Tories continue to ignore the sacrifices made by majority of public sector workers

EDMONTON - The provincial government's budget does not set aside nearly enough money to cover long-overdue wage increases for the majority of public sector workers, says the Secretary Treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

"It's great that money is being put in place to boost the salaries of nurses and teachers," says Les Steel. "But they're not the only public sector workers who have made sacrifices over the past seven or eight years. Given the size of the budget surplus, this government could have afforded to pay back all public sector workers, not just a chosen few."

Steel was particularly critical of the government's decision to earmark funds specifically for wage increases for nurses and teachers instead of boosting overall funding for regional health authorities, school boards and other public sector employers.

He warned this approach is similar to the one taken by the Harris government in Ontario, where school boards were given money to finance raises for teachers but not enough to pay for increases for support staff. The result has been bitter a three-week strike by support workers.

"The only way to avoid a similar scenario from playing our here is to make sure public employers have enough funds to negotiate fairly with all of their employees," says Steel, adding that, when inflation is taken into account, most public sector workers in the province are currently earning between 10 and 15 percent less than the did in 1993.

Steel also expressed regret that the government is not using its huge budget surplus "to build something lasting for the future."

"This government is taking oil and gas out of the ground at a record pace. But what will we have to show for it when it's all gone?" he asks.

"The revenues generated by this bonanza could be used to leave a real legacy for future generations. We could be investing in a better system of workplace training and apprenticeship to meet the shortage of skilled workers. We could be investing in a universal, $5-dollar-a-day childcare program that would ease the financial crunch on young families.

"We could be investing in a pharmacare program that brings down they cost of prescription drugs. We could be doing any or all of these things - but instead the government has decided to do muddle along. So in the end, this budget represents nothing more than a tremendous, squandered opportunity."


For more information call:

Les Steel, Secretary Treasurer @ (780) 483-3021

or

Gil McGowan, AFL Communications @ (780) 483-3021

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Government still refusing to acknowledge serious problems facing Alberta

EDMONTON - Yesterday's Throne Speech was much like the Conservative's recent election campaign - long on reassuring rhetoric and short on substance, says Audrey Cormack, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

"As usual, the government was quick to take credit for our province's strong economy - even though the current boom has much more to do with high international prices for oil and gas than that any policies adopted by the government," says Cormack.

"At the same time, they are still refusing to acknowledge that, despite our wealth, Alberta is facing a number of serious problems. For example, they are still refusing to admit that power deregulation has been a costly failure. And they are still refusing to acknowledge that classes are too large in our schools; that funding for municipalities is inadequate; and that tuition fees are too high in our colleges and universities."

Even in cases where the government promised to take action, Cormack says the Throne Speech focused on symptoms without getting at the root causes of problems.

"They talked about the need to address poverty - but they didn't talk about increasing the minimum wage. They talked about giving our children the best possible start in life - but they didn't talk about improving access to day care or reducing class size. This continues to be a government that simply cannot connect the dots."

Cormack predicts that Albertans who actually took the time to listen to or read the Throne Speech will come away feeling disappointed.

"Here in Alberta, we have been blessed with abundant resources - resources and wealth that make us the envy of the country," says Cormack. "We could be using our wealth to invest in people and build a better future for our children. But instead of progressive investment, we get tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation and an incredibly expensive and ill-conceived rebate program.  In this Throne Speech the government could have outlined a real vision for post-debt Alberta - instead all we got was platitudes. It was a wasted opportunity."


For more information call:

Audrey Cormack, AFL President at 499-6530 (cell) or 483-3021 (work)

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AFL president available for questions after Throne Speech

EDMONTON - Audrey Cormack, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, will be available to answer questions from the media following today's Throne Speech. The Throne Speech will be delivered today at 3 p.m. at the Legislature. Cormack will be in the Legislature's rotunda immediately afterwards to offer the labour movement's response to the speech.


For more information call:

Gil McGowan, AFL Communications:    @    (780) 483-3021

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AFL urges Calgary city council to show some movement on transit strike

CALGARY - An agreement to end Calgary's 41-day old transit strike is within reach if city council is willing to show some movement on the key issues of shuttle buses and a wage study for ticketed trades people, says a spokesperson for the Alberta Federation of Labour.

"Those are the two big issues that are still on the table," said AFL Secretary Treasurer Les Steel. "If the political will is there, this strike could be over tomorrow and the drivers could get back to the job of providing top-notch service to Calgarians."

Most Calgarians would be frustrated if they knew just how quickly and inexpensively a deal could be reached, said Steel. He pointed out that the union is now willing to accept an increase in the number of shuttle buses to seven percent of the city's fleet during daylight hours. Previously, they had drawn the line at six percent.

Unfortunately, the city is still refusing to budge from its demand that shuttle buses make up nine percent of the city's fleet. The city is also refusing to consider a wage study to determine if the mechanics, electricians and other ticketed trades people working for Calgary transit are being paid fairly compared to other trades people in the province.

"At the end of the day, this all about fairness and common sense," said Steel. "All the drivers want is an assurance that their jobs aren't going to be put on the chopping block. And all the trades people are saying is that it's going to be hard to recruit and retain people if wages fall below the prevailing provincial average."

Steel says it would cost the city only $187,000 more to operate the transit system under the union's latest contract than it did before the strike. He says that figure pales in comparison to the $6 million that has already been spent on taxi vouchers and the $2 million that the city has spent on advertising.

"Add to that all the overtime wages that are being paid to management personnel and the inconvenience that is being caused to commuters and it becomes clear that the cost of this strike is too high," said Steel. "The time has come for city council to abandon its hard-line position and start treating its employees as respected partners, not adversaries. Now that the union has made a move on shuttle buses, there's a real opportunity to settle this. It's an opportunity city council shouldn't squander."


For information, contact:

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

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Losing Ground: The Slow Decline of Workers' Rights and Privileges in Alberta 1975-2000

Losing Ground: The Slow Decline of Workers' Rights and Privileges in Alberta (1975-2000)

This booklet examines what effects this has had on the lives of working people in Alberta. In a sense, it represents a snapshot of daily life for workers that is then compared to a similar snapshot taken 25 years ago in 1975. This provides the perspective of an historic view that compares the lives and working conditions faced by two different generations of Alberta workers and their families.

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Solidarity and support for all workers

EDMONTON - The Executive Committee of the Alberta Federation of Labour has agreed to abide by the decisions of Canada's national labour bodies' censure of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees today.

According to Alberta Federation of Labour President Audrey Cormack, the actions of AUPE leadership gave the provincial labour central no options. "The National Union of Provincial Government Employees (NUPGE) - AUPE's senior body - has suspended AUPE for their recent activities. The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) will be dealing with the question of sanctions," said Cormack. "We, as the senior labour central in the province, have condemned AUPE leadership's pursuit of other union's members, and agreed to abide by the NUPGE and CLC decisions. However much we regret the actions the AUPE leadership have forced us into, we must abide by our principles and democratic constitution," said Cormack.

The Federation stressed that, although AUPE's suspension means a significant drop in AFL resources, the Alberta Federation of Labour will continue to meet its commitments. "We will continue to support all workers in this province, including AUPE members, said Cormack. "We will use our available resources more effectively, and support and encourage AUPE members when asked," said Cormack.

According to Cormack, the AFL is working toward a resolution to the problem can be found. "The recent Labour Relations Board (LRB) decision on the dispute between AUPE and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) does not deal with the substance of the problem," noted Cormack. "The LRB condones the pursuit of one organizations' members by another organization. The labour movement holds to higher principles."

"We, in the labour movement in Alberta, urge mutual support and cooperation and condemn destructive competition between unions," said Cormack. "Consequently, we are offering our expertise and resources to the disputing parties in the hopes of facilitating a settlement to this needless and wasteful conflict."

"In the long run," concluded Cormack, "labour will be united." For the best interests of all working people in the province, she hopes for a quick resolution.


On behalf of the Executive Committee of the Alberta Federation of Labour
Audrey M. Cormack, President - CEP
Les Steel, Secretary Treasurer - CUPE
Rick Arsenault, Vice President - IAM
Brenda Brooke, Vice President - IAFF
Alex Cosovan, Vice President - PSAC
Jacquline de Vooght, Vice President - OTEU
Harry Edge, Vice President - IBEW
Nadine Kovacs, Vice President - PSAC
Don MacNeil, Vice President - CEP
Tom MacRae, Vice President - IATSE
Greg McMaster, Vice President - CUPW
Christine McMeckan, Vice President - UFCW
Patrick Milne, Vice President - IUPAT
Walter Moodie, Vice President - ATU
Terry Mutton, Vice President - CUPE
Frankie Nash, Vice President - CEP
Kim Nytchay, Vice President - UFCW
Darlene Pfister, Vice President - USWA
Michael Pisak, Vice President - IWA
Christine Pynaker, Vice President - IBEW
Carol Taylor, Vice President - ATU
Joan Thomson, Vice President - CUPW
Keith Turcotte, Vice President - USWA
Dianne Wyntjes, Vice President - CUPE


For information, contact:

Audrey Cormack, President  @  780-483-3021(wk)/499-6530 (cell)/428-9367 (hm)

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Federation of Labour marks International Day for the Elimination of Racism

EDMONTON - March 21st, the International Day for the Elimination of Racism, provides a good opportunity for government, employers and labour to conduct a serious assessment of how their actions have affected aboriginal people, people of colour and immigrants, according to the Alberta Federation of Labour. "As much as we'd like to believe we are a tolerant and enlightened province, we all know there are problems with racism in Alberta," says Audrey Cormack, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

"Disproportionate numbers of Aboriginal people, people of colour and immigrants are living in poverty, occupying jobs characterized by low wages and no benefits. Many of these workers are trapped in job ghettos," says Cormack.

"The Klein government has continued to ignore the challenges faced by these people in their communities and in their workplaces. When the Alberta Human Rights Commission reports that last year 14% of their complaints cited race and/or colour as the basis of discrimination, and 10% cited ancestry and origin, it tells me that there is much more that can be done," says Cormack.

The International Day for the Elimination of Racism marks the anniversary of the "Sharpeville Massacre." On March 21, 1960, South African police fired into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators in Sharpeville Township, killing sixty-nine people. The United Nations, in an unprecedented move, condemned the South African government for these actions. March 21st is a rallying point for people involved in the struggle against racism.
"The labour movement takes the elimination of racism seriously. Anything that divides workers, weakens us all," says Cormack.

The Federation has a Worker of Colour and Aboriginal Worker Working Group, as well as a seat on its Executive Council reserved for a person of colour. At its biennial convention in May, the Federation will release a research and policy paper examining the economic effects of discrimination in the Canadian labour market.

"We are doing what we can to fight racism, but we can't create tolerant workplaces and communities on our own. Government and businesses have to start taking a role in combating racism and discrimination, and bringing down the barriers faced by these often, marginalized workers," says Cormack.


For information, contact:

Audrey Cormack, President    @    780-483-3021(wk)/499-6530 (cell)/428-9367 (hm)

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"This election is about bread and roses," says Cormack

EDMONTON - "On March 12th the Conservatives are going to realize how their policies have impacted women in the province.  Women are working, and they are voting. This election is about democracy and equality. It's about the effects of funding cuts and the privatization of services women and their families use. This election is about bread and roses," says Audrey Cormack, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

"Women have been the hardest hit by Klein's neoconservative social and fiscal policies. Reduced childcare subsidies, the privatization of healthcare and flat taxes are making it harder to make ends meet. The reality is that women are not experiencing the 'Alberta Advantage.' IWD shows us that we need, now more than ever, a government that values women," says Cormack.

Cormack's comments come on International Women's Day, recognized internationally as a day of protest, solidarity and celebration of women's struggles for equality. IWD emanates from labour strikes of textile workers on March 8, in both 1857 and 1908, to protest against poor working conditions in New York City. Their slogan, "bread and roses" has come to represent women's quest for economic security and social justice.

"International Women's Day belongs to working women, and every woman is a working woman. The struggles faced by women a century ago are the same struggles faced by women in Alberta today. Fair wages, decent working conditions, accessible childcare, are all things women are still fighting for," says Cormack.

"This election women have a real chance to make their voices heard," said Lyn Gorman, New Democrat candidate and vice president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

Audrey Cormack concurred. "We need MLA's who will make decisions and implement legislation that takes into account the best interests of women. I urge people to vote for a party that will make sure women in Alberta get their bread and roses."


For further information call:

Audrey Cormack, President    @    483-3021(wk)/ 499-6530(cell)/ 428-9367(hm)

Lyn Gorman, New Democrat Candidate, Fort McMurray    @    780-799-7870


IWD Events

Edmonton
"Moving Toward the Rebirth of Culture, Peace & Harmony"
Saturday, March 10 at 11:30 am - 2:00 pm @ City Hall
All welcome - admission is free.
For further information contact: Pascal Lagace @ 495-7091

Calgary
Symposium on "Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Gender"
A Conference in Celebration of International Women's Day
March 7, 8 & 9, 2001 at the University of Calgary, room MSC 277 (ground floor of Mac Hall)
All welcome - admission is fee.

Lethbridge
Parkland Institute's First Annual Speakers' Series
"From Ideas to Action: Creating the Communities We Want"
March 8 @ 7:30 pm
Lethbridge Public Library
This event is co-sponsored by Womanspace Resource Centre and the Lethbridge and District YWCA, and the Lethbridge Public Library.
Admission by donation.

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Tories walking into election with "eyes shut and ears closed"

EDMONTON - The Klein Conservatives are walking into the provincial election with their "eyes firmly shut and their ears closed to the real concerns of Albertans," says the president of Alberta's largest labour organization.

Audrey Cormack, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, described yesterday's Throne Speech as a big disappointment. She said it proves the government has lost touch with the real priorities of citizens.

"Voters in this province have made it clear that they have serious questions about government policy in areas like health care, taxation and utilities," said Cormack after the speech was delivered by Lt. Governor Lois Hole.

"Yet, there was no mention of Bill 11 or private hospitals. There was also no recognition that government policies have contributed greatly to soaring utility prices. And there was no discussion of the fundamentally inequitable nature of the government's new flat tax."

Cormack said the Throne Speech's silence on these issues suggests that the Klein Tories are content to allow the creeping privatization of Medicare. It also suggests that the government is not listening to the thousands of Albertans who have raised concerns about out-of-control utility prices and new tax laws that favour the well-off at the expense of working families.

"This is more of what we've come to expect from the Tories: vague promises and platitudes masking a hidden agenda that favours privatization, deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy."

Cormack scoffed at the promise of a "Future Summit" to map out a direction for the province once the government has eliminated its debt.

"This is shaping up to be another stage-managed attempt to get a rubber stamp from the public for policies that have already been decided upon," she said, adding that the government appears to be considerably less open and visionary than the school children quoted in the Throne Speech.

"I was pleased to see that 11 year-olds have a vision for the future and are concerned about things like equality, respect and protecting the environment. It's too bad this government can't come up with a similar kind of progressive vision."


For further information call:

Audrey Cormack, President    @ 483-3021(wk)/ 499-6530(cell)/ 428-9367(hm)

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New maternity and parental leave provisions benefit all working parents

EDMONTON - "The changes to the maternity and parental leave provisions in the Employment Standards Act clearly places importance back on Alberta's families. These changes benefit all working parents," says Audrey Cormack, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

"Working mothers and fathers are no longer being penalized for choosing parenthood in this province. By mirroring the changes to those made to federal EI creates a level of jurisdictional equity that we rarely see in Alberta."

Cormack's comments follow the government's announcement to extend job-protected employment leave to parents for up to 52 weeks. The changes to the Employment Standards Act also include new provisions for job-protected parental leave for fathers and adoptive parents. Alberta's leave provisions are now in line with other provinces.

"I want to commend Mr. Dunford for demonstrating the political will to adopt all of the committee's recommendations. I am pleased to finally see a public consultation process that worked quickly and effectively," says Cormack.

"We are happy with today's announcement, but we as a Federation will still be lobbying the federal government to ensure that the benefits working parents receive will actually allow them to take advantage of the longer leave periods. For women and low-income families, living on 55% of your salary for an entire year is out of the question."


For further information call:

Audrey Cormack, President    @ 499-6530(cell)/ 483-3021(wk)/ 428-9367(hm)

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