Labour Code Review Could Be a Trojan Horse for Union Busters

The Alberta Federation of Labour responded to the establishment of a Tory MLA committee to decide if the Labour Relations Code should be revamped by questioning the real motivations of the Minister.

"We think this could be a Trojan horse for the union busters in the province," says AFL President Les Steel. "The people affected by the act - unionized employers and employees - have not been calling for a review any time soon. We think this is coming from people who hate unions on principle."

Human Resources Minister Clint Dunford is saying he wants the changes to the Code to be small, Steel indicates that he does not trust that to happen. "Despite his intentions, we don't trust that he can keep the issue under control. His track record in delivering on his promises lately has been poor," says Steel, referring to recent political defeats for the Minister, including the WCB Longstanding Claims Tribunal and raising welfare rates.

The AFL is suspicious of the process involved in the new MLA committee, to be chaired by Tory MLA Richard Marz. "Why is it not an all-party committee? That decision alone makes it feel like the deck is stacked."

Steel also points out that the summer is the hardest time for unions to participate in such a review. "Why is it happening in the summer? Could it be they want to discourage union participation?"

Steel indicates that Alberta's labour laws are already among the most employer-leaning in the country. "It is very difficult to organize workers in this province, the laws are so stacked against workers. What more do employers want? A ban on unions?"

The AFL will mobilize its affiliates to respond to this review to make sure labour's voice is heard. "Despite being the summer, we will get our members moving on this issue. We have to. Too much is at stake."

"Last time they reviewed the Labour Code, it became the worst in the country. Working people need to fight to make sure the same thing doesn't happen again." Steel concluded.


For more Information, contact:

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

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Fiscal Management Commission Report Means $2 Billion in Cutbacks, says AFL

The Alberta Federation of Labour responded to the release of "Moving From Good to Great", the final report of the Financial Management Commission, by pointing out it is just more of the same old Tory approach of cutbacks and underfunding. The report recommendations will also guarantee a future of labour disputes like the teacher's strike this year.

"The Commission recommendations are a shell game. What they amount to are more cutbacks to health care and education," says AFL President Les Steel. "By moving all resource revenue to the new Heritage Fund, the Commission wants to starve health care and education by $2 billion a year."

Using government of Alberta figures, the AFL shows that implementing the Commission recommendations regarding resource revenue would lead to a $2 billion shortfall for health care, education and other program funding (please see attached backgrounder).

The AFL argues that the Alberta budget is dependent upon resource revenue for a sizeable portion of expenditures. The 10 year average dependency (factoring for inflation) is $4.6 billion, which is more than a billion higher than recommended by the Commission.

"Strip away the accounting games, and what this means to the average Albertan is more crowded classrooms and more hallway medicine," Steel adds.

Steel also points out that the Commission recommendations will create permanent labour strife with teachers, health care workers and other public sector workers. "The Commission wants to lock-in Lyle Oberg-style labour relations," Steel observes. "The government wants to call all the financial shots without getting its hands dirty at the negotiating table."

Since the government sets the budget for school boards and health authorities, they determine the amount of money available for salary increases. This limits the local authority's ability to negotiate. The Commission recommends that the government say to these employers that "the budget is the budget", and that no new money would be forthcoming to meet settlements.

"This is a carbon copy of Lyle Oberg's approach to the recent teachers' negotiations - and it led to a strike. I predict we will see much more of acrimonious relations under this approach to budgeting."

Steel also criticized the Commissions endorsement of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) for capital projects. "Everywhere PPPs have been tried, they have ended up costing the taxpayer more and operating without adequate accountability and transparency. Why is the government going down this failed road?"

"The Report seems mistitled. Rather than 'From Good To Better', it should be called 'From Bad to Worse'." Steel concludes.


*Backgrounder attached*


Backgrounder - July 8, 2002

Resource Revenue Dependency, 1993-2002

Year Resource Revenue ($millions, 2001 dollars)
1993 $2,651
1994 $3,374
1995 $3,954
1996 $3,191
1997 $4,528
1998 $4,194
1999 $2,566
2000 $4,512
2001 $10,833
April, 2002 $6,200

10 year average:  $4.6 billion

 

Commission Recommendations' Effect on Government Revenues

2001-2002 Actual

Non-Renewable Resource Revenue  $6.2 billion

Total Revenue        $22.0 billion
Total Expenditure    $21.2 billion
Total Surplus        $770.0 million

2001-02 Commission Recommendation1

Transfer From Heritage Fund  $3.5 billion2

Total Revenue        $19.3 billion
Total Expenditure    $21.2 billion
Total Deficit          ($1.9 billion)3

NOTE #1:  Impact on provincial budget if Commission Recommendations were implemented for the 2001-02 fiscal year.

NOTE #2: The Financial Management Commission recommends that all non-renewable resource revenues go into the Heritage Fund. A legislated amount would be transferred to general revenues for the purpose of funding programs and services. The Commission recommends $3.5 billion per year.

NOTE #3: Under the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the Alberta Government is not allowed to run a deficit. Expenditure reductions would be required to make up the difference.


For further information contact:

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

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

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Activists out-perform G-8 leaders


The following is a statement released by Alberta Federation of Labour president Les Steel in the wake of this week's G-8 Summit in Kananaskis, Alberta. The AFL worked closely with social justice groups, youth organizations, churches and other civil society groups to organize counter-summit activities in Calgary, the nearest major city to the G-8 meeting site:


Now that the G-8 leaders have left Kananaskis and the police barricades are coming down, two important things can be said about the events of the past week. First, as we predicted, the G-8 has failed to offer any real solutions to the problems of poverty, war and disease in Africa. Despite all the rhetoric about the need for the West to pitch-in and help poor nations, the Summit failed to provide any commitments for major debt relief. At the same time, there was no acknowledgement of the role that western governments and businesses play in financing wars on the continent. And there was no agreement to adequately fund the battle against HIV/AIDS, a disease which is killing literally millions of Africans each year and which threatens to completely destabilize the region's already fragile economy.

Instead of measures that could really help ordinary Africans, the G-8 has endorsed a plan that simply calls for more of the same: more privatization of public services, more cuts to social spending and an increased focus on market deregulation and free trade with the west. As many African activists participating in counter-summit events pointed out, these are the same policies that have served African nations so poorly over the past 25 years.

The second, and more encouraging, conclusion that can be drawn from the Kananaskis summit has to do with the nature of demonstrations against the G-8 and its agenda. To put it simply: our protests worked. At previous summits, the world focused its attention on street battles between protesters and riot police. The result was that the causes being championed by demonstrators were usually lost in the shuffle. In Calgary and Kananaskis, however, the situation was entirely different. Instead of tear gas and rubber bullets, Canadians were actually able to learn about the issues.

There were stories about the negative impact that the World Bank's so-called structural adjustment programs have been having on poor nations. There were stories about the exploitive labour practices employed by many multinational corporations. And there were stories about the way in which trade rules concocted by the G-8 and enacted by the WTO are harming the environment and enriching the few at the expense of the many. All of these stories were the result of creative and thoughtful non-violent events organized by activists.

Many observers were surprised (and sometimes disappointed) by the complete lack of violent confrontation between protesters and security forces. But the peaceful nature of protests in Calgary was no accident. For months, labour organizations like the AFL, the Calgary and District Labour Council (CDLC) and the Communication Energy Paperworkers (CEP) were involved in meetings with non-labour civil society groups. Right from the beginning the goal shared by everyone was to stage a series of non-violent events and activities that focused on ideas and not on unnecessary confrontation.

The RCMP and the Calgary police may like to think that it was the large police presence that discouraged violence. But the reality is that it was the protesters themselves who made the difference. They decided that Calgary would be a showcase for the power of non-violent protest - and they made it so.

On behalf of the Alberta Federation of Labour, I would like to thank the dozens of civil society groups and thousands of individual activists who participated in planning and executing counter-summit events here in Alberta. Our approach to protest - which featured unprecedented cooperation between labour and non-labour groups - was so successful that activists from other countries are planning to borrow our ideas.

Obviously, the campaign to draw attention to the failings of the G-8 and its agenda for global trade will not be an easy or short one. But I remain convinced that our approach to protest - with its focus on non-violence - will help to turn the tide. I also remain convinced that our ideas about social justice and fair trade (as opposed to unfettered "free" trade) will eventually win the day. Calgary may very well be the first step in a long campaign to convince citizens, and eventually their governments, that the world economy should be for people, not corporations.


For more information, contact:

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

Gil McGowan, Communications Director @  780-483-3021(office); 780-910-1137(cell)

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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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