Activists Leaflet Zellers and the Bay in Campaign Against Sweatshop Abuses

EDMONTON                                   CALGARY
Saturday, October 26th,              Saturday, October 26th, 2002
2002                                                2002
12:00 noon                                    12:00 noon   
The Bay                                          The Bay
Kingsway Garden Mall                  Downtown Stephen Avenue Malll
1st level main entrance to Bay    8 Avenue & 1 Street, SW
south side by transit centre


The Human Rights and International Solidarity Committee of the Alberta Federation of Labour will be leafleting "The Bay" and Zellers stores in Edmonton and Calgary this Saturday, starting at 12:00 noon.  The protestors will be trying to persuade the Hudson's Bay Company to work with unions and suppliers to eliminate sweatshop working conditions.

Currently the Hudson's Bay Company has contracts with three factories in the southern African country of Lesotho which produces clothing under the Zellers brand name. However, HBC has indicated that it was cutting and running from at least one of the factories rather than working with the factory management and the Lesotho garment workers' union to help eliminate sweatshop abuses.  This is the same factory that recently signed an agreement with the union to make improvements in working conditions.

"We need to send a message to the Hudson's Bay Company to be responsible corporate citizens and stay in Lesotho and be part of the solution to end sweatshop abuses," says HR&IS Committee Chairperson, Ramon Antipan.


For More Information:

Ramon Antipan, Chair, AFL's Human Rights 
& International Solidarity Committee @    780-423-9000 (wk)  780-475-6856(hm)

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Unions, NGOs and Environmental Activists to meet regarding Kyoto Protocol

WHEN: Thursday, October 17, 2002 at 1:30 p.m.

WHERE: The Inn of 7th, Courtyard Room
10001 - 107 Street Edmonton


The Alberta Federation of Labour, Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Unions, Canadian Labour Congress, as well as a number of NGOs and environmental groups will be meeting this morning to discuss the Kyoto Protocol.

Representatives from these groups will be available at 1:30 p.m. to encapsulate discussions from the morning session and respond to questions from the media.


For More Information:

Les Steel, AFL President @ 780-499-4135 (cell) or 780-483-3021 (work)

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Shaw strike is costing Edmonton millions in lost convention business

EDMONTON - The labour dispute at the Shaw Conference Centre has already resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in convention business - and if it drags on that figure could easily run into the millions.

That's the message delivered by major unions at a news conference in Edmonton this morning.

"The people who run the Conference Centre have been telling City Council that the strike has had no economic impact," says Les Steel, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

"But nothing could be further from the truth. Unions have been canceling major events at the Conference Centre since the strike began in May. And, the amount of lost business is substantial."

At the news conference, it was revealed that several major unions - including the Alberta Teachers Association, the United Nurses of Alberta, the Carpenters Union and the Communications, Energy & Paperworkers Union - have already decided to divert more than $800,000 of business away from the Shaw.

The amount of potential revenue lost to other businesses in the downtown area was estimated at more than $10 million.

"Huge amounts of business are being lost - not only to the Convention Centre, but also to businesses in the downtown area," says Steel. "What we're trying to demonstrate is that there will be a big price to pay if this strike is allowed to drag on."

Steel says the labour movement would be happy to lift its boycott on the Shaw Centre - as soon as a fair settlement is reached with the striking workers.

"Boycotting the Shaw is not something we want to do," he says. "We'd love to do business with the Shaw - but that's not going to happen until they start treating their workers with respect. And it's not going to happen until the workers get the protection they deserve in the form of a fair and reasonable collective agreement."

Steel says the strike could be ended quickly and business returned to normal if EDE and the City would simply agree to submit the dispute to independent, third-party arbitration.

"Today we are announcing the amount of money that the union movement is diverting away from the Shaw, but we could just as easily be talking about the millions of dollars that would go into the conference centre if a fair settlement was in place. It's just a matter of political will."


For more information contact::

Les Steel, AFL President  @ 780-499-4135

Gil McGowan, AFL Communications @ 780-483-3021

**Backgrounder Attached**

BACKGROUNDER:

ECONOMIC IMPACT OF
SHAW CONFERENCE CENTRE BOYCOTT

I. ALBERTA TEACHERS' ASSOCIATION (ATA)

The ATA holds three major conventions in Edmonton each year, often at the Shaw Conference Centre. The Greater Edmonton convention attracts 8,500 teachers. The North Central convention draws 5,800 teachers. And the East Central convention is attended by 1,400 teachers.

The ATA says all of these conventions may be moved from the downtown area if the Shaw strike is not resolved fairly.

Taken together, these conventions account for between $350,000 - $400,000 in revenue for the Conference Centre each year. But the implications for businesses in the downtown core are even more significant.

The ATA estimates that the Great Edmonton convention generates about $800,000 in business for downtown hotels, restaurants, shops and other businesses. The North Central convention brings in about $1.74 million and the East Central about $150,000.

ATA Totals

Revenue lost to Conference Centre:     $350,000-400,000
Revenue lost to Downtown Businesses:   $2.7 million
(Hotels, restaurants, transportation etc.)


II. United Nurses of Alberta (UNA)

UNA had signed agreements with the Shaw Conference Centre for their 2003 and 2004 Annual General Meetings. As a result of the strike, UNA has cancelled those bookings.

UNA's AGMs are two-day events that attract 400-500 nurses from around the province. In 1999, UNA spend $16,500 on their AGM at the Shaw. Assuming that prices haven't change significantly, the cancellation of the 2003 and 2004 bookings will cost the Shaw $33,000.

UNA has also decided to hold its one-day 2003 Negotiation Reporting Meeting (450 delegates) elsewhere. That's a loss of another $5,000 - $6,000 to the Shaw.

Assuming that delegates to UNA meetings spend $150 a day (hotel, food, transportation, shopping etc.) the total loss of revenue to the downtown businesses would be more than half a million dollars - just on these three events.

UNA Totals

Revenue lost to Conference Centre:     $38,000+
Revenue lost to Downtown Businesses:   $515,000 (approx.)
(Hotels, restaurants, transportation etc.)


III. UNITED BROTHERHOOD OF CARPENTERS (UBCJA)

The Edmonton local of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters will soon be holding a large function to celebrate its 100th anniversary. This gala, which is expected to attract more than 1,000 people, was originally scheduled to be held at the Shaw Conference Centre. But as a result of the strike, the location has been changed.

The Carpenters say they would have spent $150,000 at the Convention Centre. That money is now being spent at the University of Alberta's Butterdome.

The Carpenters also say the Convention Centre has now been taken out of the running for any of the union's upcoming international conventions. These five-day events typically attract 3,500 delegates from across Canada and the United States.

Assuming that delegates spend $150 a day on hotels, food, transportation etc., the amount of revenue lost to downtown businesses is about $2.6 million. Losses to the Convention Centre itself would probably been in excess of $200,000.

Carpenter Totals

Revenue lost to Conference Centre:     $350,000+
Revenue lost to Downtown Businesses:   $2.6 million (approx.)
(Hotels, restaurants, transportation etc.)


IV. COMMUNICATIONS, ENERGY & PAPERWORKERS UNION (CEP)

Edmonton was being considered for CEP's national convention in the Fall of 2004. However, as a result of the strike, the convention will be held elsewhere. CEP national conventions attract 1,400 delegates, 1,000 spouses, guests and observers over a six-day period. CEP estimates they would have paid at least $100,000 to the Shaw Conference Centre itself. Loss in economic spin-off to the Edmonton economy is estimated at more than four million dollars.

CEP also decided to hold its Western Regional Conference for the of Fall 2003 in another city. This conference attracts 500 delegates, 300 spouses and children and 100 staff, guests and observers.

CEP estimates that its decision to move this conference from Edmonton represents a loss of about $30,000 in direct lost revenue to the Conference Centre - and about $1,000,000 in economic spin-off for Edmonton businesses.

CEP Totals

Revenue lost to Conference Centre:     $130,000+
Revenue lost to Edmonton Businesses:   $5.0 million (approx.)
(Hotels, restaurants, transportation etc.)

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Chilean activist asks Canadians to remember the "other September 11"

EDMONTON - As people around the world look back on last year's terrorist attacks in the United States, a Chilean activist is urging Canadians not to forget the horror of the "other September 11."

Viviana Diaz, President of the Association of the Relatives of the Disappeared in Chile, is on a cross-Canada speaking tour aimed at reminding people of the military coup that took place in her country on September 11, 1973.

During that coup, terrorists bombed the Chilean Parliament buildings, assassinated the elected president, Salvador Allende, and toppled Allende's popular government. Thousands of people were killed on that day and in the 17 years of military dictatorship that followed. Thousands of others "disappeared" and remain unaccounted for today.

WHAT:  News Conference to Discuss the "Other September 11"
WHO:  Association of the Relatives of the Disappeared in Chile
WHEN:  11:30 am, Tuesday, September 24
WHERE: CUPE 474 Boardroom, 10989-124 Street, Edmonton

As part of her visit to Edmonton, Diaz will meet with many of the hundreds of Chileans who settled in Edmonton after fleeing or being exiled from their homeland. She will also hold a news conference on Tuesday, September 24 to review the history of the "other September 11" and give an update on efforts to uncover what really happened to the "disappeared."

"Americans often talk about September 11 as an attack on freedom and democracy," says Ramon Antipan, an activist from Edmonton's Chilean community. "But September 11, 1973 was even more devastating to the people of Chile. It robbed them of their freedom and it destroyed their democratic system - which, at the time, was the oldest and most stable democracy in South America."

In addition to her news conference, Diaz will participate in a special reception and seminar at the Stanley Milner Library Theatre at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 24. Her visit to Edmonton is co-sponsored by the Chilean-Canadian Community of Edmonton, the Stanley Milner Library, the University of Alberta's International Association and the Alberta Federation of Labour.


For more information call:

AFL Communications    @ 780-483-3021

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Labour tackles workplace literacy issue in Alberta

The Alberta Federation of Labour is marking 2002 World Literacy Day (September 8th) by releasing a new video on literacy to labour councils and unions across the province.

"Our new production is designed to bring the many workplace and labour issues around literacy to the attention of union members and union leaders," said AFL Secretary Treasurer Kerry Barrett. "It is intended to encourage our affiliates and regional labour councils to set up literacy programs."

The 15 minute video was created by local videographer Don Bouzek with the assistance of the AFL, its literacy committee, and affiliated unions and members of the AFL. Financial support for the project was provided by the National Literacy Secretariat of Human Resources Development Canada.

"We use the video - which is designed for viewing at local union meetings - to get several important messages out," said Barrett. "First, that literacy is not just about reading and writing - literacy also encompasses number skills and computer skills and basic communications skills that are becoming more and more critical at work, at home and in our communities."

"Then", said Barrett, "we show people some successful literacy programs that they can easily adapt for use in their union local and their workplace."

"I am proud that the labour movement is taking some concrete steps to tackle literacy problems," concluded Barrett, "and I am confident that this project will produce real benefits to working people in Alberta."

Copies of the AFL Literacy Video are available to the media upon request.


For more information, contact:

Kerry Barrett, Secretary Treasurer @ 780-483-3021 (wk) / 780-720-8945 (cell)

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Labour Relations Board Out of Line in AUPE Ruling

The Alberta Labour Relations Board is jeopardizing its fundamental need to be seen to be neutral on labour relations conflicts by its continued insistence upon assessing punitive damages against the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), the Alberta Federation of Labour says today. The Board yesterday rejected AUPE's appeal of the two-month suspension of dues ordered by the Board following a strike in the health care sector in May 2000.

"The Labour Relations Board has crossed a boundary with this ruling," charges Alberta Federation of Labour President Les Steel. "Prior to this, the Board - like other such bodies in Canada - has restricted its rulings to efforts to restore or 'make whole' damages arising from violations of labour law," said Steel. "But now, long after normal relations have resumed between the effected parties, the Board has chosen to issue punitive damages against the union."

"We have never seen punitive damages issued to employers for willful, and permanently damaging actions against workers," said Steel. "For example, there have been no punitive actions taken against the Economic Development Edmonton for its disgraceful conduct during the ongoing Shaw Conference Centre Strike."

"By taking this unusual and ill-considered action against a union while at the same time refusing to take punitive actions against offending employers, the ALRB is showing itself not to be an impartial umpire in labour relations" said Steel.

"This decision undermines the Board's function in labour relations while at the same time sending a very bad message to unions, workers and employers in Alberta," concluded Steel.

 

For more Information, contact:

Les Steel, President @ 780-483-3021 (wk) / 780-499-4135 (cell)

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"Labour" available for Labour Day Message

Alberta Federation of Labour officers, Les Steel, President and Kerry Barrett, Secretary Treasurer are available for annual Labour Day comments this weekend.

Les and Kerry will both be attending the Edmonton & District Labour Council's barbeque for the unemployed and underemployed on Monday, September 2nd, 2002.

Feel free to contact them anytime this weekend for a "labour" perspective this Labour Day.


Please contact:

Les Steel  President  @  499-4135 (cell)

- or -

Kerry Barrett Secretary Treasurer @ 720-8945 (cell)

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BBQ and Rally in support of striking workers at the Shaw Conference Centre

EDMONTON - A barbeque and rally is planned for tomorrow, August 27th, 2002 at 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. respectively at Sir Winston Churchill Square in front of City Hall.

WHEN:  August 27th, 2002
WHAT:  BBQ - 3:00 p.m. RALLY - 5:00 p.m.
WHERE:  EDMONTON CITY HALL -
SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL SQUARE
WHY: To support striking workers at the Shaw Conference Centre

This BBQ and rally has been planned to make Edmonton City Councillors and Edmontonians more aware of the issues in the dispute between striking members of United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401 and the Shaw Conference Centre Board (Edmonton Economic Development).

The workers at the Shaw Conference Centre, members of UFCW 401, have been on strike since May 1st in an attempt to achieve a first collective agreement.

For more information call:

UFCW Local 401 Strike Headquarters  @ 420-0245

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Activists Leaflet Zellers and the Bay in Campaign Against Sweatshop Abuses

EDMONTON                             CALGARY
Sunday, August 25, 2002      Sunday, August 25, 
12:00 noon                              2002     12:00 noon
Zellers and the Bay                 Zellers and the Bay
West Edmonton Mall               Sunridge Mall


The Human Rights and International Solidarity Committee of the Alberta Federation of Labour will be leafleting "The Bay" and Zellers stores in Edmonton and Calgary this Sunday, starting at 12:00 noon.  The protestors will be trying to persuade the Hudson's Bay Company to work with unions and suppliers to eliminate sweatshop working conditions.

Currently the Hudson's Bay Company has contracts with three factories in the southern African country of Lesotho which produces clothing under the Zellers brand name. However, HBC has indicated that it was cutting and running from at least one of the factories rather than working with the factory management and the Lesotho garment workers' union to help eliminate sweatshop abuses.  This is the same factory that recently signed an agreement with the union to make improvements in working conditions.

"We need to send a message to the Hudson's Bay Company to be responsible corporate citizens and stay in Lesotho and be part of the solution to end sweatshop abuses," says HR&IS Committee Chairperson, Ramon Antipan.


For More Information:

Ramon Antipan, Chairperson, AFL's Human Rights  & International Solidarity Committee @ 780-423-9000 (wk)  or   @ 780-475-6856 (hm)

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Dunford Refuses to Meet Striking Workers

Human Resources Minister Clint Dunford is picking sides in the labour dispute at the Shaw Conference Centre by refusing to meet with striking workers to discuss possible ways to end the strike, the Alberta Federation of Labour says today. The union had wanted to meet with the Minister to discuss the possibility of appointing a mediator or disputes resolution panel to end the strike.

"I fail to understand why the Minister is refusing to meet with us," says AFL President Les Steel. "But all appearances point toward the conclusion that the Minister does not want a resolution of this dispute."

The AFL sent a letter to the Minister (attached) requesting a meeting to discuss the possibility of a mediator or a disputes resolution panel to resolve the strike. The Minister's office replied indicating the Minister will not meet with the union or the AFL about the strike until it is ended.

"This is a classic catch-22. The Minister won't talk about a strike until there isn't a strike anymore."

Steel believes that by refusing to meet, the Minister is, in effect, taking sides in the dispute. "The employer has been convicted of bargaining in bad faith. They have shown themselves time and time again to be uninterested in finding a resolution to this dispute."

"But due to Alberta's weak labour laws, there is no penalty that can be imposed on the employer for their bad faith tactics. That leaves the Minister as the only recourse."

Which means, says Steel, that the Minister is passively condoning the illegal actions of the employer. "He is saying to those workers that he sides with the employer."

The Act allows the Minister to unilaterally appoint a panel to examine the outstanding issues and issue a recommendation. He has appointed such panels in the past, including during the ambulance workers strike.

"He seems willing to act when the employer wants a panel, but sits on his hands if the union wants one," Steel observes.

The Shaw Conference workers are on strike to reach a first agreement. They have been on strike for more than three months. Last month, the employer, Economic Development Edmonton, was found guilty by the labour relations board of bargaining in bad faith.


For more Information, contact:

Les Steel, President @ (780) 499-4135 (cell)



Attachment


August 9, 2002


The Honourable Clint Dunford
Minister of Human Resources and Employment
Government of Alberta
Room  324, Legislature Building
Edmonton, AB  T5K 2B6

Dear Mr. Dunford:

I am writing to you regarding the strike at Edmonton's Shaw Conference Centre, which has now dragged on for over three months. I understand that Doug O'Halloran, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401, has written to you requesting that you establish a Disputes Inquiry Board, under the provisions of Section 105 of the Alberta Labour Relations Code. I would like to assure you that the Alberta Federation of Labour supports that request, and urge you to act on it with all dispatch.

The Federation believes that the Employer's conduct in this strike is undermining the collective bargaining process and the intent of the Code. Specifically, the Employer is flagrantly disregarding a decision of the Alberta Labour Relations Board. On July 2nd, 2002 the ALRB rendered a decision finding that Economic Development Edmonton (EDE) had violated Section 60 (1) (b) of the Code, by failing to bargain in good faith. The decision outlined a pattern of misbehaviour by the EDE in unusually explicit language:

The Employer put forward proposals that it knew could never be accepted by the Union, in the context of this case. Some of the obvious areas of concern by the Union were with respect to basic and fundamental provisions such as union recognition and union security, and the Employer's insistence that it should be able to discipline and terminate employees without just cause. We find that the Employer insisted on its positions without a realistic possibility of change which forced the Union into a strike."

In its decision, the ALRB ordered the Employer to "Bargain collectively in good faith and make every reasonable effort to enter into a Collective Agreement." In response, EDE made minor cosmetic adjustments to its proposals and continued to stymie the negotiation process.

To give just one example: As you know, Section 135 of the Code requires that every Collective Agreement contain a method for resolving differences over the interpretation of the Agreement - a grievance procedure. Section 136 provides that if an Agreement does not have such a provision, it shall be deemed to contain a provision laid out in Section 136, which includes an arbitration procedure in the event the parties are unable to resolve an issue. This is, for example, the standard way Unions and Employers resolve grievances around issues of discipline on the rare occasions they are unable to reach a resolution internally.

These provisions of the Code are designed to set a minimum standard for Collective Agreements. But the EDE has proposed contract language that would remove from an arbitrator any discretion over appropriate punishment for employee misconduct, substituting instead automatic termination for any one of a long list of offences, regardless of circumstances. In other words, EDE is trying to "underbargain" the minimum standards of the Code.
In correspondence dated July 23rd (three weeks after the ALRB decision) signed by EDE legal representative Fausto Franceschi and addressed to Mr. O'Halloran, EDE outlines proposals that it knows cannot be accepted by the Union. Appended to two of these proposals is the following remark:

"EDE's proposal also reflects EDE's belief that the union continues to have minimal bargaining unit support. Almost all EDE bargaining unit employees continue to attend work as scheduled despite the union initiating strike action against EDE on May 3, 2002. Moreover, we are aware that a significant number of employees working at the Shaw Conference Centre have expressed the view that they do not consider themselves to be represented by the union, nor do they want any further involvement with the union. This, in part, explains EDE's position regarding union security."

In this statement EDE is announcing that, notwithstanding the results of a certification vote supervised by the Alberta Labour Relations Board, it is not prepared to treat the Union as the legitimate representative of the employees at the Centre!

This is not just a strike that has dragged on too long. By ignoring or circumventing decisions of the ALRB, by continuing to bargain in bad faith, the EDE is undermining the integrity of the Collective Bargaining process in Alberta, as well as the legislation that governs labour relations and the body that applies and enforces that legislation.
That is why the Federation urges you to respond favourably to the request of Mr. O'Halloran and the United Food and Commercial Workers, and exercise your authority under Section 105 of the Code to establish a Disputes Inquiry Board.

 

Yours sincerely,

ALBERTA FEDERATION OF LABOUR



Les Steel
President

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