AFL and Civil Liberties Association launch court challenge to defend freedom of assembly in Calgary city parks

CALGARY - The AFL and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will be in court tomorrow morning in an effort to defend protestors' right to assembly in Calgary city parks.

A brief news conference will be held this afternoon, Monday, June 24, 2002 at 5:00 pm to outline the case and provide reporters with copies of documents being filed with the court.

The news conference will take place at the following location:

Independent Media Press Conference Centre
Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts
Engineered Air Theatre
9th Avenue & MacLeod Trail North

Speakers at the news conference will include: AFL President Les Steel, Calgary activist Sarah Kerr, and lawyer Shirash Chotalia.


For more information call:

Gil McGowan, AFL Communications Director  780-483-3021

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Activist list-serve will keep media informed about protest views and activities during G-8 Summit

CALGARY - In an effort to help independent and mainstream journalists stay connected with activists participating in demonstrations against the G-8, the Alberta Independent Media Centre has established an Internet list-serve.

Once you have added you name to the list-serve, all activist news releases handled by the Independent Media Centre during the Summit will automatically be forwarded to your e-mail address.

To join the list-serve, please visit: http://ender.indymedia.org/mailman/listinfo/g8-press-statements and simply fill out the form under the heading "subscribe to G-8 press statements."

In addition to the list-serve, the Media Centre is also developing a list of activist spokespeople who will be available for comment in Calgary. The spokesperson list - along with a press conference notice board - can be found at the web address listed above.
Finally, while in Calgary, please visit the Independent Media Centre in the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts (across from the Telus Convention Centre on 8th Ave, SW). Volunteers will be on hand to answer any questions journalists may have about activist events and issues. 

The Alberta Independent Media Centre (AIMC) is a non-commercial, democratic collective of Alberta independent media makers and media outlets, and serves as the local organizing unit of the global Indymedia network.

The Alberta Federation of Labour is not a member of AIMC. We are distributing this notice as a courtesy to both the AIMC and the journalists who will benefit from their service.


For more information call:

Gil McGowan, AFL Communications Director - 780-910-1137 (cell)

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Solidarity Village organizers set to release statement this afternoon

CALGARY - The activists who have been attempting to organize a large, outdoor Solidarity Village during the upcoming G-8 Summit will release a statement relating to their efforts this afternoon.

The statement will be read and distributed by Canadian Labour Congress representative Mike Desautels on the steps of City Hall at 4 p.m. today. Mr. Desautels will then be available to answer questions from the media.

For more information call:

Gil McGowan, AFL Communications @ (780) 483-302

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AFL demands quick answer from Calgary on venue for counter-summit activities

CALGARY - The Alberta Federation of Labour has presented the City of Calgary with an ultimatum - either approve the AFL's application for a venue for activities during the upcoming G-8 summit by 2 p.m. tomorrow or face the prospect activists taking their protests to the streets.

In a letter faxed yesterday afternoon to John Chaput, the City's G-8 Project manager, AFL president Les Steel urged the City to help find an outdoor venue large enough to accommodate the thousands of activists expected to converge on Calgary next month.

"If we have not heard from the City by Friday at 2 p.m. with news about an acceptable venue we will abandon all efforts to plan an organized, controlled event," wrote Steel. "This is not our preference, but without cooperation from the City, we will have no choice."

If the AFL and other groups organizing counter-summit activities are unable to plan a large outdoor event, Steel warned Chaput that activists will "literally be forced out into the streets."

"By rejecting our application (for a city-owned venue) the City will inadvertently increase the likelihood of the very kind of confrontations that they're seeking to avoid," wrote Steel.

Steel concluded his letter to Chaput by saying that the interests of the City and groups like the AFL are not really that different.

"We both want to make things run as smoothly as possible during the week of the summit. We both want to ensure the safety and promote the rights of Calgarians and people visiting the city. And we both want to reduce the likelihood of confrontation, violence and property damage. I remain convinced that the best way to achieve all these goals is to grant our request and help us find an outdoor venue for our Solidarity Festival."

(Note: Due to a family emergency, AFL President Les Steel will not be available for comment on the letter - attached - that was sent to the City of Calgary. Alternate spokespeople are list below. All have been closely involved with efforts to organize a Solidarity Village.)

For more information call:

Mike Desautels, Regional Representative, Canadian Labour Congress @ (780) 405-2756

Don MacNeil, Western VP, Communication Energy Paperworkers @ (780) 984-5289

***Note Attachment***

May 29, 2002

 

Sent by Fax:  (403) 537-3068

John Chaput
G8 Project Manager
City of Calgary
Calgary, Alberta

Dear Mr. Chaput:

Re: Rejection of AFL Application for Solidarity Village at Shaw Millennium Park

As you are no doubt aware, the City of Calgary has formally rejected our application to use Shaw Millennium Park as a venue for Solidarity Village activities during the upcoming G-8 Summit. I am writing today to urge you and your colleagues in the City administration to either reconsider this decision or help us find another city-owned site that would meet our needs.

We at the AFL sympathize with the City's concerns about safety. We understand that it's your job to be cautious and make decisions which you perceive to be in the public's best interests. But the AFL and other organizations involved in planning counter-summit events are also concerned about safety. In fact, by holding a large outdoor event at a city-run facility, we were hoping to enhance safety and reduce the likelihood of unwanted confrontations.

The bottom line is that in three short weeks, thousands of people will be converging on Calgary to exercise their democratic rights and voice legitimate concerns about the G-8 and its policies. Refusing our application will not stop these people from coming. However, what it might do is create unwanted problems. Without an organized outdoor event like the one we're proposing, people protesting the G-8 will literally be forced into the streets.

Obviously, it is not your intent to promote confrontations between activists and security forces. But I'm afraid that by denying us the right to gather in a city facility, you may be doing just that. By rejecting our application, the City will inadvertently increase the likelihood of the very kind of confrontations that you're seeking to avoid.

Given the extremely short timeline and the serious implications of not having an outdoor venue, I am asking you to personally intervene with City Council and the City administration. Tell them that what we're proposing is not dangerous -
it will end up looking more like a folk festival than a militant rally. And tell them that the interests of the people of Calgary
would be better served by granting us a venue - rather than by rejecting our application and turning activists out into the streets.

At this point, I am not asking specifically for Shaw Millennium Park. Earlier today, we submitted a request for the Foothills Athletic grounds. But we'd be happy to use any facility that can accommodate the size of crowd that we're expecting.

In conclusion, I'd just like to remind you that our interests and goals in this matter are not really that different. We both want to make things run as smoothly as possible during the week of the summit. We both want to ensure the safety and promote the rights of Calgarians and people visiting the city. And we both want to reduce the likelihood of confrontation, violence and property damage. I remain convinced that the best way to achieve all these goals is to grant our request and help us find an outdoor venue for our Solidarity Festival.

Thank you for considering this urgent request - and I encourage you to take quick action. If we have not heard from the City by Friday at 2 p.m. with news about an acceptable venue we will abandon all efforts to plan an organized, controlled event. This is not our preference, but without cooperation from the City, we will have no choice. And as the saying goes: "the chips will fall as they may." I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

ALBERTA FEDERATION OF LABOUR

Les Steel
President

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Calgary rejects bid for Solidarity Festival at city park

CALGARY - The City of Calgary has formally rejected an application from the Alberta Federation of Labour to use a city park as a venue for activist events during the upcoming G-8 Summit. As a result, with less than a month to go before the beginning of the summit, there is still no outdoor venue for public counter-summit activities.

Later today, the AFL will submit a new application to use other city-owned venues. Federation president Les Steel will also be contacting City officials and urging them to reconsider their opposition to providing space for activist events.

"In three short weeks, thousands of people will be converging on Calgary to exercise their democratic rights and voice their concerns about the G-8 and its agenda for corporate globalization," says Steel. "Refusing our application won't stop these people from coming. But without an organized venue like the one we're proposing, there might be problems. People will be drawn to other kinds of activities."

In a letter faxed to the AFL late yesterday, City of Calgary officials said the Federation's application to use Shaw Millennium Park was being rejected primarily because of "major safety concerns." In addition, they cited concerns about parking and crowd size.

Steel says the AFL and other organizations involved in planning counter-summit activities are also concerned about safety. In fact, he says that's why they're trying to arrange for an outdoor venue large enough to accommodate several thousand people.

"From our perspective there are two main issues here," says Steel. "First, in Canada people have a democratic right to assemble and express their concerns. By denying us a venue, the City of Calgary is basically trampling on that right. Second, there's the whole issue of safety. If we don't have an organized venue for events, people will be forced to take their protests to the streets. So by rejecting our application, the City of Calgary is inadvertently increasing the likelihood of confrontation."

In the application to be filed with the City later today, Steel says the AFL will ask for use of the Foothills Athletic Park or any other city venue large enough to hold the expected crowd. He says the Federation will also be reminding the City about the peaceful nature of what's being planned.

"What's we have in mind is a three-day event with a festival atmosphere," says Steel. "There will be a main stage featuring well-known musicians and entertainers. There will be information booths. And there will be speakers from around the world. It's going to look more like a folk festival than a political rally. There is no reason for the City to worry about what we have planned."


For more information call:

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

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Privatization Hurts The Economy

A new research book from the Alberta Federation of Labour demonstrates that public health care and public education give Alberta and Canada a clear competitive advantage over the United States and other countries who deliver these services privately. The book, released today at a seminar, compares the economic costs and benefits of public services versus delivering those services privately.

"Advocates for privatization try to tell us that the private sector is always more efficient, and that is we want to remain competitive, we have to privatize key programs like health care, education and pensions," says AFL Secretary Treasurer Kerry Barrett. "Well, when you finally put that myth to the test, it comes up short. Public delivery is more efficient and makes us more competitive than the U.S."

"If we privatize health care and education, we harm our economy by making it more expensive for employers to do business and by lowering benefit levels to workers."

The book, titled The Other Competitive Advantage: The Economic Case for Strong Social Programs, compares the economic effects of delivering programs publicly and privately. It examines both sides of the economic picture - the cost to employers and citizens and the benefits provided. It studies five areas of public policy: health care, education, income security, retirement pensions and WCB.

"U.S. employers pay two to three times more in health payroll costs than comparable Canadian employers," says Barrett. "And for that extra money, the workers receive worse health coverage than Canadian workers."

"This is only one example of how our tradition of publicly delivered social programs makes doing business in Canada cheaper and more efficient," adds Barrett.

The book shows that public health care lowers employer costs, even when income taxes are taken into account. Workers pay less out of pocket for health expenses in a public system, and the overall effectiveness of the health system increases when it is operated publicly.

Education has similar effects. Public education operates 16% cheaper than private schools and delivers equal or better quality education.

Other highlights of the book include:

  • Public health care lowers labour costs for building vehicles by $6 an hour;
  • An effective unemployment insurance system shortens and softens recessions, helping to save jobs during economic hard times. In the 1991/92 recession, 30,000 jobs were saved by UI;
  • Public pension plans operate more efficiently, with administration costs at a fraction of private pension schemes;
  • Private WCB premium rates are double public WCB, and benefit levels are 2/3 what is offered to workers in public systems;
  • High tuition limits access to post-secondary education, reducing the economic benefits of an educated workforce.

"We all want a strong economy. To do that we need to be smart, and that means not just blindly following ideological theories," observes Barrett. "We need to deliver services in the way that will be most effective, for employers and for workers."

"Businesspeople in particular should be looking at this book. Privatization will increase the cost of doing business," says Barrett.  "For employers, privatization means at least $6 an hour in extra health costs, a doubling of WCB premiums, a huge increase in pension premiums and a less educated workforce."

The AFL will be distributing the book to Chambers of Commerce and large employers around Alberta. They will also be available to make presentations to business groups.

"The message of this book is simple: if you want good jobs and a competitive economy, things like health care, education and income security need to be delivering publicly," Barrett concludes.


NOTE: Copies of The Other Competitive Advantage: The Economic Case for Strong Social Programs are available from the AFL at (780)483-3021.


For more information contact:

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

Jason Foster, Director of Policy Analysis @ 780-483-3021(wk)

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Abandon public health care and education at our peril new study says

The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) has produced a new research study examining the economics of public education, public health care and other social programs. The book demonstrates that these public programs are a net advantage to Canada's economy, and they give Canada a competitive advantage over the U.S. and other nations with less well developed social programs.

"We abandon public health care and public education at our peril," says AFL President Les Steel. "They give us a clear competitive advantage over our neighbour to the south."

For example, in health care, the book reveals that employer health costs are two to three times higher in the U.S. than Canada, even when including taxation levels. "Public health care lowers the cost of doing business, and that works to Canada's advantage," says Steel.

The results of the study will be presented at a seminar being hosted by the AFL for interested members of the public. The author of the study will provide a presentation of the study findings and the book will be officially released at that time. Social agencies, education groups and health care organizations have been invited.

Thursday May 23
10:00 am to 11:00 am
Salon "B", Howard Johnson Hotel, 10010 - 104 Street, Edmonton

The book, entitled "The Other Competitive Advantage: The Economic Case for Strong Social Programs", examines five areas: health care, education, retirement pensions, income security (EI, minimum wage and social assistance) and WCB. In each area it compares the economic costs and benefits of delivering these services publicly or privately.

Following the seminar, there will be a media availability. Copies of the book will be available at the event.


For more information contact:

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

Jason Foster, Director of Policy Analysis @ 780-483-3021(wk)

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AFL calls for boycott on Shaw Conference Centre

EDMONTON - In an effort to show support for striking workers at the Shaw Conference Centre, the Alberta Federation of Labour is urging unions and union members to boycott the facility.

In a letter to more than 200 locals, provincial and national presidents, AFL president Les Steel asked unions to cancel events at the conference centre and encourage members to stop attending things like concerts and trade shows held there.

"Appeals to fairness and decency haven't worked," said Steel. "So maybe they'll start to pay attention when we hit them in their pocketbooks."

Steel admits that unions are not the biggest users of the conference centre - but they still represent a significant amount of business, especially when you include all the union members who individually attend functions held at the centre.

In response to the AFL's call for a boycott, the Alberta Teachers Association and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters have already agreed to take their business elsewhere. The ATA will also be encouraging local school principals to move events such as graduations out of the conference centre.

Workers at the Shaw Conference Centre in downtown Edmonton have been on strike for more than two weeks in an effort to win a first collective agreement.

Steel points out that the workers aren't asking for the moon. They're satisfied with their current wage level, so money isn't an issue. What they're really looking for is protection from unfair treatment. In particular, they want the conference centre to stop its practice of classifying people as part-timers even when they work full-time hours. And they want something done about racism, harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

"This is clearly a group of workers that needs a union and the protection that a collective agreement can bring," says Steel. "A boycott of the facility is the least we can do to help them win a fair deal."


For more information call:

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

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Government plans to download responsibility for health care could cost Alberta businesses $500 million a year, says AFL

CALGARY - The Alberta government's plan to limit Medicare coverage will end up costing businesses in the province $500 million or more each year, says a presentation prepared by the Alberta Federation of Labour for Roy Romanow's commission on the future of health care.

"The recommendations contained in the Mazankowski report aren't just misguided - some of them are downright dangerous from an economic point of view," says AFL President Les Steel, who will be appearing before Romanow in Calgary today.

In its presentation to the commission, the AFL focuses on the impact of government plans to download health costs from the public sector onto the shoulders of individuals and businesses. In particular, the AFL says that plans to de-list services and introduce so-called Medical Savings Accounts will create a market for supplementary private health insurance.

"For those of us in the labour movement, our preference would be to maintain a comprehensive and fully funded public system," says Steel. "But make no mistake - if the Alberta government goes ahead with plans to limit what's covered publicly, then unions will have no choice but to fight for supplementary private insurance at the bargaining table. It will become one of our top priorities."

As it stands right now, Canadian employers pay an average of $93 a month for extended health benefits to cover things like dental and vision care. That compares to the U.S. where employers pay as much as $600 per employee every month for health benefits. Steel says any move to limit Medicare coverage will result in dramatic increases to benefit costs for Alberta businesses.

"There are 275,000 unionized workers in this province," he says. "So if supplementary private insurance health insurance costs another $50 per month per employee that's an extra cost to Alberta businesses of $165 million per year. If it costs an extra $100 per month, that's a cost of $330 million per year. And if it costs an extra $150 per month, that's an added cost to business of $495 million each year. And that's just the unionized workforce."

In the end, the AFL says the Mazankowksi plan will saddle Alberta businesses with hundreds of millions - many even billions - in extra, on-going costs. This will drive up the cost of doing business in Alberta; it will reduce the competitive advantage that we currently enjoy because of Medicare; and it will probably mean the loss of thousands of jobs as companies scramble to pay the bills.

"The message for the Alberta business community is clear: wake up and smell the coffee," says Steel. "They should not be supporting this government's health policy. It will be very bad for business."


For more information call:

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

Gil McGowan, AFL Communications @ 780-910-1137 (cell)

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"Would You Call Two Deaths a Week An Epidemic?"

Marking the 7th International Day of Mourning, the Alberta Federation of Labour is asking why workplace deaths are given much lower priority than other causes of death. The AFL suggests that any other thing that killed two people a week would be called an epidemic.
Sunday April 28th is the International Day of Mourning, and is recognized around the world as the day to remember workers who have been killed and injured due to work. Day of Mourning started in Canada in 1986 after the labour movement persuaded the House of Commons to proclaim the day.

"If a disease killed two people a week every year, we might call it an epidemic," says AFL President Les Steel. "There would be millions poured into research and prevention."
"Last year in Alberta 118 workers were killed because of work - and that is just the official figure," Steel points out. "That is more than two workers a week. And the rate has remained that high for years now."

But, Steel points out, the Alberta government only puts $4 per worker into health and safety enforcement and prevention. By comparison, the meningitis outbreak in Alberta has killed 4 people. The Alberta government launched a $22 million campaign to immunize young people from the disease.

"Meningitis is a serious disease that deserves prompt preventative action such as immunization," says Steel. "My question is why does the death of 118 workers each year not spark the same concern?"

"The answer is that still too many people, including the Alberta government, believe that workplace accidents are just another cost of doing business. What we need is a zero tolerance policy on workplace accidents."

Steel points out that the government refuses to even lower flags to half-mast on April 28 in respect for the 118 killed workers. "We made a request to the Minister to lower flags on that day, but he refused outright. This says a lot about what kind of priority he places on injured workers."

The City of Edmonton and other Alberta municipalities regularly proclaim Day of Mourning. Flags at City of Edmonton buildings will be flown at half mast on Sunday. "I can't see why the provincial government can't do the same."

"We want to use the Day of Mourning to recommit ourselves to working for safer workplaces and an end to workplace death. We want every worker in Alberta to make it home safe at the end of the work day," Steel concludes.


For more information contact:

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

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