EDMONTON – Despite months of protests, and despite all opposition parties uniting against the proposals, the Government is moving forward on controversial public‐sector pension legislation today.
The union leaders representing the vast majority of the workers who will be affected by the legislation will be on hand at the Legislature Rotunda today at 3:00 p.m. to show their opposition to the legislation that is being debated. The legislative session is expected to go late into the evening as opposition MLAs try to impede the legislation.
Leaders of Alberta’s Public‐Sector Unions will be available for comment on Bill 9 ‐Public Sector Pension Plans Amendment Act, 2014
3:00 p.m., Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Legislature Rotunda, 2nd Floor (10800 – 97 Ave. NW, Edmonton)
Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) President Gil McGowan Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) President Guy Smith Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Alberta President Marle Roberts United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) President Heather Smith
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail email@example.com
Frontline public employees are rallying today at multiple locations throughout Alberta to defend their modest pensions against imposed cuts to their retirement savings unilaterally introduced by the Redford Government.
“Nobody voted on these cuts,” Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan said on behalf of the Labour Coalition on Pensions. “By breaking the promise it made to frontline public employees, the Redford Government is sending the message that no one can trust the agreements it makes.”
Before imposing big changes, McGowan said, the Redford government should engage in negotiations with frontline public employees so solutions everyone can live with can be agreed upon.
The average public-sector pension in Alberta is only about $14,000 per year, and it’s troubling that the government is increasing pensions for senior managers and other insiders at the same time as it cuts the pensions of frontline workers.
McGowan said imposed pension cuts will make it more difficult for hospitals, schools, universities and other public-sector employers to find and keep skilled and dedicated frontline employees – something sure to have an impact on the quality of public services in Alberta.
“The Redford Government’s most recent public announcements make it sound like they’re backing down, but they’re continuing to break their promise to these frontline workers by imposing pension cuts rather than negotiating them,” McGowan said.
As a result, affected workers are rallying over lunchtime throughout the province today at multiple worksites in Edmonton, St. Albert, Calgary, Hinton, Red Deer, Fort McMurray, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Grande Prairie, Peace River and Camrose.
Informal smaller-scale activities are expected near many other public-sector worksites throughout the province.
Senior elected officers of the major Alberta public-sector unions will be available at all sites for interviews with media.
Marle Roberts, President of Canadian Union of Public Employees Alberta Division, will attend the rally at the Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton
Elisabeth Ballermann, President of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, will attend the rally at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton
Heather Smith, President of the United Nurses of Alberta, will attend the rally at Red Deer Regional Hospital
Guy Smith, President of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, will attend a rally at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary
Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour will attend a rally at University Hospital in Edmonton-30-
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Analysis shows unfunded liability getting smaller by about $1 billion
EDMONTON – Alberta’s public-sector pension plans are getting healthier, despite what Finance Minister Doug Horner claims.
Analysis by independent actuarial firm George & Bell shows the unfunded liability of Alberta’s two main public-sector pension plans has shrunk, meaning the plans are growing stronger without government meddling.
Leaders of Alberta's Public-Sector Unions will be available for comment today at 1:15 p.m. at the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) offices (#700-11150 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton).
Leaders of Alberta’s Public-Sector Unions will be available for comment today at 1:15 p.m. at the United Nurses of Alberta offices (700-11150 Jasper Avenue. Edmonton).
1:15 p.m., Friday, March 7, 2014
UNA Offices (#700 – 11150 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton)
Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) President Gil McGowan
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail email@example.com
New analysis reveals truth about Alberta’s shrinking pension liability
EDMONTON – The unfunded liability of Alberta’s public-sector pension plans is already a billion dollars smaller than Finance Minister Doug Horner claims.
For the past six months, the Redford government has defended its plan to cut benefits for public-sector workers by pointing to the $7.4 billion unfunded liability attached to Alberta’s four provincial pension plans.
Finance Minister Doug Horner has repeated the figure at every opportunity. He has said that if nothing is done, the liability will only grow – and that, even if his cuts are implemented – it will take 30 years for the unfunded liability to disappear.
But what if Horner got his numbers wrong? What if the unfunded liability is not as big as the minister says it is and that it’s shrinking, rather than growing?
As it turns out, that’s exactly what’s happening.
Today, the unions involved in the Labour Coalition on Pensions, representing most of the 300,000 people covered by Alberta’s public sector plan, released a new report showing what the unfunded liability looks like today, as opposed to the two-year-old figures used by the Finance Minister.
The report, prepared by the independent actuarial firm George & Bell, shows that after factoring in the last two years of investment returns, the unfunded liability has dropped by about a billion dollars.
This supports the actuary’s earlier conclusion that the plans are on their way to eliminating their unfunded liabilities in seven years – even without any cuts to the benefit that workers paid for themselves.
Here’s what some of the presidents involved in the Labour Coalition on Pensions had to say about the new report from George & Bell:
“What the report shows is that the Redford government’s plan for pension cuts is built on a foundation of misinformation. They’re using phony numbers to justify a plan that is really unjustifiable.”
Gil McGowan, Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL)
“Yesterday, they played games with budget numbers. Today, it’s clear they’ve been playing games with pension numbers. How can Albertans trust anything this government says?”
Heather Smith, United Nurses of Alberta (UNA)
“It’s important for people to understand that the $7.4 billion unfunded liability was a reflection of the health our pension plans in the immediate aftermath of the global recession. The new actuarial report shows that the situation is rapidly improving with the strategies the LAPP board of trustees has put in place.”
Elisabeth Ballermann, Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA)
“The minister has to stop using the $7.4 billion figure. It’s a misleading snapshot that’s two years out of date.”
Marle Roberts, Canadian Union of Public Employees (Alberta)
“The Minister and the Premier are using numbers they know are wrong to justify their plan to break promises made to nearly 300,000 Alberta workers and retirees. This isn’t just bad accounting, it’s deceitful politics.”
Guy Smith, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE)
Edmonton – Expressing their grave concern about the still-unknown contents of the Alberta government’s pension policy announcement tomorrow, the presidents of Alberta’s four largest public service unions and the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) said today that their members’ retirement savings plans are sustainable, affordable, modest and fair.
There is a crisis in retirement savings for middle class Canadians, “but it is not the crisis that has been cooked up by right-wing lobby groups,” said the joint statement by Health Sciences Association of Alberta president Elisabeth Ballermann, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees president Guy Smith, United Nurses of Alberta president Heather Smith and Canadian Union of Public Employees Alberta president Marle Roberts.
“The real crisis is the retirement security disaster faced by tens of thousands, possibly millions, of middle-class taxpayers in Alberta and throughout Canada who don’t have workplace pensions,” said their statement (see attached), read by AFL president Gil McGowan in front of Government House, where Alberta Finance Minister Doug Horner will make his pension announcement tomorrow.
“The solution to the real retirement crisis is staring us in the face,” the four union leaders said. “It is not to attack the retirement savings of working Canadians or to raise the age at which they can retire, but to provide a fair publicly administered pension plan for all.”
The joint statement on pensions emphasized the sustainability of all of Alberta’s current public service pension plans. “As we speak, thanks to the contributions made by plan members, these plans are returning to full funding, where they stood in the 1990s.”
The contributions made by members and employers represent savings from members’ pay, the leaders noted, adding that payouts to members tend to be very modest – the average yearly pension paid to members of the PSPP is currently $12,414 and the average pension paid to members of the LAPP is $14,958.
“These modest retirement incomes constitute the life savings of plan members,” the statement said. “They are a huge benefit to the Alberta economy because most of the retirement income of middle class Albertans is spent right here in our own Alberta communities.”
The leaders expressed their concern that, pushed by aggressive lobbying by right-wing groups, there is a risk the pensions of approximately 300,000 of their members and former members may become a political football for a government that feels the need to re-establish its conservative image to confront the Wildrose Party Opposition.
None of the stakeholder groups representing plan members – who are technically supposed to be equal partners in the plan – have been informed of what Horner intends to announce tomorrow to the public, media and plan participants.
Horner’s stakeholder meeting is scheduled to take place from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday, September 16 at Government House.
or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
News Conference today at 4:30 PM
Glenora Room, Main Floor
Coast Edmonton Plaza Hotel
10155 - 105th Street, Edmonton, Alberta T5J 1E2
4:30 PM, Wednesday, May 1
Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan
UFCW 401 president Doug O’Halloran
United Nurses of Alberta president Heather Smith
HSAA president Elisabeth Ballermann
Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via email email@example.com.
EDMONTON – The widespread wildcat strike that started last week with guards at Edmonton's Remand Centre and spread to facilities throughout the province took a dramatic turn Monday night.
After hearing hours of arguments from both sides, a Court of Queen's Bench justice found the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees in contempt of court for defying an earlier Alberta Labour Board ruling ordering its members back to work.
Justice J.D. Rooke fined the union $100,000, saying that rises to $250,000 if the strike isn't over by noon Tuesday. By Wednesday at noon, it will be $500,000 — and the union must pay half a million dollars for each day after that.
Meanwhile, the labour board also issued granted a cease and desist order to the province that ordered all union public sector workers who walked out in support of the guards to return to their jobs.
The government went to the courts after some provincial sheriffs, court clerks and social workers picketed outside courthouses in Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge and other communities in solidarity with jail guards, who were off the job at 10 correctional facilities.
The job action by sheriffs and staff forced the postponement of some family court cases and delayed some trials and other court proceedings.
The illegal walkout began Friday after two guards at the massive new $580-million Edmonton Remand Centre were suspended when they complained about safety at the facility, which started taking inmates for the first time earlier this month.
Deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk said the government won't deal with the union's safety concerns at the jail until the guards go back to work.
Lukaszuk blamed the dispute on a personal conflict between a union official at the jail and some of his supervisors.
"This illegal strike by AUPE, frankly, I have tell you, is irresponsible and it is causing Albertans a great deal of grief," he said.
"A great deal of this unrest is caused simply by someone not liking their boss. This is simply unacceptable."
The government estimates the strike is costing the government more than $1.5 million per day to pay for RCMP and other police to staff Alberta's jails.
Todd Ross, the chairman of the union local representing guards at the remand centre, said it is the safety conditions at the jail that are unacceptable.
Ross said 800 inmates were moved into the new jail over a two-day period from other remand centres, which was too many too fast.
He said glass in the facility is breakable, there aren't enough video monitoring cameras and not enough officers are issued with pepper spray.
"This is all about occupational health and safety concerns," said Ross, who has been a corrections officer for 28 years.
"It is a life and death situation. We need to get some meaningful talks going with this government."
The union didn't want to comment on Monday night's developments until they had been studied.
"We need to evaluate it (the directive) very carefully and consider our legal options," said AUPE president Guy Smith.
Earlier in the evening, there had been reports on Twitter that Lukaszuk and Smith had been spotted together talking over a drink.
Defence lawyer Deborah Hatch said the already burdened court system can't operate properly with the disruptions posed by the strike. She said the clerk who was to staff a trial she was to be involved in Monday was out on the picket line.
"It is absolutely not business as usual. There are jury trials that are supposed to start this morning. There are other types of trials in provincial court and Court of Queen's Bench. We don't have the people to function," said Hatch, former president of the Edmonton Criminal Trial Lawyers Association.
"Even one day of this will bring this system really to its knees."
Just days before the Edmonton Remand Centre opened, the union said it found five pages of design flaws after touring the facility. Union leaders asked the province to delay the transfer of prisoners from the old remand centre until changes were made.
The Alberta government said the facility was deemed safe by occupational health inspectors.
Lukaszuk said the union has presented a list of 10 demands that must be met before the guards will return to work, but he said health and safety is only one of the items on the list.
He said the union is in the middle of collective bargaining and he suggested it might be using the strike as a pressure tactic.
Smith said that isn't true.
"This has nothing to do with contract negotiations," Smith said. "This has everything to do with health and safety for the correctional police officers on the front lines."
Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, called on Premier Alison Redford to get involved to help resolve the dispute.
McGowan said the union's safety concerns should have been dealt with properly by the government weeks or months ago.
He accused Lukaszuk of using bullying tactics instead of properly managing the situation.
"We need cooler heads to prevail, and that is not going to happen as long as a hot-head like Thomas Lukaszuk is involved in the process," McGowan said.
Government officials said Premier Alison Redford has been fully briefed on the illegal strike and the walkouts by other public sector union members, but will not be directly involved in the dispute.
Metro, Monday, Apr. 29, 2013
Byline: John Cotter, Canadian Press
April 2013: Join us at the AFL's 9th Biennial Convention, Unions Stand up for Majority of Albertans, STRIKE! The Musical, Solidarity with Post-Secondary Education
Unions Stand Up for Majority of Albertans
In the lead up to Alberta’s 2013 budget, Alberta’s public sector unions worked together to advance the interests of the majority of Albertans.
The Alberta Federation of Labour, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Alberta Teachers’ Association, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, United Nurses of Alberta and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta presented a united front against austerity policies and draconian cuts.
Polling, conducted by Environics in advance of the provincial budget showed that more than 70 per cent of Albertans reject public service cuts. More than three quarters of those polled agreed that there should be an increase on taxes for wealthy Albertans and for corporations. The majority of Albertans believe that the province should be investing more in health care, education and other services.
“Albertans aren’t as conservative as Alison Redford seems to believe,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “She needs to listen better. Not to the radical tea party Tories, but to the majority of Albertans who are quietly progressive, and who want this province to be healthy and prosperous.”
STRIKE! The Musical
The Alberta Federation of Labour is proud to be bringing STRIKE! The Musical to Edmonton for its Alberta premiere.
This award-winning theatrical production, which tells the story of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, will be at the Timms Centre for the Performing Arts April 24 – April 28.
“When I saw Strike! three years ago in Winnipeg, I knew we needed to bring it to Alberta,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “The 100th anniversary of the AFL was the perfect opportunity to organize this production. It’s an important story about the history of Canadian labour, and it’s one that inspires pride in the activism and work that our member unions do.”
For more information or to order tickets, please visit www.strikemusical.com
Solidarity with Post-Secondary Education
More than 500 students, workers, educators and activists marched on the legislature on March 15.
The rally, which was organized by the Coalition for Action on Post-Secondary Education, was protesting the massive cuts the Alberta Government imposed on universities and colleges throughout the province. The University of Alberta faces a 7.2 per cent cut.
Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan spoke at the rally, noting that the province’s economy depends on having a quality education system.
Join us at the AFL’s 9th Biennial Convention
More than 500 labour activists, leaders and delegates will gather at the Shaw Conference Centre in downtown Edmonton from April 25 – 28 for the Alberta Federation of Labour’s 9th Biennial Convention.
The convention, which has the theme “Unions Stand on Guard for Thee,” will examine how the labour movement has helped create, and protect the prosperous, inclusive society of which Canadians are rightfully proud.
Coming from all corners of Alberta, delegates will celebrate the achievements of unions, hear from dozens of speakers, and help chart the direction of our further growth.
Registration starts Wednesday, April 24 and continues on Thursday, April 25.
2013 AFL Convention runs Thursday, April 25, 2013 - Sunday, April 28, 2013.
Convention Committees meet Wednesday, April 24.
AFL Council meets Tuesday, April 23.
Convention venue is the Shaw Conference Centre
Convention hotel is the Crowne Plaza Chateau Lacombe
Location: Shaw Conference Centre, Edmonton
Contact: Maureen Werlin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 780-483-3021
April 28 – International Day of Mourning for Dead and Injured Workers
May 1 – May Day March
May 3 – Deadline to register for Summer Labour School
June 14 - Deadline to register AFL Kids Camp
Did you know ...
After production and development costs are factored in, Alberta only collects 54 per cent of the the excess profit from heavy oil production. By comparison, Norway collects 80 per cent, Russia collects 73 per cent and Angola collects 71 per cent.
- Once ravaged by debt and war, higher oil royalties have helped Angola turn a budget deficit of 8.6 per cent of GDP in 2009 into a surplus of 12 per cent of GDP in 2012.
- Alberta has the highest pay gap in Canada. Alberta women working full year and full time earn a median 68 per cent of what men earn. The pay gap is reduced for women in unions – to about 85 per cent of what men earn.
- According to Environics polling conducted in February, 77 per cent of Albertans support increased taxes on corporations and those making more than $200,000.
EDMONTON - Faced with the "almighty task" of leading Alberta's largest civil service union through some of the toughest challenges it has faced in nearly two decades, Guy Smith will be officially sworn in today as the new president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.
"The number of things we have to deal with is immense, but I'm excited," said Smith, a longtime union activist and counsellor at the Yellowhead Youth Centre in Edmonton.
"Although it's an almighty task, we have to be resolute in taking on the defence of our members who are being negatively affected by cuts.
"Basically, it's across the board; in health care, in education, in government services, in boards and agencies."
Smith, 47, won a clear victory in an election Friday at the union's annual convention, putting an end to Doug Knight's more than three-year term.
Knight was elected in a 2006 byelection after Dan MacLennan stepped down. Knight was reelected to a two-year term in October 2007.
AUPE spokesman David Climenhaga called Friday's the vote a clear victory for Smith, and an indication the membership "felt the time was right for a change."
Knight was a vocal critic of the planned bed closures at Alberta Hospital, a cause Smith says remains at the top of his lengthy to-do list.
"We've got to keep the momentum building, so that's a focus for us, but at the same time we have other issues."
Chief among them is Premier Ed Stelmach's Conservative government, which Smith contends appears intent on taking out the current economic crisis "on the backs of workers and public services."
The province has said it will ask teachers, nurses, doctors and other public sector workers to voluntarily accept a two-year wage freeze as part of its plan to control spending, a request the AUPE and other unions roundly rejected.
Smith said concern is growing among his members, who are coming to him in droves with stories about wage freezes, hiring freezes, cutbacks, rollbacks and contracting out.
AUPE represents more than 72,000 people --most of whom work in the public sector-- including the provincial government, health-care employers, and educational facilities.
"It feels like it did in the 1990s under Ralph Klein," said Smith.
"It was a terrible time, and those of us who went through it are not going to be fooled by government again."
Smith said he intends to be more visible and more active in his role as president--with the media and with union members. Among his goals is to visit more work sites across the province to mobilize workers at a grassroots level, one of his key election platforms
He said public sector workers have a role to play in the debate about the future of public services all Albertans rely on.
"When our members are losing jobs, Albertans are losing services, and we believe they will support our efforts to protect quality public services," said Smith.
The president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said Smith is the right man for the job in these tough economic times.
"His election is significant, especially in the context of what's going on," said Gil McGowan, who represents 137,000 public and private sector workers from 27 unions.
"Given all the rumblings about budget cuts and wage rollbacks coming from premier Stelmach and his ministers, it's clear that all public sector workers and their unions are in for a difficult few years."
Edmonton Journal, Sat Oct 24 2009