition the Legislative Assembly to ensure there is enough money to pay for necessary public services like education and health care by introducing tax and royalty reforms that include the following measures:

  • increasing the tax on corporate profits to a rate that is closer to the national average;
  • replacing Alberta’s flat income tax with a progressive tax that requires high-income earners to pay higher tax rates than middle and low-income earners;
  • and introducing royalty changes that ensure Albertans receive a fair share from the sale of their resources.
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You can sign the petition online at www.BetterWayAlberta.ca or in person at the Alberta Federation of Labour offices (Parkington Plaza, #300, 10408 – 124 Street NW, Edmonton, AB T5N 1R5).

News

Better Way Alberta campaign turns a mirror on Tory mismanagement

Over the next few weeks, voters will be hearing from the Better Way Alberta campaign, showing them that there are sensible, moderate measures that can help ensure the long-term financial stability of the province.

The province-wide campaign will consist of a central website and petition; a radio and online advertising campaign; a direct-mail campaign to every household in Alberta; and a door-to-door campaign in which canvassers will have face-to-face conversations with Albertans about the Better Way Alberta campaign.

 “Who created the current budget mess? It’s time for Premier Prentice and the Tories to look in the mirror,” says Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan. “We’re not facing a budget crunch because of anything individual Albertans did. The real problem is that successive PC governments have blown holes in the revenue base we need to fund education, health care and other services that Albertans rely on.”

According to the government’s own numbers, Alberta could increase the amount it gets from taxes by $11.6 billion a year and still have the lowest taxes in Canada. Most of that $11.6 billion that is going uncollected by Alberta’s inequitable tax code is being left in the pockets of the province’s richest individuals and most profitable corporations.

“If we’re all in this together, as Premier Prentice says, why should corporations and the wealthy get a free pass?” McGowan said. “And why should ordinary Albertans pay for the mistakes of politicians again?”

The campaign was created by a coalition of the Alberta Federation of Labour, United Nurses of Alberta, the Health Sciences Association of Alberta and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Alberta Division). Visit www.betterwayalberta.ca for more information about the campaign, or to sign the petition calling on the government to reform its revenue system.

Looming Temporary Foreign Worker deportations highlight inhumanity of program

Thousands of vulnerable Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) are facing deportation.

On April 1st, thousands of work permits will expire, and the workers who hold those permits will be forced to leave. They and their employers were not allowed to renew those work permits because the government tightened the rules on the Temporary Foreign Worker program.

“The Temporary Foreign Worker program needs to be reined in, but without affecting the workers who are already here,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “There should not be any more TFW permits for low-wage employers, but the workers who are already here should have been allowed to stay.”

There are more than 70,000 Temporary Foreign Workers in Alberta. The province has the highest percentage of its workforce composed of Temporary Foreign Workers of any jurisdiction in the country. In particular, it is in Alberta where low-wage employers have made the most aggressive use of the program in an attempt to drive down wages.

Did you know…

  • Even before the price of oil crashed, revenue generated from Alberta’s shrunken taxes on personal income and corporate profits covered only about 40 per cent of the cost of public services, compared to about 60 per cent in other provinces.
  • Women working full-time only earned 63 per cent of the annual average salary their male counterparts earned in Alberta.
  • Alberta’s spending is $9,786 per person on public services — $434 less than the national average, despite the fact that cost-of-living is higher here.

Events

March 21:  International Day for the Elimination of Racism

April 16-19: AFL Convention “Dream No Little Dreams”

April 28: International Day of Mourning for Workers Injured or Killed on the Job

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2015 Backgrounder: How the Government Fudged Per-Capita Spending Figures

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Misleading numbers undermine Tory credibility

Edmonton –The Progressive Conservatives are building their budget arguments on a foundation of deception.

The Tories have put out numbers claiming that Alberta’s per-capita spending is above the national average – but inflated Alberta’s figures by including $3.55 billion in flood relief funding, and drove down the national average by ignoring standard methods of comparison.

“This goes beyond spin, which we expect from politicians. They have deliberately and deceptively overstated how much Alberta spends on a per-capita basis, and deliberately and deceptively understated how much other provinces spend on a per-capita basis,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “And they’re using these distortions to justify cuts on important public services like health care and education.”

When comparing on a province-to-province level, one should find the provincial per-capita spending levels, add them together, and divide by the number of provinces. The government didn't do that. Instead, it took all provincial spending divided by the population. This method drives down the average because some larger provinces, benefitting from what economists call ‘economies of scale, have lower numbers than Alberta.

“They’re playing games with numbers because to them winning is more important than the truth. But this isn’t a game. Public services, and the quality of life for Albertans, are at stake,” McGowan said. “In any other province, a government that engaged in this kind of blatant and deliberate deception – on top of years of arrogance and incompetence – would fall.”

Up-to-date and accurate figures from RBC Economics show that – when the government isn’t paying for flood recovery – Alberta’s per-capita spending is below the national average. Figures from the 2014-15 budget year show Alberta’s spending is $9,786 per person -- $434 less than the national average.

“They use old data, inflated by flood spending, to support their argument that Alberta overspends. The reality is quite different,” McGowan said. “How to deal with Alberta’s budget crunch is a crucial debate for the province. The public deserves to have that debate informed by accurate, fair, and reliable numbers. Albertans deserve better than Tory distortions.”

AFL Backgrounder: How the Government Fudged Per-Capita Spending Figures

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell)
or via e-mail
orokne@afl.org

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2015 #PrenticeBlamesWomen

On International Women’s Day, the Premier of Alberta is framing his election campaign around an attack on women’s hard-earned equality gains

Edmonton – The Alberta Federation of Labour is marking International Women’s Day by standing up for women’s jobs and equality gains in the public sector.

The majority of Alberta’s public sector workers – those who work in health care, education, in cities and towns, seniors’ care – are women.

“The Prentice PCs are gearing up for a multi-million-dollar election campaign that targets women’s modest wage gains in the public sector,” Alberta Federation of Labour Secretary Treasurer Siobhan Vipond said. “When Jim Prentice talks about health care, education, and public service workers, he is talking about women. When Jim Prentice blames public sector workers for his government’s appalling record of tax and royalty giveaways, what he is really doing is blaming Alberta women—who earn just 63 per cent of what men earn—for his government’s reckless tax and royalty giveaways.”

An AFL analysis of public sector wage settlements in Alberta, released for International Women’s Day, showed public sector wage settlements between 2011-2014 delivered a modest 8.8 per cent of cumulative increases. The majority of the workers covered by these collective agreements were women.

By contrast, Alberta’s oil and gas sector workers saw a 17 per cent increase in their average weekly earnings between 2011-2014. Construction workers saw a 14 per cent gain. Managers of companies also saw a 17 per cent gain, while those in finance saw a 13 per cent increase in their annual earnings.

Vipond says Alberta women benefit from a wage advantage in the unionized public sector. But economy-wide, Alberta is the most unequal province in Canada. “When Alberta women look in the mirror, they see the highest levels of inequality in Canada,” Vipond said.

“The unions that represent women in the public sector have delivered pay equity, modest but reliable pensions, and health and safety protections,” Vipond said.  “When we struggle for dignity and fairness in the workplace, women are the beneficiaries.”

Fifty-five per cent of Alberta’s overall unionized workforce, in both the public and private sectors, are women.

The Alberta Federation of Labour advocates that:

  • Alberta remains the only jurisdiction in Canada without a voice for women in government. Alberta should establish a free-standing Status of Women ministry.
  • Alberta has among the lowest number of child care spots and the highest child care fees in Canada. Public early childhood education and child care must be a priority if Alberta is to achieve better wage equality and educational outcomes for children

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell) or via e-mail orokne@afl.org

 

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2015 Public-sector unions roll out provincial campaign to oppose cuts at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

Better Way Alberta press conference scheduled for 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

 

Edmonton – Because the government has scheduled a press conference at 1 p.m., and many reporters cannot make it to our press conference, we will host a second press conference at 2 p.m.

 

What:              Better Way Alberta press conference and launch

When:              1 p.m. and 2 p.m. March 5

Where:             United Nurses of Alberta offices, 6th Floor, 11150 Jasper Ave. Edmonton

Who:                Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan
United Nurses of Alberta president Heather Smith
Health Sciences Association of Alberta president Elisabeth Ballermann
Canadian Union of Public Employees (Alberta Division) president Marle Roberts

 

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell) or via e-mail orokne@afl.org

 

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2015 Prentice blames Albertans. Unions launch campaign aimed at unmasking the real culprits: the Tories themselves

Better Way Alberta campaign offers Albertans solutions to government’s budget woes

Edmonton – A coalition of major public-sector unions is launching a $500,000 province-wide campaign aimed at saving public services from deep cuts, and encouraging the provincial government to address its budget woes by fixing the province’s broken revenue system.

 The Better Way Alberta campaign, which presents evidence that the government’s budget woes are caused by systemic problems in taxes and royalties, will be launched at an event today at the United Nurses of Alberta offices (Sixth Floor, 11150 Jasper Avenue), featuring the presidents of the Alberta Federation of Labour, United Nurses of Alberta, the Health Sciences Association of Alberta and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Alberta Division).

“Premier Jim Prentice has said that Alberta’s budget is sinking, but if that’s true, it’s because his party has spent decades blowing holes in the revenue system that’s supposed to pay for the services on which Albertans rely,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “Instead of dealing with the problem, the premier has proposed a reckless nine-per-cent budget cut across the board. That will cause pain to everyday Albertans, put people out of work, and possibly deepen the economic turmoil the province is facing. There is a Better Way.”

What:                   Better Way Alberta press conference and launch

When:                  1 p.m. March 5 (TODAY)

Where:                United Nurses of Alberta offices, 6th Floor, 11150 Jasper Ave. Edmonton

Who:                     Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan

                                United Nurses of Alberta president Heather Smith

                                Health Sciences Association of Alberta president Elisabeth Ballermann

                                Canadian Union of Public Employees (Alberta Division) president Marle Roberts

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell) or via e-mail orokne@afl.org

 

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2015 Prentice blames Albertans. Unions respond with campaign unmasking the true culprit: the PC government itself

Instead of cutting services, we need to end sweetheart deals for corporations and the wealthy, says Better Way Alberta campaign

 

Edmonton – In response to comments from Premier Jim Prentice blaming Albertans for the province’s budget woes, a coalition of major unions is launching a $500,000 province-wide campaign aimed at saving public services from deep cuts by urging the provincial government to fix its broken revenue system.

 

“Who created the current budget mess? It’s time for Premier Prentice and the Tories to look in the mirror,” says Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan.

 

“We’re not facing a budget crunch because of anything individual Albertans did. The real problem is that successive PC governments have blown holes in the revenue base we need to fund education, health care and other services that Albertans rely on.

 

“The premier wants to impose a reckless nine-per-cent budget cut. Cuts of that magnitude will devastate public services that are already stretched to the breaking point…and they won’t address the root causes.  The real solution is to reverse years and years of irresponsible tax and royalty giveaways to profitable corporations and the wealthy.”

 

The Better Way Alberta campaign’s home is www.betterwayalberta.ca. On the site, Albertans can explore the various ways in which the provincial government has destroyed the revenue system, and given away billions of dollars to big corporations and to very wealthy individuals.

 

“The premier is trying to blame the looming deficit on nurses, teachers, janitors, secretaries—the people who work hard every day for the citizens of the province—when the problem was really caused by irresponsible tax and royalty giveaways.” McGowan said. “He’s trying to spin a tale that the province isn’t frugal enough, when the truth is that Alberta is in the middle of the pack when it comes to how much it spends on public services. We spend a little more per person than Nova Scotia, and a little less than New Brunswick.”

 

The province-wide campaign will consist of a central website and petition; a radio and online advertising campaign; a direct-mail campaign to every household in Alberta; and a door-to-door campaign in which canvassers will have face-to-face conversations with Albertans about the Better Way Alberta campaign. The coalition is also considering townhall meetings and rallies.

 

“Poll after poll shows that Albertans understand there is a better way to approach revenues,” McGowan said. “They’re willing to look at how this province pays for services. But successive premiers have done nothing but cut. To his credit, Premier Prentice has said he’s willing to talk about revenues and ‘put everything on the table.’ But if he’s serious about that, why has he ruled out increasing royalties and taxes on corporations and the wealthy? It sounds like the more of the same from an un-reformed Tory: perks for their friends and pain for everyone else.”

 

According to the government’s own numbers, Alberta could increase the amount it gets from taxes by $11.6 billion a year and still have the lowest taxes in Canada. Most of that $11.6 billion that is going uncollected by Alberta’s inequitable tax code is being left in the pockets of the province’s richest individuals and most profitable corporations.

 

“If we’re all in this together, as Premier Prentice says, why should corporations and the wealthy get a free pass?” McGowan said. “And why should ordinary Albertans pay for the mistakes of politicians again?”

 

If the Prentice government imposes a nine per cent cut, Alberta will end up spending less on public services than much poorer provinces, even as its population continues to boom. Albertans will have to deal with larger class sizes, more over-crowded hospitals and even longer waits for new infrastructure.  Economists also agree that government cuts will likely tip the whole economy into recession.

 

“Oil prices go up and down. Albertans know that, and their government should know that by now,” McGowan said. “But every time there’s a slight downturn, government takes aim at public servants, rather than planning for the long term, budgeting better, and fixing the holes in the province’s revenue system.”

 

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell) or via e-mail orokne@afl.org

 

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Temporary Administrative Position

Alberta Federation of Labour

Temporary Office Administrator

Convention Support

The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) is looking for a well-organized and highly motivated person to join our administrative team in Edmonton as a temporary, full-time Office Administrator for a minimum of 4 weeks commencing mid-March, 2015.

The AFL is Alberta’s largest union advocacy organization, representing about 165,000 workers from 29 unions in both the public and private sectors.

We are hiring a temporary staff person to assist with the increased workload associated with our upcoming Convention. The successful candidate will work closely with the President, the Secretary-Treasurer and members of the AFL staff.

Specific duties would include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Answering phones and managing the reception desk
  • Typing and formatting documents
  • Helping to organize meetings, workshops and convention
  • Providing clerical support at convention
  • Maintaining the filing system and all contact lists
  • Providing clerical and administrative support to the AFL Officers, Executive Staff, Executive Council and Committees

Applicants should have a high degree of competence in office practices and be proficient in Microsoft office.

We are looking for candidates that have the ability to work in a fast paced and ever changing environment. The best applicants will be well organized and adaptable and have convention or related experience.  Applicants must have excellent communication skills and an overall positive outlook.  A successful candidate will not only be a team player but will also have the ability to work well alone, without direct supervision. Familiarity with the goals and objectives of the labour movement would also be considered an asset.

Normal office hours are 8:30am to 4:30pm, with a short day on Friday. There will be expected overtime. The candidate will be required to work in Calgary for the week of our convention. Accommodation and out of town expenses are covered by the employer as per the Collective Agreement.

Wages and working conditions are in accordance with the collective agreement between the Canadian Office and Professional Employees union (COPE 458) and the AFL.

This posting will remain open until an appropriate person is found. Resumes with cover letter should be e-mailed to Siobhan Vipond, Secretary Treasurer at svipond@afl.org. Only candidates being considered for an interview will be contacted.

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Prentice's "Labour strategy": nothing but an attack on workers

Instead of blaming public-sector wages, should look in the mirror

 

Edmonton –Premier Jim Prentice needs to stop taking unprovoked potshots at Alberta’s public workers.

At a speech to the Edmonton Rotary Club on Monday, March 2, the Premier said his new “labour strategy” will look to other provinces like British Columbia for direction on top-down negotiation mandates. The announcement came in his address that unfairly blamed Alberta’s budget woes on public-sector workers for the government’s unwillingness to fix Alberta’s finances.

“To demonize public-sector workers is inappropriate, it’s unfair, and it doesn’t actually address the situation as it is. This problem is a revenue problem,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said outside the premier’s press conference. “The solution is not to set unfair, command and control restrictions on negotiations before coming to the table. The solution is not to demonize public-sector workers who provide important services. The real solution is to fix the holes that the government created in our revenue system.”  

The premier unveiled plans to enact changes to the government’s approach to bargaining with public-sector unions. Prentice suggested that they will adopt a ‘co-ordinated approach’ to negotiations, which will likely be modeled on the approach taken in British Columbia with top-down “mandates” set by the Public Sector Employers’ Council Secretariat.

“What we’re talking about here is a dramatic centralization of responsibilities for bargaining with public-sector workers — and it’s going to be centralized in the hands of the premier. That’s what they do in B.C.” McGowan said. “Frankly it hasn’t been a very productive model — It’s been in place in B.C. for the past 10 years — and ever since it was introduced, it has led to a poisoning of the labour relations atmosphere.”

Over the past 20 years, successive Conservative premiers have undermined the province’s finances with tax giveaways and corporate handouts. Today, Alberta is the lowest-taxed province in Canada — if our tax rates were equivalent to any other province, the government would collect $11-billion more each year, and have no deficit regardless of the price of oil.

“Even in the good old days — you remember, seven or eight months ago — we had a government that couldn’t balance the budget and struggled to pay for middle-of-the-road services because they had given away revenue that we need to pay for those services,” McGowan said.

The Premier has suggested that there will be up to a nine per cent cut in government spending across the board in the next budget. This will mean billions of dollars less each year for the front-line services on which Albertans rely, without addressing the underlying problem with the province’s budget.

“The flat tax, which was a gift to the wealthy; slashing our corporate taxes from 15 to 10 per cent; introducing the penny on the dollar royalty for oil sands — these are the things that have deprived our government of the revenue they need to pay for public services,” McGowan said. “The solution is simple and clear: Prentice needs to repair the holes previous PC governments blew in Alberta’s revenue regime.”

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell) or via e-mail orokne@afl.org

 

 

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Statement of solidarity to workers of Wisconsin from the Alberta Federation of Labour

Edmonton – Statement from Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan on the State Legislature of Wisconsin fast-tracking right-to-work legislation:

“The Alberta Federation of Labour stands proudly with workers in Wisconsin against Governor Scott Walker’s attack on working families.

“This week the labour movement in Wisconsin is making every effort to stop the Governor’s mean-spirited and unnecessary labour law, which is being fast tracked through their state legislature right now.

“Right-to-work legislation is an effort to lower wages, undercut the rights of workers, and further fracture the power of the labour movement in the state.

“We know that the fight in Wisconsin today may be a fight coming to workers across North America tomorrow. Workers and the labour movement are showing us how important it is to come together to fight a great threat that will fundamentally hurt working people.

“Now more than ever we need to find our collective voice—in Wisconsin, across America, and right here in Alberta. Without ongoing solidarity and mobilization of our collective power, workers will pay the price.

“Today, Wisconsin is a wake-up call, and we at the Alberta Federation of Labour are ready to meet the challenge whenever it may come.”

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell)
or via e-mail
orokne@afl.org

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