EDMONTON-The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) responded today to reports that four officials from Lakeside Packers - including the plant's former CEO, Garnet Altwasser, and the current farm operations manager, Patrick Gummeson - have been charged in relation to an incident where UFCW President Doug O'Halloran's truck was brutally forced off the road by three other vehicles.
O'Halloran was hospitalized and is now at home recovering from injuries sustained in the crash.
"You expect to see this kind of vigilante action only in movies like Mississippi Burning," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "This proves that Tyson thinks it can do whatever it wants."
"This is just the latest in a long string of arrogant and outrageous actions by this employer," observes McGowan. "We've heard stories of intimidation, threats and bullying. And now, apparently, they're willing to put someone's life at risk."
McGowan puts a large portion of the blame for this incident at the feet of the government. "It has done nothing to try to resolve this dispute, despite repeated calls from the union, community leaders and the AFL."
"Alberta's labour laws create an environment where employers think they can get away with any action in the name of busting a union - because Alberta's labour law does nothing to stop them," notes McGowan. "The Lakeside strike is living proof that Alberta needs first contract arbitration."
First Contract Arbitration, common in other provinces, sets up a process of binding arbitration in cases where a group of workers are attempting to get their first contract with an employer and there is a stalemate.
"The hardest collective agreement to get is the first one. This is because many employers decide to bust the union rather than negotiate fairly. First Contract Arbitration is a way to prevent virulently anti-union employers from thwarting the democratic rights and wishes of its workers. It also gives both sides an incentive to bargain in good faith because they know the government or the labour relations board will step in if they don't. Here in Alberta, without first contract arbitration, there is none of that positive incentive - and we're seeing the results."
In light of the charges, McGowan renewed his call for the Premier and the Human Resources minister to step in to resolve this dispute. "We need action from Ralph Klein to bring this strike to a swift end - before anyone else gets hurt. And we need first contract arbitration to make sure it never happens again."
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For more information call:
Gil McGowan, AFL President at (780) 915-4599