Workers being heard in government consultations
Edmonton – The Alberta Federation of Labour has been an active participant in public consultations the government is conducting on issues as varied as health, workplace legislation and the environment. As the largest worker advocacy organization in Alberta, the AFL advocated on behalf of its unionized members as well as non-unionized workers throughout the province.
- In a submission to the Mental Health Review Committee, the AFL argued for stronger employment and OHS laws to protect employees against discrimination and unhealthy workplaces; to increase their entitlements to protected leave or associated programs when dealing with their own or a family member’s mental health issue; and to expand access to WCB and other income and workplace supports for workers with psychological injuries.
- Because recent Supreme Court decisions have ruled Alberta’s current essential services legislation unconstitutional, the government has begun the process of revising those laws. During the government’s consultations on this process, the AFL has advocated for the return to all public sector employees the unfettered right to strike within a balanced labour relations regime that encourages efficient and effective collective bargaining. Public life, safety, health can be protected through an essential services regime which is minimally limiting of the constitutional rights of workers and which ensures a fair and efficient process for all parties.
- The government began a review of the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act (PIDA) in December. This is the first review of PIDA since it came into force in 2013 and the AFL is pushing for stronger and expanded protections for whistleblowers, who play crucial roles in maintaining the safety of workplaces, the health of the environment and shared resources and the physical and financial wellbeing of all Albertans. On behalf of all workers, the AFL is advocating for expansion of PIDA protection to all employees in all sectors, an easier and more fair and transparent reporting procedure and stronger protections and compensation for whistleblowers against reprisals and greater training and education for employers and employees on the importance of robust whistleblower protection for a healthy and successful Alberta economy.
- During Alberta’s Royalty Review, the AFL has led with a values message that all Albertans are the owners of Alberta’s oil and gas resources, and therefore have a huge stake in royalty policy and the importance of advancing value-added activities in Alberta to create jobs and nurture prosperity. Sustainable energy development is a big part of how we pay for the services that support all Albertans.
- The Alberta Federation of Labour also participated in the government’s Climate Leadership Plan. We made a formal submission to the panel on the importance of ensuring that working Albertans are not negatively targeted by policies designed to combat climate change. We salute the government and the panel for its fine work on this file, and are pleased by the level of engagement by labour and the strong contribution made by panel member and sister, Angela Adams. As we move forward with the implementation of the policy, we must remain vigilant that the voices of labour are heard loud and clear.
Killings of two convenience store workers prompts call for action on late night workplace safety
Edmonton – In light of the killing of two convenience store workers in December, the Alberta Federation of Labour renewed calls to treat working late at night as a workplace hazard.
The first killing was of a clerk at a Mac’s convenience store at the corner of 32 Ave. and 82 St., and took place at 3:30 a.m. on December 17. A second killing was reported the same night at 3:43 a.m., and took place at a Mac’s convenience store at the corner of 108 St. and 61 Ave. The fact that both victims were working alone in the middle of the night has renewed calls for work alone legislation.
“We know from experience that workers working in the middle of the night are at dramatically greater risk of violence. And because we know this, government has a responsibility to act,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “When you’re working alone at a retail operation in the middle of the night, you can be a target. And education alone isn’t enough to mitigate that risk.”
AFL is calling for work alone legislation similar to that which exists in British Columbia, where all-night retail employers are required have more than one person on duty on night shifts, when robberies and violent attacks are most likely. If the employer insists on having only one staff member on duty, that staff member must work in a locked area, behind a secure barrier.
Additionally, it must be made mandatory for late-night retail employers to provide their employees with training about how to deal with robberies and gas-and-dash situations. This training must make it clear that money lost from robberies will not be deducted from an employee’s paycheque.
Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley has announced that the government will review workplace protections for late-night workers.
Farmworkers in Alberta now protected by workplace laws
Edmonton – In a major victory for workers all over the province, the NDP government has passed legislation including agricultural workers and workplaces in the province’s laws governing safety, workplace standards, labour standards, minimum wages, and workers’ compensation.
Despite concerted efforts to mischaracterize the legislation, and to misinform the public about the contents of the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act, Premier Rachel Notley showed the courage to do the right thing and pass the bill.
During the debate, the Alberta Federation of Labour was an active supporter of the bill, attempting to inform the public about what these kinds of laws mean, and how successful such measures have been in every other Canadian province.
“When one worker is denied their rights, it undermines the rights of all workers. So the inclusion of agricultural workers in Alberta’s workplace laws is a victory for all workers,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “These reforms will mean workers are less likely to be exploited. These reforms will mean fewer workers will lose their lives unnecessarily. Workers who are injured won’t be denied compensation. And the events that lead to injuries will be investigated so we can learn from mistakes.”
Although the first portion of the law came into effect on January 1, the rest is being proclaimed in stages, and the fine details of the regulations will be determined over the course of several months.
“The farmworkers, health experts and labour activists who have spent decades fighting for these changes cannot rest on their laurels with this announcement,” McGowan said. “The devil is in the details, and during this process, we will remain vigilant to ensure that the regulations are watertight.”
More than 50,000 Albertans work in the agricultural sector. They account for 2.6 per cent of our workforce — and until this legislation was introduced, they had few legal protections in their workplace. One in five agricultural workers in Alberta work at worksites with more than 20 employees
In Manitoba they have seen a 57 percent decrease in the number of annual farm fatalities since 2009, the year they introduced WCB coverage for farm workers.
In the last six years, there have been there have been 112 farm fatalities in Alberta.
More than 50,000 Albertans work in the agricultural sector. Of those, more than 10,000 of them work in large factory farms.
AFL Open House
On February 9, the Alberta Federation of Labour is hosting our annual open house to socialize with our friends, and to build bridges with potential allies.
DATE: February 9, 2016
TIME: 4:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.
WHERE: AFL Offices (300, 10408 - 124 Street, Edmonton)
Click HERE for the flyer.
February 9: AFL Open House
- February 20: World Day of Social Justice
- May 13-14: AFL Mid-Term Forum, Edmonton