EDMONTON - Despite government reassurances and claims to the contrary, the new session of the Legislature is shaping up as an historic showdown on issues such as public health care and basic workers rights, says the president of Alberta's largest labour organization.
"Everyone is talking about the Klein government's plans to implement the recommendations of the Mazankowski report," says Les Steel, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"On that issue, we side with all those Albertans who see the Mazankowski plan as a fundamental attack on Medicare. But the government seems to have another, less publicized, agenda in this session - an agenda to undermine the rights of working people and the unions that represent them."
The most obvious example of this agenda is all the talk in government circles about stripping teachers of the right to strike or even using legislation to decertify or weaken the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA). But, as Steel points out, these are by no means the only major labour issues that will be discussed in this session.
"It wasn't mentioned in the Throne speech, but we know that the government is going to bring in new legislation to take the right to strike away from paramedics," he says. "They're also going to announce the creation of a committee to investigate changes to the Labour Code, with a view to making it harder for unions to organize - especially in the construction trades."
Taken together with the expected attacks on the ATA, Steel says the government's plans for the coming legislative session add up to the most "anti-worker and anti-union agenda that we've seen in Alberta in years - and that's saying something."
Steel says he is deeply saddened that - yet again - the government seems to be treating working people as enemies instead of partners in creating a better Alberta.
"It's yet another indication that this government simply doesn't get it when it comes to labour relations," concludes Steel. "They don't recognize that working people have a right to bargain collectively. And they refuse to admit that workers usually have very legitimate concerns. Instead, this government's first impulse is to reach for the big stick. In a supposedly open and democratic society, this is no way to solve problems and it is no way to treat citizens."
For more information call:
Les Steel, President @ 780-483-3021 (wk) 780-499-4135 (cell)
Gil McGowan, Communications Director @ 780-483-3021 (wk) 780-910-1137 (cell)