Speech by Gil McGowan, AFL President
March 20th – Day of Action
There are hundreds of people here today – but you’re not alone.
As we speak, thousands of public-sector workers are filling the streets outside hospitals, schools and municipal buildings across the province.
Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Fort McMurray, Medicine Hat, Peace River, Camrose, Hinton … the list goes on.
Public-sector workers are engaging in these protests because they’re sick and tired.
They’re sick and tired of unjustified attacks on the pensions they’ve paid for.
They’re sick and tired of a government that seems determined to bully, not negotiate.
They’re sick and tired of enduring cuts and wage freezes even as our economy booms.
And they’re sick and tired of a Premier who claimed to be our friend, but stabbed us in the back.
Let’s spend a moment talking about our departed Premier.
Some of us had been framing these rallies as Redford retirement rallies because we felt she should be thinking about her own retirement plans instead of attacking the retirement plans of public-sector workers.
Obviously, she beat us to the punch. However, I want to make one thing very clear: Premier Redford may be gone, but the problem still remains.
The provincial government still has a plan to gut your pensions.
And this is still the same government that has been trampling on the collective bargaining rights of public-sector workers and that has threatened to punish and muzzle workers with laws that restrict your constitutional right to free speech.
Perhaps most importantly, Premier Redford may be gone, but, as a result of her bullying, my-way-or-the-highway approach to government, she’s left a trail of broken political relationships and alienated Albertans.
The PC’s have alienated their own supporters; they’ve alienated voters and, of course, they’ve alienated public-sector workers.
If the Progressive Conservatives (PC’s) ever hope to re-build their brand and continue their political dynasty, they’re going to have to rebuild those relationships.
My hope is that the new premier will do what Alison Redford refused to do…and that is to treat public-sector workers with respect … and to negotiate rather than dictate.
That’s why, this morning, I wrote a letter to interim Premier Dave Hancock. I asked him to turn a new page. I asked him to join us in building a new relationship. I asked him to negotiate on wages, pensions and funding for services, instead of making unilateral decisions.
Finally, I reminded him that he and his government don’t have a mandate to gut pensions. Alison Redford never had that mandate and Dave Hancock certainly doesn’t.
That’s where all of you come in. We need to keep the pressure up.
All of us need to get on the phone. We need to write letters, send letters and make visits to MLA offices.
We need to make sure our MLAs understand that Redford’s retirement is not really the issue. The issue is retirement security. The issue is fairness. The issue is respect.
They have to understand that public-sector workers in this province simply won’t stand for unjustified attacks on the pensions they’ve paid for or wages they’ve earned no matter who’s in the Premier’s chair.
So let’s keep up the pressure. We’ve got their attention – now let’s make it clear to all the parties and all the politicians that in a province as wealthy as Alberta, there is simply no justification for us to engage in a race to the bottom!
Alberta Federation of Labour