AFL urges bold action on Minimum Wage
Edmonton — The province’s largest labour organization is urging the government to take bold action in helping the province’s lowest-paid workers.
Despite the fact that the province is the engine of Canada’s economy, and often has an overheated economy, the minimum wage remains the lowest in the country. Currently, Alberta’s minimum wage is $10.20. Premier Rachel Notley has promised to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour within three years.
“I’m not convinced that a minimum wage of $15 is enough in Alberta, and I’m certainly not convinced that three years from now is soon enough for Albertans,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “Our lowest-paid workers have been waiting too long for action on the minimum wage. I’ll be pressing the premier for faster and more decisive action.”
While Alberta’s minimum wage remains $10.20, some restaurants are allowed to pay employees who serve liquor as little as $9.20. The Alberta Federation of Labour will ask the premier to close that loophole.
“A two-tiered minimum wage is a terrible idea. It’s a loophole that we’ve seen exploited, and abused,” McGowan said. “A $10.20 minimum wage is bad enough. But if you’re paying a worker $9.20 in this economy … that’s exploitation.”
In today’s dollars, Alberta’s minimum wages were significantly higher in the late 1970s than they are now. Accounting for inflation, the minimum wage of $3.00 in 1977 had the equivalent buying power of more than $12 today.
“Once this higher minimum wage is in place, we need to make sure it keeps up with inflation,” McGowan said. “Although over the past five years, we’ve seen slight annual adjustments to reflect inflation, those increases only started out once we had a minimum wage that was far too low.”
Alberta unions urge action on gas station safety
In the wake of the senseless death of Maryam Rashidi, a gas station attendant in Calgary, the leaders of many of Alberta’s largest unions are calling on Rachel Notley’s NDP government to move quickly to introduce a “pay-before-you-pump” law, similar to the laws in place in BC and other provinces.
At a meeting on June 11, of the Alberta Federation of Labour’s Executive Committee, the presidents of dozens of private and public-sector unions voted unanimously in support of a motion calling on the Notley government to implement a four-part workplace safety plan for gas stations.
“British Columbia enacted pay-before-you-pump legislation after a similar tragedy a decade ago, but Alberta’s Tory premiers didn’t have the guts to stand up to industry lobbyists,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “With a new government, we’re hopeful that there will finally be a willingness on the part of our elected representatives to enact a pay-at-the-pump law in Alberta and other measures designed to ensure the safety of gas station attendants.”
The AFL’s recommendation to the Alberta government includes the following four proposals:
“If a gas station attendant thinks they’re going to be on the hook for the cost of lost fuel, they’re likelier to take risks in chasing down thieves,” McGowan said. “The province should mandate safety training for gas station attendants — so they know they won’t face any penalty for money lost due to robberies.”
Premier pledges democratic reform in throne speech
In her first speech from the throne, Premier Rachel Notley announced legislation to take union and corporate donations out of provincial politics.
The measures were promised during the election campaign, but confirmed Monday in the speech from the throne, which revealed the government’s agenda for the short spring session set to last about two weeks. The legislation will be enacted retroactive to June 15, the day of the throne speech.
“Huge corporate donations have allowed big companies to buy influence and set the agenda under successive PC governments. This was one of the big reasons the PC agenda was so out of step with public opinion,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “Corporate donations always dwarfed union contributions, and corporatist parties were able to outspend other parties by orders of magnitude. This change levels the playing field and makes individual citizens more important – which is as it should be.”
Additionally, it was announced in the Throne speech that Bill 2 would increase corporate taxes from 10 to 12 per cent. This fulfills another NDP campaign promise.“Alberta has the lowest corporate taxes in the country. We haven’t been asking profitable megacorporations to pay their fair share, and because of that, we have struggled to provide the quality public services Albertans rely on,” McGowan said. “This two per cent increase isn’t some abstract thing; it’s medical professionals for when people are sick, it’s schools for our kids, its wildlife officials, its all the things that make a province a good place to live.”
Build: A free concert for jobs, justice and the climate
Labour Bytes: June 2015
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