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Tag: Alberta Labour Code Ordering

Edmonton – The Redford wage freeze breaks promises and breaks laws.

The legislation, which the government tabled on Wednesday, will ignore the bargaining rights of hundreds of thousands of Albertans and impose a wage freeze. This is a government tactic that has been repeatedly struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada.

"Alison Redford was elected on a promise that she wouldn't attack public sector workers. She's broken that promise and almost every other election promise she made just 18 months ago," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. "We will see her in court and we will see her at the ballot box."

Bills 45 and 46 will take away the right of unions to consult their own membership about possible labour action. Additionally, punitive measures can be taken against a whole union for the actions – or even words – of a single member.

The wage freeze will mean that workers wages will fall behind inflation. Over the course of three years, this will mean an effective drop in wages by about six per cent. The government of Alberta forecasts the province's real GDP to expand by 3.3 per cent this year and 3.5% next year. If the economy is growing, we should be able to treat public-sector workers fairly.

Repeatedly over the past decade, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Workers have a constitutional right to make collective representations and to have their collective representations considered in good faith.

"We are simply asking the government to not break the law," McGowan said. "It's one thing for governments to obtain a wage freeze through negotiations with unions and workers, it's another thing to impose those freezes without negotiation. Such legislation is unfair, unnecessarily provocative and almost certainly unconstitutional."

The government has suggested that the wage freeze is being imposed because of the cost of the devastating floods in Calgary and High River last spring and summer.

"They're paying for the flood damage on the backs of the people who cleaned up the mess," McGowan said. "We lauded these people as heroes just a few weeks ago. And now, Alison Redford is picking their pockets."

For more information on these bills and on collective bargaining download the AFL factsheets:

1) Breaking a promise and the law - rollbacks

2) Breaking a promise and breaking the law supreme court

3) Alberta economy booming

4) Breaking a promise and breaking the law - public sector wages

5) Breaking a promise and the law – public service stretched

6) Alberta has a revenue problem

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-218-9888 (cell)

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File: G:\Communications\NEWS\AFL\2013\2013-50_Alberta Government breaks promises – and laws – with wage freeze legislation _2013Nov28.docx

The decision rendered this morning by the Alberta Labour Relations Board (LRB) declaring the strike notice filed by the Carpenters union invalid is the latest example of how Alberta's labour laws illegitimately restrict fundamental rights for Alberta workers.

"The LRB decision this morning is an outrage," says AFL President Gil McGowan, "but the main culprit in this injustice is Alberta's horrible labour laws." "The carpenters acted appropriately and democratically in their efforts to stand up for their members," observes McGowan. "In any jurisdiction with truly free and open collective bargaining, they would be in a legal position to strike today. However, we live in Alberta, where workers are not afforded even the most basis of rights."

McGowan states the decision takes an unnecessarily narrow interpretation of the sections of the Labour Code at question in the case. However, he suggests, the primary problem is the convoluted and restrictive rules governing bargaining and the right to strike in the construction sector.

"You need a masters degree in mathematics to understand all the numerical requirements in the construction part of the Code," notes McGowan. "The multitude of roadblocks, hoops and hurdles in the law are designed explicitly and intentionally to prevent workers from expressing their democratic right to strike."

"And that," says McGowan, "leads us straight to the doors of the legislature and the Alberta government. They created a bad law that must be changed."

"I take my hat off to the thousands of carpenters in Alberta for trying to exercise their democratic right to strike," says McGowan. "And I say to the rest of Albertans that it is time to force the Conservatives to change the labour laws."

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For more information call:

Gil McGowan AFL President  @  780.218-9888 (cell)

 

This Labour Day long weekend, the Alberta Federation of Labour is calling on Iris Evans, Minister of Employment, Industry and Immigration, to establish a review of Alberta labour relations legislation to fix parts which have been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court or have created unnecessary labour conflict in Alberta.

"The government of Alberta has been flaunting the Supreme Court of Canada for many years in the area of labour law," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "A number of sections of the Labour Code have been implicated in decisions by the Supreme Court, yet the government has done nothing to correct these injustices."

The AFL has sent off a letter to Evans requesting a process for amending labour legislation. The letter comes after more than 50 of Alberta's top labour leaders met before the long weekend to discuss implications of the Supreme Court's latest labour decision which squashed B.C. legislation that interfered with workers' right to collective bargaining.

"The July decision by the Supreme Court fundamentally shifts the landscape of labour relations in Canada, with profound consequences for Alberta's labour law," says McGowan. "The new decision opens up many opportunities for Charter challenges in Alberta.

Unions have committed to taking the law to court. In the letter to Evans, the AFL says: "Alberta unions will be looking for appropriate cases with which to launch Charter challenges against the labour laws. And we both know a number of sections will not survive a court challenge."

It goes on to say: "But there is another option. We can work together to repair the damaged parts of the law. & Selective, well-guided amendments can improve the quality of labour relations in Alberta and bring our legislation up to the standard expected by the Supreme Court of Canada."

Over the past seven years, a series of Supreme Court decisions have ruled that the right to join a union and the right to free collective bargaining are part of the right to associate protected under Section 2(d) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The most recent overturned B.C. legislation attempting to impose a settlement on health care workers and restricting the items open to bargaining.

Alberta's legislation is widely considered to be the weakest in the country for protecting workers rights. Sections of the laws that are likely to be overturned in the event of a challenge include: prohibiting farm workers from joining unions, bans on secondary picketing, flawed and unfair arbitration system, restrictions on what public employees are allowed to bargain, and unfair rules in the construction sector.

"It is Labour Day, the weekend we are supposed to honour the efforts and contribution of workers to this province," says McGowan. "I can't think of a better time to start respecting workers' Charter-protected rights to associate and to bargain collectively."

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For more information call:

Gil McGowan AFL President  @  780.218-9888 (cell)

AFL calls for independent review of shady lobbying activity by construction industry executives

Edmonton – Secret documents suggest Alberta's construction industry is exerting undue influence on government decisions.

In the correspondence (see link below), obtained by the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) under Freedom of Information legislation, a representative of a coalition of construction companies and anti-union contractors lobbied Premier Alison Redford by linking large political donations to political promises to revise Alberta’s labour code.

“Albertans deserve to know that their government is making decisions independent of undue influence, and that our elected officials are using their power to promote the public interest, not to advance the private interests of friends and political supporters,” AFL president Gil McGowan said.

At issue in the documents is pressure from construction industry lobbyists to re-open the debate on Alberta's labour code, and to make changes in favour of employers.

“Albertans should be concerned about the methods used by the lobbyists, and the apparent willingness of top officials to give preferential treatment to groups that make significant political donations,” McGowan said.

The correspondence involves dozens of e-mails and letters between ministers, premiers, their offices, and lobbyists for the Construction Competitiveness Coalition (CCC), a coalition of large non-union construction companies. All but one of the lobbyists are unregistered.

“If this is happening with one area of legislation, we have to wonder who’s giving the marching orders when the province looks at legislation in other areas like consumer protection, environmental regulation, energy policy and safety standards,” McGowan said.

In light of the contents of the documents, the AFL is calling for the labour code review to be shelved immediately.

“These e-mails suggest that some people in power aren't maintaining the wall that needs to exist between government and groups that seek to influence government,” McGowan said. “As a result, democracy in Alberta is not as strong as it needs to be.”

One of the changes sought by senior executives of construction companies would make it difficult for unions to engage in political action, including legitimate, arms-length lobbying.

“Do we have a government that represents citizens, or is this a government of big business, by big business and for big business?” McGowan asks. “Albertans deserve answers, and the only way they’ll get those answers is through an independent investigation. And it needs to be an investigation conducted by the courts, not just the Ethics Commissioner or the Lobbyist Registrar because they're both agents of the Legislature.”

AFL Backgrounder:

Labour Code Lobbying

Correspondence: 

7 pgs of documents that Executive Council tried to withhold

Urgent meeting to underscore intended schedule of review

PCL Letters to Stelmach with response

Info Privacy Commissioner letter ordering release

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MEDIA CONTACTS:

Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-218-9888 (cell)Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via email orokne@afl.org.

A review of the labour code launched by Alberta employment minister Thomas Lukaszuk is doomed to fail unless the process is changed, says the province’s largest labour group.

“The minister has reacted to a request from a rabidly anti-labour group by embarking on an invitation-only review being held behind closed doors,” says Nancy Furlong, secretary treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), which represents 145,000 workers.

“The minister chose not to announce this review publicly, and only select groups have been invited to make submissions. He has appointed a review panel that does not include a single labour representative. Finally, the lobby group that instigated this review has made biased proposals aimed only at weakening unions,” she says.

“If you start with a biased proposition and appoint a panel that represents only one viewpoint, you are not going to get a balanced result. While this review is said to be aimed at the construction industry, any changes to the labour code will affect all working Albertans,” says Furlong.

She called on the minister to make the review process fully public, open and transparent, for submissions to be sought and accepted from all those wanting to participate and for the review panel to be widened to include labour.

“We are disappointed, once again, to find that the employment minister appears to be showing favouritism. The minister has a history of bowing to industry pressure. Earlier this year, he ignored an all-party committee’s recommendation on minimum wage and decided to impose a two-tier structure after intense lobbying efforts from the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association. He also listened to the farm-industry lobby in ignoring a judge’s recommendation to extend Occupational Health and Safety laws to cover farm workers after the death of Kevan Chandler,” she says.

“In 2008, the Alberta government responded to pressure from the anti-union Merit Contractors Association by passing Bill 26, which put severe restrictions on the ability of unions to operate in the construction industry,” says Furlong.

“This new call for a review is simply an attempt to by the Merit Contractors and the Christian Labour Association of Canada to tilt the laws in their favour – and to lower the wages and working conditions of all Albertans,” she says. “We expect our government to take a balanced approach. It has a responsibility to represent all Albertans. The government needs to fix this process now.”

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MEDIA CONTACT:

 

Nancy Furlong, AFL Secretary Treasurer @ 780.720-8945 (cell) or 780.483-3021 (office)

The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) and the Communications Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) jointly announced today that they are withdrawing their legal action against the Alberta Labour Relations Board (LRB) regarding the drafting of Bill 27 in 2003.

The announcement comes following an agreement between the parties and the LRB to create a protocol outlining the role of the LRB in creating legislation. The LRB released its "Guidelines for Consultation on Legislation", signed by the Chair and all Vice-Chairs, this morning. (Read the LRB Protocol)

"With the new protocol announced today, the Alberta Labour Relations Board has created some of the best rules in the country for accountability, transparency and guarantees of neutrality," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "We are pleased with the outcome of this case."

The protocol guarantees that LRB officials will not participate in the drafting of legislation, and that any technical assistance provided to the government will be fully disclosed. Any LRB official who participates in briefing the government will recuse themselves from any hearing related to the matter. In addition, the LRB will institute new, tougher rules governing outside counsel.

"We see this protocol as a model for transparency that should be applied to all boards and agencies in Alberta," says McGowan. "This is a significant victory for all Albertans interested in good governance."

The lawsuit surrounds the issue of LRB officials assisting the government in the drafting of Bill 27, a bill that restructured health care labour relations and stripped health care workers of many labour rights. The incident raised questions in the minds of the labour movement about the independence and neutrality of the Board.

"We launched the legal action two years ago because we felt that the LRBs involvement in drafting Bill 27 showed a lack of transparency in a body that must be neutral and at arms length from government," says UNA President Heather Smith.

"It made a sham of the consultative process when legislation that affected tens of thousands of health workers was created behind closed doors. That made it hard to count on fairness and impartiality. Today, with the new protocol, we take the first steps in repairing that damage," she says.

The protocol adopts the principles and recommendations outlined in a study commissioned last year by the AFL. The so-called Sossin Report (titled: The Independent Board and the Legislative Process) outlined the need for a clear and transparent protocol regarding interactions between the LRB and the Alberta government.

"The protocol announced today reflects, in a substantive fashion, the recommendations in the Sossin Report," says McGowan.

The protocol brings to an end the ongoing legal dispute between the unions and the LRB. The case was scheduled to go to the Court of Appeals this week. "This satisfied many of our concerns regarding the role of the LRB in drafting legislation," says Smith.

"We may still have some of the worst labour laws in Canada, but this protocol makes it clear that the Board's only role will be to interpret those bad laws, not help write them," McGowan concludes.

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(Read the text of Gil McGowan's speech)

For more information contact:

Gil McGowan, AFL President Bus: (780) 483-3021 Cell: (780) 218-9888

Heather Smith, UNA President Bus: (780) 425-1025

 

A day after the government tabled its anti-worker Bill 26: The Labour Relations Amendment Act, Albertans are wondering what would motivate such a blatant attack on constitutionally-protected rights. The answer, says the AFL, is the Bill is a reward for the Conservatives' friends in the anti-union Merit Contractors and Progressive Contractors (PCAC) Associations.

"Not many Albertans know who the Merit Contractors or the Progressive Contractors associations are," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "They have a knack for staying below the radar somewhat. Yet, Albertans need to know they are the driving forces behind the anti-worker Bill tabled in the Legislature yesterday."

"These changes didn't just come out of nowhere, and they weren't cooked up in the 2 months since the election," observes McGowan. "Merit and PCAC have been lobbying for these changes for years. And they finally got their Christmas morning."

"This Bill is about rewarding your friends in the construction industry at the expense of fairness and the well-being of thousands of construction workers."

Merit and PCAC are both organizations founded on the principle of "open shop", which is a model of labour relations which downplays unions and enhances employer rights. Both organizations have a long track record of taking anti-union stands on policy issues. Many of their members are well-connected in the Conservative party - including some who were instrumental in the defeat of MLA David Eggen in Edmonton Calder this spring.

Merit has been lobbying for restrictions on salting and MERFs for a decade. In a 2002 report called "Building A Labour Relations Code for the 21st Century", Merit directly calls for the amendments in the legislation. On MERFs: "One of the more insidious strategies to emerge in Canada & is so-called market enhancement recovery funds." (p. 32) On salting: "some unions are perverting these protections through an organizing tactic & called "salting'." (p. 27)

In its explanation for the Bill, Employment and Immigration Minister Hector Goudreau pointed to a 2004 report examining labour relations in the construction industry. The report has two recommendations - identical to the provisions in Bill 26. The committee consisted of three Conservative MLAs, a representative from the Merit Contractors and a representative from the Building Trades Council. (The Building Trades representative wrote a dissenting report opposing both recommendations.)

One of the MLAs, Brent Rathegeber, went on to become the Director for the Progressive Contractors Association after his defeat in 2004. PCAC is now headed by former Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) Director Co Vanderlaan. CLAC is infamous in construction for its employer-friendly, collaborationist approach to unionism (so-called "alternative unionism").

"This bill is not about levelling playing fields, it is about handing a big stick to the most rabidly anti-union employers in the construction industry," McGowan concludes.

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For more information contact:Gil McGowan, AFL President  @  780.483-3021 (office) or 780.218-9888 (cell)

Horizon Oil Sands Project policy statement was adopted at the 2005 AFL Convention. It discusses the special privileges given to CNLR under Division ection 8 of the Labour Code which undermine any incentive the company might have to negotiate with the building trades. This policy paper also examines the role of temporary foreign workers.

Supplimentary Documents  - April 25, 2013 News Release title

7 pgs of documents that  Executive Council tried to withhold

Supplementary Documents - April 25, 2013 News Release Government correspondence shows big business pulling the strings

Info Privacy Commissioner letter ordering release

Supplementary Documents - April 25, 2013 News Release Government correspondence shows big business pulling the strings

PCL Letters to Stelmach with response

Supplementary Documents - April 25, 2013 News Release Government correspondence shows big business pulling the strings

Urgent meeting to underscore intended schedule of review