Western labour leaders promise “unprecedented battle” if BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan water down workplace safety rules
The warning was issued by Gil McGowan and Larry Hubich, presidents of the Federations of Labour in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and Lee Loftus, a ranking officer of the BC Federation of Labour and president of the BC Building Trades Council. The three leaders were in Edmonton today as provincial bureaucrats gather to begin the latest round of negotiations on a so-called New West Partnership.
Previous rounds of negotiation between the three provinces focused on harmonizing rules related to training, certification and apprenticeship. According to government documents, the new round of negotiations will deal with “health and safety regulations that act as impediments to trade.”
“Our message to the premiers of BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan is clear and simple,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “If you’re going to engage in a race-to-the-bottom on workplace health and safety rules, you’re going to have an unprecedented fight on your hands. The labour movement is not going to sit idly by if rules designed to protect the health and safety of millions of workers are being watered down. We simply won’t let it happen.”
“The notion that occupational health and safety rules can be seen as impediments to trade is completely absurd,” Saskatchewan Federation of Labour president Larry Hubich added. “These rules are about keeping workers safe and healthy. If businesses can’t operate profitably in that kind of environment, they shouldn’t be in business.”
“The only kind of harmonization we’ll consider when it comes to work place health and safety standards is harmonization upwards,” concluded Loftus from the BC Federation of Labour.
“Instead of engaging in a race-to-the-bottom, let’s have a race to the top. We simply won’t accept anything less. The health and safety of working people always has to take precedence over the whims of corporations, no matter how influential those corporations may be.”
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.9888 (cell)