Edmonton – The Alberta Federation of Labour is pleased and proud that Siobhán Vipond, secretary treasurer and acting president, has been named to the Premier’s Advisory Committee on the Economy.Read more
Outdated, Inaccurate and Biased Wage Info Allows Businesses to Drive Down Canadian WagesRead more
Business Owner Caught on Camera Threatening to Garnish TipsRead more
Low-Wage Businesses Need to Calm Down and Stop FearmongeringRead more
WHAT IS HAPPENING?
The new Government of Alberta – following through on an election promise – has appointed a Royalty Review Panel to ensure Albertans get a fair price for their resources. As part of the review process the panel is encouraging Albertans to visit letstalkroyalties.ca where they can answer questions, submit comments, and engage with the panel. Working people have an enormous stake in these discussions. This is our opportunity to encourage the government to negotiate on our behalf to get the best possible framework for Albertans. We may never have another chance again, as panel chair Dave Mowat is on record saying that “we might never have another royalty review again.”
Riding-by-riding poll conducted by major national polling firm paints grim picture for majority of Edmontonians who want a change of government
Putting local job seekers first in line, but labour union says changes not enough
Employers looking to hire temporary foreign workers will now have to first secure a Labour Market Opinion and pay a corresponding processing fee of $275.
The announcement by Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney which came into effect on August 1, is part of measures which aim to ensure that employers hire locals first before considering foreign workers.
"Our government's number one priority remains jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity," said Kenney. "These additional reforms help ensure that Canadians are first in line for available jobs. They also ensure that taxpayers no longer pay the cost of processing employer applications for temporary foreign workers."
"Qualified Canadians, including new Canadians, should have first crack at available jobs," added Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. "These new measures demonstrate that our Government is committed to ensuring the Temporary Foreign Worker program functions as intended."
The processing fee requirement for employers will help curb unnecessary spending of taxpayer money, as was the case in 2012 when 60 percent of positive Labour Market Opinions did not lead to a work permit being issued to a temporary foreign worker, according to the government.
Aside from the LMO requirement, the revised Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations now defines a new language assessment factor that states English and French are the only languages that can be identified as a job requirement, both in LMO requests and in advertisements by employers applying to hire temporary foreign workers, unless employers can demonstrate that another language is essential for the job.
Job advertising requirements have also been extended from two to four weeks, while the 15 per cent pay gap for temporary foreign workers has also been eliminated, according to the government.
The government is also planning to implement rules on the cancellation of work permits as well as the suspension of LMO processing, and requiring employers to submit future plans for transitioning to local employees.
"The reforms announced today and in recent months further strengthen the integrity of the Temporary Foreign Worker program and ensure that more employers hire Canadians before hiring temporary foreign workers," said Kenney. "These improvements help ensure the Temporary Foreign Worker program is only used as intended—to fill acute skills shortages on a temporary basis."
Meanwhile, the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) warns that revisions to the foreign workers program will not be effective against employers who seek to exploit foreign workers.
The AFL, which has long been a critic of the program, says that the $275 Labour Market Opinion processing fee will only cost employers around three and a half cents each hour over the four-year course of a temporary foreign worker's employment duration.
"A lot of these low-wage employers in the service sector will happily pay that for a worker who is willing to work for less for years and is too vulnerable to complain. $275 is a drop in the bucket and will not provide a significant disincentive to any employers who are trying to keep wages low," said Gil McGowan, president of the AFL.
"Leaving the determination of whether TFWs are adversely affecting the economy in the hands of employers to see if Canadians are being displaced is laughable. Low-wage employers can't be relied upon to protect the public interest."
The topic of temporary foreign workers is now popular among politicians, with the number of immigrant workers shooting up to over 340,000 in just 10 years despite poor economic conditions and the number of unemployed locals looking for jobs.
Fanning the flames are reported cases of employers exploiting TFWs.
"The Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which has been greatly expanded since the Conservatives took power in 2006, is discredited, and has lost public support," McGowan said. "They're hoping these changes will make it palatable, but Canadians know exploitation when they see it. Canadians don't want to see the creation of a permanent non-voting underclass of workers who don't have the same rights as other residents of the country."
Beacon News online, Friday, Aug. 9, 2013
Byline: Kharl Prado
The provincial government's demand that Northern Gateway conduct full-scale unannounced marine emergency response drills is not practical, the pipeline company said in its final argument on Monday.
Northern Gateway lawyer Richard Neufeld told the National Energy Board's Joint Review Panel that the number of people that need to be mobilized for a full-scale drill makes them difficult to co-ordinate logistically. He said it would be unfair to mobilize so many provincial and federal officials with no advance warning.
"[The full-scale drills are] beyond industry best practice," Neufeld said, noting that the company supports having unannounced drills for elements of its response plan.
B.C.'s chief legal strategist Geoff Plant said last week that the drills are necessary because at this point in time the province isn't sure if the plans the pipeline company has announced are feasible.
"The general concern all along has been that a lot of what has been put forward by Northern Gateway as evidence of their spill response capacity is more like plans than actual programs and some of the questions asked today is we actually wanted to test drive spill response plans to make sure they actually work," Plant said.
Twice during his final argument, Neufeld called on provincial officials to get together with the federal government and industry so the three groups can get on the same page regarding what's needed to make the marine response "world class."
Neufeld broke his nearly two-hour final argument into four themes: economic need for the pipeline; respect; the need for good science and balancing the public interest with regional effects.
He said the construction phase will generate 62,000 person years of employment and disputed claims by the Alberta Federation of Labour that those jobs were inconsequential in the long run.
"Those jobs will do more than provide a paycheque," Neufeld said. "It will provide income, enduring skills and more than that, hope."
In his section on respect, Neufeld said it was unfair that intervener groups had called Northern Gateway "dismissive, insulting and arrogant" during their final argument. Yet at the same time he consistently failed to identify Skeena-Bulkey Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen by name, referring to the pipeline opponent as "the politician who called in from Ottawa" on more than one occassion. Neufeld named all other interveners directly.
The good science category was taken up by rebuttals on the fate of diluted bitumen in water, the threat posed by geohazards along the proposed right of way and the effects of routine marine operations on wildlife.
"The Internet is full of publications not supported by science," Neufeld said.
In his final section, Neufeld took on the request made by some intervener groups that Northern Gateway use tougher pipe and apply multi-layer coatings to reduce the risk of a rupture.
Neufeld said the company is sticking to its plan to use category one pipe for most of the route and category two on certain areas where it's required. He didn't mention category three pipe at all.
Earlier Monday, Prince George engineer Chris Peter told the panel that Northern Gateway is saying one thing in its filing and saying something different to the media when Ray Doering, the company's manager of engineering, speculated to the Citizen last week that category three pipe is being considered.
"Would a trial lawyer be able to try his case in the press without making the same case in court?" Peter asked.
The three members of the panel, Hans Matthews, Kenneth Bateman and chairwoman Sheila Leggett concluded the hearings by offering their thanks to everyone who participated in the process.
"Everyone has worked to provide the panel with the best evidence possible and we thank you for that," Leggett said.
They will begin their deliberations shortly and provide recommendations to the federal cabinet by the end of the year.
The Prince George Citizen, Wednesday, June 27, 2013
Byline: Peter James
The Alberta Federation of Labour's Gil McGowan is calling on the federal government to extend EI coverage to all those affected by floods in Southern Alberta.
Only about 22% of unemployed Albertans are eligible for EI and the waiting period is 2 weeks.
McGowan is asking Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Diane Finley to undertake a number of changes immediately including waiving all the waiting periods for those who qualify for benefits.
McGowan is also asking that EI benefits to small business owners affected by the flood be extended. He says many of the establishments under water in Calgary and surrounding communities, including High River, are in fact small businesses, therefore a special benefits class for small business owners whose businesses are not operational for up to four weeks should be created and all waiting periods should be waived.
McGowan says EI coverage to workers on commission and others, such as those who work for tips, who rarely qualify for EI, should be extended. Many of the workers affected by the floods are employed by small business and work on commission or for tips.
"The economic impact of this flood will be felt across Canada. The federal government should ensure no workers or small business owners are left out of reconstruction efforts," says McGowan.
"Almost all of Alberta's first responders are unions members and they're working hard in health care and emergency services delivery, remediation and restoration to help deal with the aftermath of the flood," says McGowan.
"We're hoping the federal government recognizes that not all workers have access to EI benefits. Extending them in these circumstances is the right thing to do for the people of Southern Alberta."
Okotos online, Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Byline: Dan Bascombe
TERRACE, B.C. — Enbridge Inc. shot back at critics of its proposed Northern Gateway pipeline Monday, arguing the project is making enormous and costly commitments to avoid accidents and that the biggest risk to the country is not approving it.
In its final words to a panel of regulators reviewing the project, Northern Gateway lawyer Richard Neufeld said Canada is vulnerable to its only market, the United States, deciding it no longer wants Canadian oil.
"You want to see an economic Black Swan for Canada?" Mr. Neufeld said in addressing fears the pipeline exposes the country to an unpredictable event of massive proportions.
"How about a decision from the U.S. that it will no longer need Canadian oil? ... The $30-billion in export price discounting ... would be a drop in the bucket. Canadians would be facing, we suggest, an economic catastrophe of unprecedented proportion."
After a massive review that reached out to communities along Northern Gateway's proposed right of way from Edmonton to the Northern West Coast, proponents and critics of the oil sands pipeline are presenting their closing oral arguments in this picturesque frontier town about an hour's drive from Kitimat, its endpoint.
In a packed banquet room in the town's main hotel, Mr. Neufeld dismissed the most common criticism of the project — that Enbridge hasn't provided enough information about its risks and the benefits for regulators to approve it.
Participants hold signs in Terrace, B.C., during an anti-pipeline protest, on Sunday June 16, 2013.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Robin Rowland
"Given the volume of information that comprises the hearing record, it's an argument that appears quite hollow to use," Mr. Neufeld said.
"No amount of additional ... information would persuade any member of the tar sands campaign to support a pipeline such as this. They are never going to say that enough information has been provided."
There were no demonstrations at the start of the hearings, although a rally in opposition to the pipeline was held on Sunday in a local park.
The three-member Joint Review Panel of the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is expected to wrap up the hearings in two weeks and make a recommendation to the federal government by Dec. 31 on whether the project is in the public interest.
Mr. Neufeld said the project has presented a path forward to address many of the concerns raised during the review, from the potential of an oil spill on land or in the ocean, to engagement with First Nations, and urged the panel to approve it.
"Tradeoffs are a fact of life," he said. "That does not mean that any person or community or region must be marginalized.... all it means is that in determining public interest we need to seek the balance that respects local interests, plans that deliver benefits to local communities, while still ensure that the projects that are needed for this country will proceed. We suggest that this project respect that balance."
But Art Sterritt, representing the province's Coastal First Nations, said Enbridge has failed to show the benefits are greater than the costs and the risks and approval would lead to "nothing but conflict.
"Remember this," he warned panel chair Sheila Leggett.
"Despite the hundreds of millions and effort by the proponents, B.C. First Nations and all of the public of B.C. have rejected this project ... I have never witnessed a project that has garnered such opposition, never in the history of B.C. I don't envy the position that you are in."
Up next are the Alexander First Nation, the Alberta Federation of Labour, B.C. Nature and Nature Canada, and then the province of British Columbia. These are all expected to present Monday.
Ottawa Citizen, Monday, June 17, 2013
Byline: Claudia Cattaneo, Financial Post