MEDIA ADVISORY: Province should follow Ontario’s lead by addressing role of workplace in domestic violence

EDMONTON – Saturday, Dec. 6, marks 25 years since the murder of 14 women at the École Polytechnique in Montreal.

At a brunch in commemoration of the event, Alberta Federation of Labour secretary treasurer Siobhán Vipond will call on the government to take action, and to ensure workplaces become part of the solution to domestic violence.

“On December 6th, we must remember that violence against women affects us all, and in every aspect of our lives – including our workplaces,” Vipond said. “Domestic violence affects the immediate victims, as well as their children, their extended families, their friends, their co-workers.”

The Alberta Federation of Labour’s governing body has passed motions calling on the Government of Alberta to follow the Government of Ontario’s lead and to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Code to include policies targeted at helping victims of domestic violence for whom the abuse follows them to work.

Who:
Siobhan Vipond, Secretary Treasurer, Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL)

When:
10:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m., Saturday, December 6, 2014

Where:
University of Alberta Faculty Club – Saskatchewan Room (11435 Saskatchewan Drive)

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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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Alberta’s workplaces must tackle violence against women

Province should follow Ontario’s lead by addressing role of workplace in domestic violence

Edmonton – Saturday, Dec. 6, marks 25 years since the murder of 14 women at the École Polytechnique in Montreal.

At a brunch in commemoration of the event, Alberta Federation of Labour secretary treasurer Siobhán Vipond called on the government to take action, and to ensure workplaces become part of the solution to domestic violence.

“On December 6th, we must remember that violence against women affects us all, and in every aspect of our lives – including our workplaces,” Vipond said. “Domestic violence affects the immediate victims, as well as their children, their extended families, their friends, their co-workers.”

The Alberta Federation of Labour’s governing body has passed motions calling on the Government of Alberta to follow the Government of Ontario’s lead and to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Code to include policies targeted at helping victims of domestic violence for whom the abuse follows them to work. Earlier this year, the Ontario Legislature passed Bill 168, which placed a greater responsibility on employers to make sure employers are safe not just from occupational accidents, but threats from other people — whether co-workers, customers or other outside individuals.

“Domestic violence isn’t contained to the home – it follows victims to their workplaces.” Vipond said. “A recent study by the Canadian Labour Congress says that the cost to employers is about $77 million. But the cost to individuals and to families is much, much greater, and cannot be quantified.”

The study “Domestic Violence At Work” found that more than a third of women in Canada have experienced domestic violence – the majority of whom report the abuse continuing during their working days. Almost 40 per cent of those experiencing domestic violence had difficulty getting to work as a result of the abuse. For about nine per cent of victims, the effects of that violence have cost them their job.

“Women who are in abusive situations often face barriers to being taken seriously, and when they do come forward they are all too often targeted for additional harassment,” Vipond said. “These barriers must be challenged, the people who try to silence victims must be called out, and our workplaces must be made safer places for victims of domestic violence.”

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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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Western labour leaders promise “unprecedented battle” if BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan water down workplace safety rules

Edmonton –The top labour movement leaders in Canada’s three westernmost provinces are putting the governments of BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan on notice: if they are planning to engage in a race-to-the-bottom on workplace health and safety rules, they should be prepared for an unprecedented political battle.

The warning was issued by Gil McGowan and Larry Hubich, presidents of the Federations of Labour in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and Lee Loftus, a ranking officer of the BC Federation of Labour and president of the BC Building Trades Council. The three leaders were in Edmonton today as provincial bureaucrats gather to begin the latest round of negotiations on a so-called New West Partnership.

Previous rounds of negotiation between the three provinces focused on harmonizing rules related to training, certification and apprenticeship. According to government documents, the new round of negotiations will deal with “health and safety regulations that act as impediments to trade.”

“Our message to the premiers of BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan is clear and simple,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “If you’re going to engage in a race-to-the-bottom on workplace health and safety rules, you’re going to have an unprecedented fight on your hands. The labour movement is not going to sit idly by if rules designed to protect the health and safety of millions of workers are being watered down. We simply won’t let it happen.”

“The notion that occupational health and safety rules can be seen as impediments to trade is completely absurd,” Saskatchewan Federation of Labour president Larry Hubich added. “These rules are about keeping workers safe and healthy. If businesses can’t operate profitably in that kind of environment, they shouldn’t be in business.”

“The only kind of harmonization we’ll consider when it comes to work place health and safety standards is harmonization upwards,” concluded Loftus from the BC Federation of Labour.

“Instead of engaging in a race-to-the-bottom, let’s have a race to the top. We simply won’t accept anything less. The health and safety of working people always has to take precedence over the whims of corporations, no matter how influential those corporations may be.”

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.9888 (cell)

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Government should reject desperate bid for cheap labour

CFIB admits TFWP a disaster for Canadian workers

Edmonton – The CFIB’s proposal for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) would allow the foxes to guard the henhouse. On Monday, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) admitted that the TFWP is a mess, and proposed an “Introduction to Canada Visa” which would still leave immigration decisions in the hands of businesses.

“We should see today’s announcement from the CFIB for what it is: a desperate hail-Mary pass from a group of employers who have become addicted to cheap labour. And we should reject it,” AFL president Gil McGowan said.

The plan floated by the business lobby group includes changing the wages that TFWs would have to be paid, from the prevailing wage rate in a sector, to the wage rate in a business. This would mean a business could ignore market forces and pay significantly less than what is reasonable for a specific job.

“Employers can’t legitimately say there’s a labour shortage unless they’ve increased wages to attract Canadians. The evidence clearly shows that in sectors that make most aggressive use of the TFW program that hasn’t been happening,” McGowan said. “So let’s give the new rules introduced over the summer time to work. Now that it’s a little harder for employers, especially in the service sector, to access the TFW program, they’re going to have to start increasing wages. That’s the way labour markets are supposed to work.”

In interviews in support of their proposal, CFIB president Dan Kelly admitted that criticism of the TFWP was legitimate, and that employers have made excessive use of Temporary Foreign Workers to fill permanent jobs.

“It’s nice to see the CFIB finally admitting that the TFW program is a mess,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “It’s also nice to see them admitting that employers have been using the program to fill permanent jobs, not temporary ones. But they continue to ignore the central issue of wage suppression.”

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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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MLAs must stand up for LGBTQ Students

AFL calls on legislature to approve bill to promote Gay-Straight Alliances

Edmonton – The Alberta Federation of Labour is calling on MLAs from across all parties to support Bill 202, a private-members bill that would require school boards to accommodate students seeking to form gay-straight alliances in their schools.

Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman’s bill, the Safe and Inclusive Schools Statutes Amendment Act, which is expected to hit the legislature today, will help build healthier communities for Alberta students and could save lives.

“The Alberta Federation of Labour proudly stands by the LGBTQ community and supports all measures that help to make this province a more inclusive and safe place to be for all Albertans,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “When Bill 202 comes up for debate, I encourage all MLAs to support it to help make our schools safe spaces for all students, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.”

A recent report funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) found that Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) can contribute to the reduction of suicidal thoughts and attempts among both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ students. Suicidal thoughts amongst LGBTQ students were reduced by more than half and non-LGBTQ boys were half as likely to attempt suicide when schools had GSAs.

“Gay-Straight Alliances are proven to deter bullying, promote positive communities for all students—now there’s evidence to suggest they even save young lives,” McGowan said. “There is simply no good reason for our elected representatives to restrict students from organizing themselves into more positive and inclusive communities. Albertans are accepting and supportive of the LGBTQ community. It’s time for provincial representatives to reflect those values.”

The University of British Columbia’s press release on the CIHR-funded report can be downloaded here:
http://news.ubc.ca/2014/01/20/gay-straight-alliances-in-schools-reduce-suicide-risk-for-all-students/

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell)

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November 2014: Parkland Conference: People vs. Profiteers; Energy East wrong type of petroleum infrastructure; Immigration – and TFWP – must remain a federal responsibility; did you k...

Urgent Action

People versus Profiteers: Demanding justice and equity

The Parkland Institute’s Annual Fall Conference will explore why, at a time of remarkable wealth production, the money seems to be skewing in very particular directions and away from many groups (full-time, part-time, casual workers; women and minorities; the abjectly poor and disabled outside altogether of labour markets, etc.) and towards a small minority; and what can and should be done about it.

WHEN: November 21 – 23, 2014

WHERE: University of Alberta
Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science (CCIS)

RSVP: http://cts.vresp.com/c/?ParklandInstitute/9f57d80110/6a8eda1cc4/edff06a72f

News

Energy East the wrong type of petroleum infrastructure

The recent application by TransCanada Pipelines to build a pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to the Maritimes is another example of infrastructure projects that will impoverish Canada.

By allowing oil companies to ship low-value product, it will undermine the economic viability of upgrading here in Canada and potentially put Canadians out of work.

“The Energy East pipeline won’t bring Alberta oil to eastern refineries – instead it will channel that oil right past Canadian refineries on the way to foreign markets,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “The closest that Energy East will get to a Canadian refinery is the Irving Refinery in New Brunswick, but even there, oil transported on the pipeline will not go to the refinery itself; instead it will be delivered to a new oil export terminal.”

Through research and advocacy, the Alberta Federation of Labour is engaged in a campaign to encourage the public, media and government to look more closely at the claims being made by proponents of the pipeline, including the current Premiers of Alberta and New Brunswick.

“Despite all the rhetoric and the spin, it’s clear that Energy East is not a ‘nation building’ project. Instead, it is yet another in a long line of projects aimed to perpetuating the ‘rip-it-and-ship-it’ approach that has characterized Canada’s resource sector for too long,” McGowan said.

Immigration – and TFWP – must remain a federal responsibility

Thousands of companies misusing the Temporary Foreign Worker program, uncovered by the Alberta Federation of Labour, prove that the program should remain a federal responsibility.

Documents obtained under freedom of information requests show that in 2013 there were more than 2,000 businesses nationwide whose workforces were more than 30 per cent TFWs – the majority of which were in Alberta. In the same year, more than 1,000 businesses had workforces that were more than 50 per cent TFWs. Again, the majority of these were in Alberta.

“If people are coming to Canada to work here, they should have the right to stay here. And that means immigration, not a ‘temporary’ status,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “If someone is coming to Canada to work, whatever part of the country they move to first, they should have the right to move to other parts of the country if they so choose. That won’t happen if provincial governments are setting up their own separate ‘temporary’ programs.”

The list also raises serious concerns about the role being played by foreign state-owned corporations in the oil sands. More than half of the workers employed in Alberta by companies like Sinopec (a state-owned oil corporation from China) and Samjin (a subsidiary of Korea’s national oil company) are TFWs.

“The Government of Alberta has – pressured by business groups – floated the idea of taking over management of the TFW program from Ottawa. If that ever took place, it would be a disaster for Canadians and Immigrants alike,” McGowan said.

Did you know ...

  • Over the past 40 years, the average Canadian on minimum wage has only seen their hourly pay increase by one penny.
  • 86 per cent of Canadian families will see no benefit at all from income-splitting.
  • Only 19 per cent of Alberta children 0-5 have access to a regulated child care space.
  • Alberta is 2nd-last among Canadian provinces for number of regulated spaces per child. Only Saskatchewan has fewer regulated spaces per child.

Events

November 14-16: AFL Affiliate Political Campaign School

December 6: Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

December 10: PIA Open House

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Energy East pipeline won’t help address needs in eastern Canada; it’s ALL about export to foreign markets

Proponents of pipeline seem to be deliberately misleading the public and the media

Edmonton – Earlier today, TransCanada Pipelines officially filed an application with the National Energy Board (NEB) to build the much-discussed Energy East pipeline from Alberta to New Brunswick. In response, Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, released the following statement:

“If, as many of its proponents are saying today, the Energy East pipeline would really create a significant number of long-term refining jobs in New Brunswick and reduce the reliance of eastern Canada on foreign oil, we would enthusiastically support the project. But, the truth is, this pipeline will do nothing of the sort. A thorough analysis of the TransCanada application shows that Energy East won’t bring Alberta oil to eastern refineries – instead it will channel that oil right past Canadian refineries on the way to foreign markets.

The closest that Energy East will get to a Canadian refinery is the Irving Refinery in New Brunswick, but even there, oil transported on the pipeline will not go to the refinery itself; instead it will be delivered to a new oil export terminal being built by the Irvings next to the refinery. Even if Irving Oil wanted to take a portion of the oil out of the pipeline before loading it on ships for export, they couldn’t because the New Brunswick refinery is a ‘cracking refinery’, as opposed to a ‘coking refinery.’ That means that it couldn’t use the diluted bitumen coming down the pipeline as feedstock without investing literally billions of dollars in upgrades. To date, no such upgrades have been announced, so it’s clear that the vast majority of bitumen coming down the pipe will be destined for foreign, not domestic markets.

We raise these points in an effort to encourage the public and media to look more closely at the claims being made by proponents of the pipeline, including the Premiers of Alberta and New Brunswick. Despite all the rhetoric and the spin, it’s clear that Energy East is not a ‘nation building’ project. Instead, it is yet another in a long line of projects aimed to perpetuating the ‘rip-it-and-ship-it’ approach that has characterized Canada’s resource sector for too long. To put it another way, Energy East will only solidify our role as “hewers of wood, drawers of water…and diggers of bitumen.” When will our leaders start championing projects that actually keep good refining jobs in Canada, instead of exporting them to countries like the United States and China?”

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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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Oil Refining In Canada Makes Sense

Third-party economist’s report shows value-added enterprises
would be highly profitable in Alberta

Edmonton — A new, comprehensive report on the economics of upgrading and refining in Western Canada shows that an integrated upgrader-and-refinery plant would be highly profitable if it were built in Alberta today.

The report, entitled “Upgrading Our Future: The Economics of In-Province Upgrading,” was released on Monday, Oct. 6, at an event featuring Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan; representatives of two separate companies with proposals to build refineries in Ontario and BC; Ed Osterwald, an internationally recognized energy expert and senior partner with UK-based Competition Economists Group (CEG).

“Today, we’ve proven to Albertans that it makes economic sense to think like owners of the oil sands, and keep good jobs here,” McGowan said. ”Albertans should get the maximum value out of the resources they own. Doing so creates more jobs and wealth. It just makes sense for us as a province, and for us as a country.”

The report updates a 2006 study commissioned for the Government of Alberta’s Hydrocarbon Upgrading Task Force. [2006 HUTF study by David Netzer] By applying today’s costs and prices to the 2006 study, Ed Osterwald, an internationally recognized energy expert and senior partner with UK-based Competition Economists Group (CEG), who wrote the report jointly with fellow CEG partner Salman Nissan.

“There is an emerging consensus on the need to add value to our natural resources before they get shipped overseas,” McGowan said.

Among the participants in the release of the report was former federal international trade minister and former Alberta treasurer Stockwell Day, who has recently joined the advisory board of Pacific Future Energy, a BC-based company proposing a $10 billion oil sands refinery in northern British Columbia. Day will join the proceedings via teleconference.

“We support efforts like Pacific Future Energy, who are clearly looking to expand Canadian manufacturing and the good jobs that go with it,” McGowan said. ”Some might call it strange bedfellows, we call it a coalition of common sense. We’re delighted that there are leaders in the private sector committed to keeping good, long-term, middle-class, family-sustaining jobs in Canada.”

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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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2014 Libraries in the age of technology

In Canada, October is recognized as Library Month. So, perhaps we should ask ourselves; “how relevant
are libraries in today’s quickly evolving digital world?”

Read more here: 2014 Libraries in the age of technology

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Stop Sending Canadian Jobs Down the Pipeline!

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