Delegates to explore the role of unions in protecting Medicare

CALGARY - The Alberta Federation of Labour's biennial convention continues in Calgary tomorrow.

Highlights from the convention agenda for Saturday, April 18 include the following:

  • A panel of labour leaders will discuss the role that workers and unions can play in protecting Canada's system of public health care. The panel will be made up of: Dianne Wyntjes, Alberta Director of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE); Pauline Worsfold, Vice President of the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA); Kathleen Connor, President of the National Federation of Nurses Unions (NFNU), and Dianne Mair, Provincial Executive Board Member of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE). The panel discussion will start at 10:00 a.m. and continue until 11:15 a.m.
  • Barbara Sarria Aparicio, Secretary Treasurer of the Cuban national communications union, will discussion the concerns of workers in Latin America. Ms. Aparicio will address the convention at 2:45 p.m.

The AFL convention is being held at the Calgary Westin Hotel, which is located at 320-4th Ave. S.W. in Calgary.

All speeches and presentations will be made in the hotel's main ballroom unless otherwise stated. Reporters are asked to report to the convention registration office before preceding to the hall. No one will be allowed on the convention floor without the proper credentials.

For more information call:

Gil McGowan, AFL Communications:  (403) 508-5129 (office) or (780) 910-1137 (cell)

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

 

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Unions more important than ever, says report

CALGARY - In the turbulent workplace of the 1990s, workers in Alberta need the kind of protection that unions provide more than ever.

That was the central message of a research report released today at the Alberta Federation of Labour's biennial convention, being held this week in Calgary.

The report - called Now More Than Ever - examines the challenges and opportunities facing the Alberta labour movement as it prepares to enter the 21st century.

"Some of our critics argue that unions are relics of the past and that we have been rendered obsolete by the so-called global economy," said AFL president Audrey Cormack. "But what this report shows is that Albertans still want and need unions. In fact, in the dog-eat-dog labour market of the 21st century, workers will probably need unions more than ever."

Highlights of the AFL report include the following:

  • Despite declining union membership south of the border, union membership in Canada has remained stable and strong. One in four Alberta workers are currently covered by union-negotiated contracts.
  • Union membership in Alberta climbed from 253,000 in 1997 to 286,5000 in 1998. That represents an annual increase of six percent.
  • Many non-union workers want to join unions. A recent survey of Alberta high school and university graduates shows that about 30 percent would join a union if they had the chance. Another 40 percent would be at least open to the idea. These findings are consistent with other surveys conducted in Alberta and across the country.
  • The average wage for workers paid by hour in Alberta is 11 percent lower today than in 1983, once inflation is taken into account. At the same time, the gap between the wages earned by men and women is wider in Alberta than any other province. This suggests that many Alberta workers could benefit from union representation.
  • Union members get paid more than non-union workers. On average union workers earn $18/hr versus an average of only $14/hr for non-union workers. This translates into a union wage advantage of about 30 percent. Union members are also more likely to have "non-wage" benefits like pensions, dental plans and paid sick leave. Eighty-two percent of union members have a pension versus only 33 percent of non-union workers.
  • Despite criticisms from the business community, studies show that unions can actually improve the productivity of firms. Some of Alberta's most prominent and profitable firms have highly unionized workforces. For example: Suncor, Imperial Oil (refineries), Petro-Canada (refineries), Telus, Luscar, Weldwood, Safeway, Celanese and Sherritt.

"This is a good news report," says Cormack. "It shows that unions still have an important role to play in Alberta. We face many challenges as we head into the next century. But based on the findings of this report, I'm confident that the labour movement will be around for a long time to come. And I'm confident that we will continue our proud tradition of fighting for improved conditions in the workplace and in the broader community."


For more information call:

Gil McGowan, AFL Communications: (403) 508-5129 (office) or (780) 910-1137 (cell)

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

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Convention Delegates join picket line outside Dynamic Furniture

CALGARY - Hundreds of delegates attending the Alberta Federation of Labour's biennial convention in Calgary will be joining striking workers on the picket line outside Dynamic Furniture (5300 - 6th Avenue, SE) today at 4:00 p.m.

Workers at Dynamic Furniture have been on strike for nearly a year in an effort to win a first contract. "These workers have been terribly mistreated by their employer," says AFL president Audrey Cormack. "We felt it was important to show support for them in their struggle."


For more information call:

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

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

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Our Children's Alberta: Fighting for Jobs and the Environment (1999)

Environment Policy Paper presented at 2nd Biennial Convention (April 15 - 18, 1999)

The range of environmental issues needing attention is extensive, too extensive for a single policy paper. This paper does not suggest AFL positions on specific environmental issues, such as pollution or water quality. Instead, it sets a broad focus for the AFL perspective on environmental issues, and establishes a plan for future action.

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"State of the unions" report will cap busy day at AFL convention

CALGARY - Delegates to the Alberta Federation of Labour's biennial convention will be kept busy all day tomorrow with a number of important guest speakers and special events.

Highlights of the agenda for Friday, April 16 include the following:

  • Nycole Turmel, national executive vice president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada will talk about her union's fight for pay equity in the federal public service. Turmel will address the convention at 10:30 a.m.
  • A rally will be held outside the McDougall Building in downtown Calgary between 11:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. The purpose of the rally is to draw attention to union concerns with both the provincial and federal governments. Speakers at the rally will include: Turmel, AFL president Audrey Cormack and New Democrat MLA Raj Pannu.
  • Professor Elaine Bernard, director of the Trade Union Program at Harvard University, will discuss the challenges and opportunities facing unions in the 21st century. Professor Bernard will address the convention at 2:30 p.m.
  • The AFL will release a report on the state of the labour movement in Alberta. The report - entitled 'Now More Than Ever' - will describe the current strength of unions in Alberta and identify challenges facing the provincial labour movement in the 21st century. The report will be presented to convention delegates at 3:15 p.m. Cormack will be available to answer questions from the media regarding the report at 3:45 in the Greenfield Room (second floor).
  • Pam Barrett, leader of the Alberta New Democrats, will talk about economic and political concerns her party shares with the labour movement. Barrett will speak at 4:15 p.m.
  • The AFL's biennial convention is being held in the Calgary Westin Hotel, located at 320-4th Ave., S.W., Calgary. Unless otherwise specified, all convention speeches and presentations will take place in the hotel's main ballroom. Reporters are asked to check in at the convention registration desk. No one will be allowed on the convention floor without proper credentials.

For more information call:

Gil McGowan, AFL Communications:  (403) 508-5129 (office) or (780) 910-1137 (cell)

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

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AFL convention begins tomorrow in Calgary

CALGARY - Two prominent union leaders will be featured speakers as the Alberta Federation of Labour kicks off its biennial convention tomorrow in Calgary.

Several hundred union members and activists from across the province will be in the audience to hear addresses from AFL president Audrey Cormack and Bob White, the well-known president of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).

This will be White's last major public address in Alberta as CLC president. After two successful terms, White is scheduled to step down from his post at the CLC's convention in May.

Both Cormack and White will talk about the challenges facing working people as we near the beginning of the 21st century. Cormack will focus on the situation in Alberta, while White will talk about concerns and developments at the national and international levels.

"This will be our last convention of the 20th century," says Cormack. "It's a great opportunity for us to look back on all that unions have accomplished in Canada over the past 100 years. It's also a good time to make plans for building an even stronger labour movement for the future."

 What:  Alberta Federation of Labour, Biennial Convention (April 15-18)
Where:  Westin Hotel, 320-4th Ave S.W., Calgary
Highlights: Opening Ceremonies and "Procession of Banners", Thursday, 10 a.m.
  Opening Address, Audrey Cormack, AFL President, Thursday,10:30 a.m.
  Special Address, Bob White, CLC President, Thursday, 2:30 p.m.

All speakers will be heard in the Westin's main ballroom. Reporters are asked to check in at the convention registration desk. No one will be allowed on the convention floor without proper credentials.


For more information call:

Gil McGowan, AFL Communications: (403) 508-5129 (office) or (780) 910-1137 (cell)
Audrey Cormack, AFL President:   (780) 499-6530 (cell)

 

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Unions prepare to set a course for the 21st century

CALGARY - Hundreds of union members and activists from across the province will gather in Calgary next week to set a course for the Alberta labour movement as it prepares to enter the 21st century.

The Alberta Federation of Labour will hold its biennial convention in Calgary starting Thursday, April 15 and continuing until Sunday, April 18. The convention will take place at the Calgary Westin Hotel, located at 320 - 4th Ave S.W.

"This will be our last convention of the 20th century," says AFL president Audrey Cormack. "It will be an opportunity for unions to look back on their many accomplishments and make plans for an even brighter future."

More than 400 union members from about 30 different public and private sector unions are expected to attend the convention. These delegates will debate a wide range of policy resolutions and hear from a number of important guest speakers. Highlights include the following:

  • AFL President Audrey Cormack will give her "President's Address" on Thursday, April 15 at 10:30 a.m. Cormack will discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the labour movement in Alberta today.
  • Bob White, president of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), will address the convention Thursday at 2:30 p.m. This will be one of White's last major speeches as president of the CLC - he is scheduled to step down as leader at the CLC's convention in May.
  • On Thursday at 4:30 p.m. Joe Maloney, Canadian director of the AFL-CIO, Building Trades and Construction department, will bring greetings from the building trades.
  • Nycole Turmel, executive director of the Public Service Alliance of Canada will talk about her union's fight for pay equity in the federal public service. She will address the convention on Friday, April 16 at 10:30 a.m.
  • A rally to highlight union concerns with the provincial and federal governments will be held outside the McDougall Building in downtown Calgary over the lunch hour on Friday, April 16. Speakers will include Cormack, Turmel and New Democrat MLA Raj Pannu.
  • Professor Elaine Bernard, director of the Trade Union Program at Harvard University, will discuss prospects and challenges for unions in the 21st century. Professor Bernard will address the convention at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, April 16.
  • The AFL will release a report on the state of the labour movement in Alberta. The report will describe current union strength and identify challenges facing unions as they prepare to enter the 21st century. The report will be presented to convention delegates at 3:15 p.m. on Friday, April 16
  • Pam Barrett, Leader of the Alberta New Democrats, will talk about economic and political concerns her party shares with the labour movement. Barrett will speak Friday at 4:15 p.m.
  • A panel of labour leaders - including Terry Mutton, CUPE division president; Pauline Worsfold, vice-president of the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA); and Kathleen Connor, president of the National Federation of Nurses Unions (NFNU) - will address the convention on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. The panel will discuss challenges to Medicare in Alberta and at the national level. They will also discuss the role workers and unions can play in protecting Canada's public health care system.
  • Elections for executive officers and members of the Executive Council will take place Sunday, April 18 at 11 a.m.

In addition to hearing from speakers and participating in the events listed above, delegates to the AFL convention will also discuss numerous resolutions and a major policy paper on unions and the environment.

See attached agenda for more details about the convention schedule.


For more information call:

Gil McGowan, AFL Communications: (780) 483-3021 (work) or (403) 910-1137 (cell)

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Now More than Ever: An examination of the challenges and opportunities facing Alberta unions in the 21st century

Now More than Ever: An examination of the challenges and opportunities facing Alberta unions in the 21st century

In this report, we will take a closer look at the future of unions in Alberta. More specifically, we attempt to answer a number of pressing questions. Do Albertans still want unions? Do they need unions? Do unions in Canada still
‘deliver the goods' for their members? In addition to addressing these questions, we will also discuss the impact that unions have on the economy.

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Labour Rejects Panel Report on Bill 37

EDMONTON - Premier Ralph Klein will go down in history as the man who killed Medicare if he goes ahead with recommendations put forward by the so-called blue ribbon panel on Bill 37, says Audrey Cormack, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

"The panel is recommending a new kind of private health care system where the taxpayers still foot the bill, but private hospital operators take home a profit," says Cormack.

She is convinced that the panel completely misinterpreted the problems with Bill 37. "The reason that Bill 37 had to be withdrawn in the first place was the absolute rejection by Albertans of the possibility of for-profit hospitals accessing Medicare dollars," says Cormack. "Now the panel comes back recommending the integration of for-profit hospitals into the public system and, at the same time, a much larger role for private clinics."

"The panel recommendations are totally unacceptable to working people in this Province," says Cormack. "I can assure you that Premier Klein will hear, in no uncertain terms, from our members and thousands of other concerned Albertans, that we do not want Medicare undermined by the American-style intrusion of the profit motive into our health care system."

Cormack wants the government to stop playing around with for-profit health care models. "Albertans opposition to the whole idea is obvious," says Cormack, "now its time for the government to obey the wishes of the people by dropping this ill-conceived notion."

"In fact," she concludes, "the only legislation we want to see right now is a clear and unambiguous ban on for-profit hospitals in Alberta, and an end to private, for-profit institutions accessing public health care dollars."

For further information contact:

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

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Unions make plans to fight racism and discrimination

EDMONTON - A group of union leaders and activists from across Alberta with gather in Edmonton tomorrow to discuss strategies for combating racism, harassment and discrimination in the workplace and in the broader community.
The meeting is being held this weekend in recognition of the International Day for the Elimination of Racism - which falls each year on March 21st. On March 21, 1960, South African police fired into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators in Sharpeville Township, killing sixty-nine people.

Since that time, the anniversary of the "Sharpeville Massacre" has become a rallying point for people involved in the struggle against racism - it's a time to remember all the suffering that has been caused by racism and to celebrate successes in the battle for racial tolerance.

At the AFL meeting, members of the federation's Workers of Colour and Aboriginal Workers caucus will discuss the role that unions can play in the battle against racism. In particular, participants will report on the progress made towards implementing recommendations from a conference on racism and human rights sponsored by the AFL last fall.

"We've come a long way since Sharpeville," says AFL president Audrey Cormack. "But, unfortunately, racism and intolerance are still big problems, around the world and right here in Alberta. Just this month many Albertans were shocked when Conservative MLA Ivan Strang told New Democrat Raj Pannu to "go back to India."  "This was a clear example of the scope of the problem. That's why we are doing our part to foster tolerance in offices, shops and factories around the province."

Cormack says tomorrow's meeting will be an opportunity for activists to build on the steps that have already been taken by unions to educate their members about the damage caused by intolerance.

"The labour movement is taking the problems of racism and discrimination very seriously," says Cormack. "We see this meeting as just one more step in our continuing campaign to eradicte intolerance and promote a more welcoming environment at work, in our communities and within our unions. We are hopeful that the discussion we have this weekend will lay the groundwork for constructive change."
Members of the AFL Workers of Colour and Aboriginal Workers Caucus will be meeting in closed sessions from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, March 20. Participants in the meeting will be available to answer questions from the media between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m. The meeting will be held in Rm 112 of the AUPE Building (10451-170 Street). Cormack can be reached for comment by phone.

For more information call:

Audrey Cormack, President:  483-302 (work) 499-6530 (cell) 428-9367 (home)

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