City Hall Ceremony Highlights Day of Mourning

Friday, April 28 will mark the fifth International Day of Mourning. Begun in Canada in the mid-1980s, the Day of Mourning is a day to remember those people killed at or because of work.

One of the highlights of the day is an evening candle ceremony at Edmonton City Hall organized by the Alberta Federation of Labour, Edmonton and District Labour Council, Alberta Building Trades Council and the United Nurses of Alberta.
Friday, April 28 - 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm
City Hall (1 Sir Winston Churchill Square)

The event mixes cultural performances with speakers and a candle lighting to commemorate the Day of Mourning. Evocative visual images make up an important piece of the ceremony. Also, the City of Edmonton proclamation of the day will be presented.

"Day of Mourning is partly about remembrance and partly about making change happen," says Audrey Cormack, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "We do not want the workers who we have lost at work to be forgotten. We want their memory to carry us forward to prevent anyone else from losing their life at work."

Tens of thousands of workers will be commemorating the day at their worksite with a minute of silence, black armbands, flags at half-mast or some other form of small ceremony.

Day of Mourning has its origins in Canada. It was first proclaimed in Parliament in 1986. Since then it has become an international event, with over 70 countries marking the day as the time to remember workers killed on the job.

In Alberta, more than 2 workers are killed every week. A worker is killed every 30 seconds around the world. The purpose of Day of Mourning is to find ways to bring those numbers down.

For more information call:

Audrey M. Cormack, President  @  (780) 499-6530 (cell)

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AFL Calls for Boycott of Molson, Labatt in Northern Alberta

The Alberta Federation of Labour is endorsing a boycott of Molson and Labatt products for the duration of the labour dispute at Brewers Distributors Limited (BDL) in Edmonton. The AFL is asking Albertans to not purchase Labatt or Molson products in bars, restaurants or liquor stores throughout Northern Alberta.

"We know that any Molson and Labatt beer purchased from Red Deer north will have been delivered by non-union replacement workers," says Audrey Cormack, President of the AFL. "We are asking Albertans to find other options until the workers at the Edmonton warehouse are back at work."

"We need to send a message to Molson and Labatt," states Cormack. "Profits at the two breweries are hefty, yet they want their workers to suffer a huge 30% wage rollback."

"We are urging Albertans to use their pocket books to let the two breweries know that this kind of greedy profit-taking is not acceptable. Maybe if their sales plummet, they will realize the need to treat workers fairly."

The AFL will be sending a list of brands currently distributed by BDL to all of its members. The AFL currently represents 120,000 workers across Alberta.  The boycott does not apply to southern Alberta, where unionized workers at the Calgary warehouse are still at work.

Distribution workers at BDL were locked out last week. The union is asking for wage increases to keep up with inflation. The employer is asking for 30% cuts in pay and other concessions.

"I personally find the taste of Molson and Labatt is a bit sour these days due to their bully tactics against their workers," concludes Cormack.

For more information call:

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

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Action needed now to eliminate racism

EDMONTON - On the eve of the International Day for the Elimination of Racism, the president of Alberta's largest labour organization is calling on leaders from government, business and labour to join forces in the battle against intolerance.

"Racism and discrimination continue to be serious problems in Alberta and across the country," says AFL president Audrey Cormack. "Progress has been made - that's clear. But much more needs to be done in order to combat racism in the workplace and in the broader community."

The United Nations has chosen March 21 as the International Day for the Elimination of Racism in memory of the infamous "Sharpeville Massacre." On this day in 1960, South African police fired into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators in Sharpeville Township, killing sixty-nine people. Since then, March 21 has been set aside as a day to remember the suffering caused by racism and to celebrate successes in the battle for racial tolerance.

Cormack says that much has been accomplished since 1960. For example, the brutal system of Apartheid that caused the Sharpeville massacre has been overthrown. And many countries, including Canada, have introduced laws aimed at discouraging discrimination. But Cormack says the battle against racism is far from over.

"The brutal reality is that immigrants, first nations people and people of colour still face racism discrimination and intolerance on a daily basis. Systemic racism continues to exist in our schools, our courts, our communities, our workplaces and even in our unions. In fact a recent poll published in the Globe and Mail suggests that intolerance against immigrants is actually on the rise. This sends a clear message that more needs to be done in order to promote tolerance."

Cormack says that unions have a long, proud history of working to overturn racist and discriminatory policies in government and in the workplace. As part of the the AFL's on-going commitment to ending racism and discrimination, she says she and other Alberta labour leaders will continue to: 1) speak out against racism in Canada and throughout the world, and 2) support anti-racism programs and legislation aimed at breaking down systemic barriers in all institutions.

"We in the labour movement will continue to do all we can to make Canadian labour organizations more tolerant, more inclusive and more welcoming for people of colour. For example, we will be working with the Canadian Labour Congress to implement the recommendations of the CLC's recent Anti-Racism Task Force, which outlines an action plan for promoting tolerance in unions and the workplace," says Cormack.

"But we can't eradicate racism alone. That's why we are challenging other groups and individuals to play a part. We challenge individuals to actively join the fight against racism. We challenge businesses to adopt anti-discrimination policies and sponsor educational programs to combat racism in the workplace. And we challenge governments to make the fight against racism in Canada and around the world a much higher priority. By working together, I am convinced we can promote tolerance and stamp out the black cancer of racism that has been eating away at our community and our workplaces."

For more information call:

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

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Tory marriage law sends "clear message of intolerance," says AFL

EDMONTON - The Alberta government's new marriage law sends a clear message of intolerance against gays and lesbians, says the president of Alberta's largest labour organization.

Audrey Cormack, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, says the Marriage Amendment Act violates the human rights of gay and lesbian couples by denying them equal treatment under the law. She also says the law promotes intolerance against gays and lesbians by suggesting that their relationships are somehow illegitimate and "unnatural."

"Other governments in this country are moving forward in terms of recognizing the rights of gay and lesbian Canadians," says Cormack. "But, once again, the Alberta government is taking us back to a darker, less tolerant time. It's shocking to see a government using its power to promote intolerance against an identifiable group - but that's exactly what's happening with this law."

The Marriage Amendment Act was debated and passed yesterday, despite strong objections from both opposition parties. The new law in effect bans gay and lesbian marriages and goes on to say that Alberta will make use of the constitution's notwithstanding clause if the federal government ever decides to allow such unions.

Cormack says she finds the law "deeply disturbing" because it shows the Alberta government is willing to trample on the human rights of some of its citizens in order to pander to a vocal minority of ultra-conservative Albertans who feel threatened by "non-traditional" relationships.

Cormack points out that the Alberta government's new marriage law flies in the face of recent Supreme Court decisions that guarantee protection under the law in cases involving discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. She also says the Alberta law runs counter to the spirit of a new law currently being considered by the federal government that will guarantee gay and lesbian couples access to the same kind of spousal benefits already available to heterosexual couples.

"The government knows that the rules regarding marriage are under federal jurisdiction - and they know that this law will probably be struck down by the courts as unconstitutional. But they've decided to go ahead with it anyway," says Cormack. "It's a cheap political stunt designed to pander to the lowest and most backward political instincts."

For more information call:

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

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AFL President to meet with Alan Rock to urge Action on Bill 11

EDMONTON - Alberta Federation of Labour President Audrey Cormack will be taking the fight against the Klein government's Private Hospitals Bill to Ottawa on Tuesday, March 7th. Cormack has a meeting with federal Health Minister Alan Rock to discuss the implications of Bill 11, introduced last week.

The meeting will take place on Tuesday, March 7 at the Minister's Office in Tunney's Pasture Complex at 2:00 pm EST (12:00 Noon Alberta time). The meeting will take between 30 and 60 minutes.

Cormack is available for media comment following the meeting. Ms. Cormack can be
reached by cellular phone at (780) 499-6530.

For more information call:

Audrey Cormack, President     @     (780) 499-6530 (cell)

Jason Foster, AFL @ (780) 483-3021

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Government Will Pay Price for Private Hospital Bill, Says AFL

The Klein government will pay a big price from Albertans if it continues with its private health care bill, introduced in the Legislature today, says Audrey Cormack, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

"The introduction of Bill 11 shows the Klein government is not listening to Albertans," says Cormack. "Albertans are worried - very worried - about their health care system. They want it protected and have told the government so."

"The government has responded by playing word games and weaving more lies about their real intentions," says Cormack. "Albertans don't want word games, they want Medicare protected from for-profit clinics."

"Bill 11 undermines the very principles of Medicare."

Cormack says that even the Tories know their bill is a bunch of pretend. "I don't care what you call it, a surgical facility or private clinic, this bill legalizes private, for-profit hospitals."

Cormack predicts that if the government insists on forcing this bill on Albertans that Albertans will make them pay a big price for it.

"Albertans won't put up with this bill. Any government that tries to undermine Medicare will hear loudly from Albertans. They will hear from us in the Legislature, on the streets and in the ballot box."

"If the government has any sense, they will let the bill die a quick death."

"It's not too late," concludes Cormack, "this bill can and will be stopped."

For more information call:

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

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Federal government ignores promises on health care and children

EDMONTON - The federal government has squandered an historic opportunity to restore the health of Canada's Medicare system and build new programs to help Canadian families in the 21st century, says the president of the Alberta's largest labour organization.

AFL president Audrey Cormack says the federal Liberals had an opportunity to invest in people and build for the future - but instead they allowed themselves to be swayed by strident conservatives like Preston Manning and Conrad Black who advocate tax cuts at any cost.

"The Liberals told us that this budget would focus on health care and children," says Cormack.

"But instead of a national homecare program that could relieve pressure on our under-funded hospitals, we got a reduction to the high-income surtax. And instead of a national child care program, we got tax cuts for highly profitable high-tech corporations and tax breaks for people cashing in on stock options. These changes may be popular on Bay Street. But they are certainly not the kind of thing average Canadians have been asking for."

Cormack says the federal government did take a number of positive steps in its budget. For example, she says the decision to fully index tax brackets for inflation is "progressive and long overdue." She also applauded the decision to double the period in which workers can collect maternity and paternity benefits.

However, Cormack says the budget failed to deliver what Canadians have been asking most for: namely a long-term financial commitment to things like Medicare and a national day care program. It also failed to shore up Canada's UI system - which currently pays benefits to less than 1 in 3 unemployed Canadian workers (down from 80% a decade ago).

"The government is now predicting a $100 billion surplus over the next three years," says Cormack. "But nearly $60 billion of that is being handed out in tax cuts and only $2.5 billion of the total is going to health care through the Canada Health and Social Transfer. The Liberals want us to believe that they are taking a balanced approach to budgeting - but this is far from balanced. It's an approach that is tilted heavily towards tax cuts and away from investments in core public services."

To make matters worse, Cormack points out that the money earmarked for health care is being given to the provinces with virtually no strings attached. That means that provincial Premiers like Alberta's Ralph Klein can do almost anything they like with the money.

"There is absolutely no guarantee that this new federal money will actually be used to strengthen Medicare," says Cormack. "Given the Alberta government continued commitment to privatization, there is a good chance that at least some of this money will end up in the pockets of health care corporations and not in public hospitals. The federal government should be doing something to make sure that doesn't happen."

Now that the business community has been given what it wants in terms of lower taxes and continued restraint in terms of public spending on programs, Cormack says she and other observers will be watching for the results.

"For years now the business community has been saying that tax cuts will lead to increased investment and job creation," she says. "Now they've gotten what they asked for. So we'll be watching to see if these business people really do create jobs and increase wages for their workers. I'm not holding my breath."

For more information call:

Audrey Cormack, President  @ (780) 428-9367   or  (780) 499-6530



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AFL president available for comment on Federal budget

EDMONTON - Audrey Cormack, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, will be available to answer questions from the media immediately following the release of the federal budget later today.

The budget speech is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Alberta time. Reporters interested in talking with Cormack after the speech can reach her on her cell phone or at her home number.

For more information call:

Audrey Cormack, President: (780) 499-6530 (cell) or (780) 428-9367 (home)

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Provincial budget charts dangerous course for Alberta, says AFL

EDMONTON - Based on the plans outlined in yesterday's provincial budget, it's clear that the Klein government is charting a dangerous course for Alberta, says the president of Alberta's largest labour organization.

Audrey Cormack says the budget is built around two highly questionable ideas - namely the idea that flat taxes will promote fairness and the idea that private health care will save money and reduce waiting lists. The problem with this approach, she says, is that flat taxes are inherently unfair and private hospitals represent a serious threat to the future of Medicare.

"Albertans shouldn't be fooled into thinking that a flat tax will actually make the provincial tax system fairer," she says. "An 11 percent flat rate tax like the one being planned by the provincial government will provide a big break for the wealthiest Albertans - that's true. But middle-income earners are going to carry a disproportionate share of the tax burden in this province."

Cormack says that progressive tax brackets - which require people who earn more to pay more in tax as a percentage of their income - have always been the key to fair taxation. By introducing a flat tax, she says Alberta will be abandoning one of the central principles of fair taxation.

Cormack was also highly critical of the government's announcements on health care spending. In particular, she says the budget gives absolutely no details about how much the government plans to spend on private, for-profit hospitals and clinics.

"The Premier is promising to spend an extra one billion dollars on health care over the next three years," she says. "That's great. But how much of that money is actually going to be used for direct patient care in existing public facilities? And how much of it is going to end up in the pockets of for-profit health care entrepreneurs? Albertans want their tax dollars used to provide front-line services - not as a subsidy for private health care entrepreneurs."

In addition to criticizing the government plans for private health care and flat taxation, Cormack also condemned Provincial Treasurer Stockwell Day for using his budget speech as a platform to attack opponents of the government proposed private health care legislation.

"Mr. Day's attack on Medicare supporters was entirely inappropriate," she says. "Albertans have a right to question the government and criticize proposed legislation - that's what democracy is all about. Mr. Day's comments suggest that he is not willing to listen to the legitimate concerns of citizens. This kind of intolerance and arrogance is a sure sign of a government that has been in power too long."

Cormack concluded her remarks by questioning the government's claim that its budget is an example of bold and innovative thinking for the 21st century.

"The government talks about a New Century and a Bold Plan. I can agree that it's a new century. But it's an Old Plan, not a Bold one," she says. "We've heard all this stuff before. More privatization. More regressive tax changes. What's so new about that? What's so bold about it? There is no good news here for Albertans. In fact, by setting the stage for a weaker public health system and by adopting a tax system that is inherently unfair, the government is tearing away at the fabric of our province. In a sense they are creating an Alberta Disadvantage."

For more information call:

Audrey Cormack, President: (780) 499-6530 (cell) or (780) 483-0321 (w) or
(780) 428-9367 (h)

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AFL president available for comment on provincial budget

EDMONTON - The fiscal plan that will be outlined in this afternoon's provincial government budget is based on two dangerous myths, says the president of Alberta's largest labour organization.

"Today's budget will be built around two dangerous ideas - namely the idea that flat taxes will promote fairness and the idea that private health care will save money and reduce waiting lists," says Audrey Cormack. "The problem is that flat taxes are inherently unfair and private hospitals represent a serious threat to the future of Medicare. As a result, this budget is a blueprint for disaster."

The provincial budget will be handed down today at 4 p.m. Cormack will be available to talk to reporters in the Legislature rotunda immediately following the provincial Treasurer's budget speech.

For more information call:

Audrey Cormack, President: (780) 499-6530 (cell)

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