AFL Sounds Alarm on Expansion of Child Labour

Jobs Minister floats suggestion to increase scope of jobs that 12-year-olds can be hired into

Edmonton – Alberta's largest worker organization is asking the province to take the expansion of child labour off the table.

Today is the deadline for submissions to the review of the Employment Standards Code launched in March by Jobs Minister Thomas Lukaszuk. The first question that the government asks in its discussion guide for the review has to do with expanding the variety of jobs that 12-14 year olds are permitted to do.

In their written submission to the review, the Alberta Federation of Labour expressed strong opposition to any such expansion.

"Albertans don't want 12-year-olds working in restaurant kitchens. They don't want 13-year-olds working as janitors and handling hazardous cleaning materials," Alberta Federation of Labour president McGowan said. "The fact that this is the first item on Mr. Lukaszuk's Employment Standards agenda shows that he did not hear Albertans the last time his PC government expanded child labour. Albertans rejected it then, and they reject it now."

McGowan added that this "is a very odd way for Lukaszuk to launch a bid for the PC leadership."

"Instead of distancing himself from the bad policy that has characterized the government over the past few years, the Minister seems to be determined to make even more bad policy before he resigns to pursue his leadership aspirations. I guess we'll have to start referring to him as the 'child labour' candidate."

The AFL recommendations on Employment Standards are contained in a detailed analysis of provincial work standards. The Executive Summary is here and the full report is here. The recommendations fall in eight categories:

1) End special permits issued by the Director of Employment Standards. There should be one set of rules for every employer, not exceptions for friends and insiders.

2) End the discrimination against workers with disabilities, farm workers, and domestic workers, and include them in basic Employment Standards protections.

3) Get tough on employers who abuse Temporary Foreign Workers, and make sure employers aren't using the TFW Program to drive down wages and working conditions and displace Albertans from jobs

4) Enforce the rules and get tough on employers that try to cheat the system. Recommendations here are tougher fines, more prosecutions, and on-the-spot administrative penalties (ticketing) for employers who break the rules.

5) Fairness for people who work in the restaurant, retail, and hospitality industries by ending illegal deductions, having a clear law on tips, and ending the two-tier minimum wage.

6) Ending the confusion around stat pay and overtime – clean up the language in the legislation and make our laws consistent with the rest of the country.

7) End – don't expand – child labour in Alberta.

8) Recognize we are all juggling work and family by bringing our parental and maternity leave standards up to the standards in the rest of Canada and expanding the number of leaves employees can take without losing job protection.



Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
or via e-mail

Executive Summary:

AFL Submission:

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TFW program fines are a smokescreen

Harper Government doesn’t use existing measures to combat abuse

Edmonton – The legislation to impose large fines on employers who abuse the Temporary Foreign Worker program is a smokescreen to distract voters who are uneasy with the program.

The as-yet undefined ‘large fines’ were announced on Friday, but the Alberta Federation of Labour notes that there are existing punishments for abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker program – punishments that are never meted out.

“This is just like the ‘Employer Blacklist’ that Jason Kenney trumpeted about. How many employers have been put on that blacklist? None.” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “Are any of the 200 employers who stole from the TFWs they hired on the blacklist? Nope. Is Pacer-Promec Joint Venture on the list for firing Canadians to make room for TFWs? Nope. Should Canadians have any confidence that these ‘large fines’ will ever be imposed on companies that break the law? Definitely not.”

The new measures are expected to be in budget legislation tabled late on Friday afternoon, and will be implemented sometime in 2015. There isn’t sufficient staff, however, to monitor or police the program.

“The only way that abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker program ever comes to light is through individual workers coming forward and going to the media, or through the research of journalists, activists and non-governmental organizations,” McGowan said. “And it seems the only punishment for abusing the system is doled out by news organizations acting in the best interest of Canadians.”

In the wake of a series of scandals that have seen Canadians losing their jobs to exploited and underpaid workers from overseas, the Federal government has made it more difficult for journalists and researchers to access information on the Temporary Foreign Worker program. If the Harper Government was serious about curbing abuses of the program, they would start by publishing a ‘Sunshine List,’ letting Canadians know which employers are using the program.

“Openness and transparency are what’s needed, but that’s not what Canadians are getting,” McGowan said. “They’re promising big stiff penalties that they assure us will be doled out to all the bad guys abusing the program. But at the same time, they’re putting the program behind a curtain of obfuscation. This announcement of stiff penalties is just part of the smokescreen.”



Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-218-9888 (cell)

Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
or via e-mail

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PBO debunks worker shortage myth

Exposes bogus rationale for TFW program

Edmonton – There is no significant shortage of workers or skills in Canada, according to a new report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO).

In a report released on Tuesday, March 25, the independent officer of parliament showed that employment rates and job vacancy rates were still lower than they had been before the recession of 2008-09. “There is little evidence to suggest a national labour shortage exists in Canada,” the report concludes.

“Lies and exaggerations about the existence of a labour shortage have been used to justify the massive expansion of the Temporary Foreign Worker program (TFWP),” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “Public policy should be based on facts. If you ignore the facts, you get bad policy that hurts the public interest. That’s what we have with the Harper Government’s Temporary Foreign Worker program.”

The PBO’s report is just the latest report to debunk the notion of a shortage of workers or skills in Canada. Over the past year, former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, the Institute for Research on Public Policy, the University of Calgary School of Public Policy, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, the University of Alberta Economics Department and Fraser Institute Fellow Herb Emery have all released reports that debunk the labour shortage myth.

“Every year, Canadian employers bring in hundreds of thousands of Temporary Foreign Workers to fill a nonexistent labour shortage,” McGowan said. “And when these marginalized workers get here, they’re paid less than they should be, their rights are ignored, they have little hope of attaining citizenship – and Canadians are put out of work.” 

The current Public Budget Officer, Jean-Denis Fréchette, was appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in September 2013 to replace Kevin Paige. The mandate of the PBO is to provide independent analysis to Parliament on the state of the nation’s finances, the government’s estimates and trends in the Canadian economy.

“This is the PM’s own guy offering a report that repudiates the justification for this government’s policies,” McGowan said. “Academics, right-wing analysts, progressive economists, government bureaucrats, statisticians – the entire fact-based community agrees that the justification for the Temporary Foreign Worker program is bunk. Even the PM himself has expressed concerns about the program. So why does it still exist?”



Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
or via e-mail

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Stand Up for Your Pension Rallies Speech by Gil McGowan, AFL President March 20th – Day of Action

Speech by Gil McGowan, AFL President
March 20th – Day of Action

There are hundreds of people here today – but you’re not alone.

As we speak, thousands of public-sector workers are filling the streets outside hospitals, schools and municipal buildings across the province.

Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Fort McMurray, Medicine Hat, Peace River, Camrose, Hinton … the list goes on.

Public-sector workers are engaging in these protests because they’re sick and tired.

They’re sick and tired of unjustified attacks on the pensions they’ve paid for.

They’re sick and tired of a government that seems determined to bully, not negotiate.

They’re sick and tired of enduring cuts and wage freezes even as our economy booms.

And they’re sick and tired of a Premier who claimed to be our friend, but stabbed us in the back.

Let’s spend a moment talking about our departed Premier.

Some of us had been framing these rallies as Redford retirement rallies because we felt she should be thinking about her own retirement plans instead of attacking the retirement plans of public-sector workers.

Obviously, she beat us to the punch. However, I want to make one thing very clear: Premier Redford may be gone, but the problem still remains.

The provincial government still has a plan to gut your pensions.

And this is still the same government that has been trampling on the collective bargaining rights of public-sector workers and that has threatened to punish and muzzle workers with laws that restrict your constitutional right to free speech.

Perhaps most importantly, Premier Redford may be gone, but, as a result of her bullying, my-way-or-the-highway approach to government, she’s left a trail of broken political relationships and alienated Albertans.

The PC’s have alienated their own supporters; they’ve alienated voters and, of course, they’ve alienated public-sector workers.

If the Progressive Conservatives (PC’s) ever hope to re-build their brand and continue their political dynasty, they’re going to have to rebuild those relationships.

My hope is that the new premier will do what Alison Redford refused to do…and that is to treat public-sector workers with respect … and to negotiate rather than dictate.

That’s why, this morning, I wrote a letter to interim Premier Dave Hancock. I asked him to turn a new page. I asked him to join us in building a new relationship. I asked him to negotiate on wages, pensions and funding for services, instead of making unilateral decisions.

Finally, I reminded him that he and his government don’t have a mandate to gut pensions. Alison Redford never had that mandate and Dave Hancock certainly doesn’t.

That’s where all of you come in. We need to keep the pressure up.

All of us need to get on the phone. We need to write letters, send letters and make visits to MLA offices.

We need to make sure our MLAs understand that Redford’s retirement is not really the issue. The issue is retirement security. The issue is fairness. The issue is respect.

They have to understand that public-sector workers in this province simply won’t stand for unjustified attacks on the pensions they’ve paid for or wages they’ve earned no matter who’s in the Premier’s chair.

So let’s keep up the pressure. We’ve got their attention – now let’s make it clear to all the parties and all the politicians that in a province as wealthy as Alberta, there is simply no justification for us to engage in a race to the bottom!

Gil McGowan
Alberta Federation of Labour

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Frontline public employees rally today against imposed cuts to modest pensions

Frontline public employees are rallying today at multiple locations throughout Alberta to defend their modest pensions against imposed cuts to their retirement savings unilaterally introduced by the Redford Government.

“Nobody voted on these cuts,” Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan said on behalf of the Labour Coalition on Pensions. “By breaking the promise it made to frontline public employees, the Redford Government is sending the message that no one can trust the agreements it makes.”

Before imposing big changes, McGowan said, the Redford government should engage in negotiations with frontline public employees so solutions everyone can live with can be agreed upon.

The average public-sector pension in Alberta is only about $14,000 per year, and it’s troubling that the government is increasing pensions for senior managers and other insiders at the same time as it cuts the pensions of frontline workers.

McGowan said imposed pension cuts will make it more difficult for hospitals, schools, universities and other public-sector employers to find and keep skilled and dedicated frontline employees – something sure to have an impact on the quality of public services in Alberta.

“The Redford Government’s most recent public announcements make it sound like they’re backing down, but they’re continuing to break their promise to these frontline workers by imposing pension cuts rather than negotiating them,” McGowan said.

As a result, affected workers are rallying over lunchtime throughout the province today at multiple worksites in Edmonton, St. Albert, Calgary, Hinton, Red Deer, Fort McMurray, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Grande Prairie, Peace River and Camrose.

Informal smaller-scale activities are expected near many other public-sector worksites throughout the province.

Senior elected officers of the major Alberta public-sector unions will be available at all sites for interviews with media.

Marle Roberts, President of Canadian Union of Public Employees Alberta Division, will attend the rally at the Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton

Elisabeth Ballermann, President of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, will attend the rally at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton

Heather Smith, President of the United Nurses of Alberta, will attend the rally at Red Deer Regional Hospital

Guy Smith, President of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, will attend a rally at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary

Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour will attend a rally at University Hospital in Edmonton



Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail

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Dec 31, 2013 Projection of Financial Positions, LAPP, PSPP_updated 2014Feb27

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Redford government fudging pension numbers

New analysis reveals truth about Alberta’s shrinking pension liability

EDMONTON – The unfunded liability of Alberta’s public-sector pension plans is already a billion dollars smaller than Finance Minister Doug Horner claims.

For the past six months, the Redford government has defended its plan to cut benefits for public-sector workers by pointing to the $7.4 billion unfunded liability attached to Alberta’s four provincial pension plans.

Finance Minister Doug Horner has repeated the figure at every opportunity. He has said that if nothing is done, the liability will only grow – and that, even if his cuts are implemented – it will take 30 years for the unfunded liability to disappear.

But what if Horner got his numbers wrong? What if the unfunded liability is not as big as the minister says it is and that it’s shrinking, rather than growing?

As it turns out, that’s exactly what’s happening.

Today, the unions involved in the Labour Coalition on Pensions, representing most of the 300,000 people covered by Alberta’s public sector plan, released a new report showing what the unfunded liability looks like today, as opposed to the two-year-old figures used by the Finance Minister.

The report, prepared by the independent actuarial firm George & Bell, shows that after factoring in the last two years of investment returns, the unfunded liability has dropped by about a billion dollars.

This supports the actuary’s earlier conclusion that the plans are on their way to eliminating their unfunded liabilities in seven years – even without any cuts to the benefit that workers paid for themselves.

Here’s what some of the presidents involved in the Labour Coalition on Pensions had to say about the new report from George & Bell:

What the report shows is that the Redford government’s plan for pension cuts is built on a foundation of misinformation. They’re using phony numbers to justify a plan that is really unjustifiable.”
Gil McGowan, Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL)

 “Yesterday, they played games with budget numbers. Today, it’s clear they’ve been playing games with pension numbers. How can Albertans trust anything this government says?”
Heather Smith, United Nurses of Alberta (UNA)

 “It’s important for people to understand that the $7.4 billion unfunded liability was a reflection of the health our pension plans in the immediate aftermath of the global recession. The new actuarial report shows that the situation is rapidly improving with the strategies the LAPP board of trustees has put in place.”
Elisabeth Ballermann, Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA)

 “The minister has to stop using the $7.4 billion figure. It’s a misleading snapshot that’s two years out of date.”
Marle Roberts, Canadian Union of Public Employees (Alberta)

“The Minister and the Premier are using numbers they know are wrong to justify their plan to break promises made to nearly 300,000 Alberta workers and retirees. This isn’t just bad accounting, it’s deceitful politics.”
Guy Smith, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE)

December 31, 2013 Projection of Financial Positions: Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP) and Public Service Pension Plan (PSPP)



Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail

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MEDIA ADVISORY: Government fudging numbers on pension liability

Analysis shows unfunded liability getting smaller by about $1 billion

EDMONTON – Alberta’s public-sector pension plans are getting healthier, despite what Finance Minister Doug Horner claims.

Analysis by independent actuarial firm George & Bell shows the unfunded liability of Alberta’s two main public-sector pension plans has shrunk, meaning the plans are growing stronger without government meddling.

Leaders of Alberta's Public-Sector Unions will be available for comment today at 1:15 p.m. at the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) offices (#700-11150 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton).


Leaders of Alberta’s Public-Sector Unions will be available for comment today at 1:15 p.m. at the United Nurses of Alberta offices (700-11150 Jasper Avenue. Edmonton).


1:15 p.m., Friday, March 7, 2014


UNA Offices (#700 – 11150 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton)


Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) President Gil McGowan
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) President Guy Smith
United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) President Heather Smith
Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) President Elisabeth Ballermann



Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail

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Alberta budget based on lies

Government puts itself on “collision course” with workers

Edmonton – Today’s provincial budget is a flawed document designed around false economies and myths about public-sector workers.

During his budget speech, the Finance Minister Doug Horner argued that public-sector wages should be “competitive” with those in the private sector – completely ignoring the fact that Statistics Canada data shows that public-sector wages are statistically indistinguishable.

“As a result of this approach to budgeting, the government is putting itself on a collision course with workers,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “Public-sector workers earn on average the same as their counterparts in the private sector. But this government has workers in the crosshairs – whether it’s attacking their pensions or their wages.”

The minister took aim at pension plans during his speech, insinuating that the plans needed drastic changes to keep them as defined-benefit plans – completely ignoring the fact that independent actuaries have confirmed that the unfunded liabilities of the two largest pension plans, the Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP) and the Public Service Pension Plan (PSPP), are shrinking, and will be paid off by 2025.

“This is a budget based on two big lies, and they’re big lies that are disrespectful to workers in health care, in education, in law enforcement and in every part of the public service,” McGowan said. “The facts are that public-sector worker compensation is on par with the private sector, and their pensions are modest, sustainable and stable.”

The budget, which includes plenty of spending on capital projects, does not have much allocated to maintaining the services that Albertans value. The Minister proudly trumpets how they’re ‘holding the line,’ on public-sector wages, ignoring how much those wages have been falling behind inflation. By comparison, wages in the private sector are going up on average three to five per cent each year.

“I’m concerned because this is a burning-bridges budget. It’s a budget that sets the stage for tension with labour, it sets the stage for employees looking for jobs elsewhere, and it sets the stage for costly court battles,” McGowan said.

“I might say that it sets the stage for labour strife, but they’ve made it illegal for me to suggest such a thing.”



Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
or via e-mail

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2014 Labour Coalition on Pensions - Open Ltr to LAPP Members - Mar 6

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