Re: "It's time for unions to re-evaluate needs of workers and adapt accordingly; Attitude overhaul necessary to regain their much-needed place in society," by Colin McComb, Ideas, Sept. 12.
It's time for the truth about unions in Alberta. Unfortunately, we got nothing like that from Colin McComb's opinion piece.
McComb failed to identify his background as a former representative for the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC). Why?
Many readers understand that the CLAC is not a real union. Perhaps including his former association with that organization would shatter his arguments for how unions should change. He says unions should not be involved in politics, but fails to point out he has a background in political marketing and campaigning.
McComb has a problem with democratically run unions making donations to political parties, but he has nothing to say about donations from corporations, whose spending far outweighs that by the labour movement.
He implies that unions love to strike, but the truth is that unions rarely strike. No worker wants to live on meagre strike pay instead of collecting a real wage. Striking is a weapon of last resort - but to surrender that weapon will leave workers powerless to defend themselves from bad employers who slash their wages or raid employee pension funds.
McComb paints an outrageous picture of union leaders as Marxists plotting an uprising. This is so out of touch with the labour movement it makes you wonder if he has delusions he is Joseph McCarthy, trapped in a 1950s witch hunt for Reds under his bed. McComb would have us go back to an era when workers had to bow down to employers, instead of being treated with the respect every person deserves.
A flip through a few contracts CLAC has negotiated on behalf of workers is evidence of this: employers being able to lay you off with no notice; no CLAC representative needing to be present for disciplinary meetings with a worker; employers and the CLAC being able to change anything in a collective bargaining agreement to be competitive.
One clause in a CLAC contract sums up their approach to dealing with employers: "In the event that consultation fails to resolve a matter of contention, the union agrees that the decisive word resides with management, unless specifically abridged, deleted or modified by this agreement."
That's CLAC-style labour relations. Some employers seek out the CLAC because they know it will mean they can pay lower wages, offer fewer benefits and impose lower standards on workplace safety.
If workers want real representation, and to ensure fairness in their workplace and a fair return for their labour, they need a real union.
Real unions have no trouble debating their role in Alberta. We do have a problem when those who argue against us do so from behind a smokescreen of omissions.
Douglas O' Halloran, president, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 401
Edmonton Journal, Letters to the Editor, Tues Sept 27 2011
"Who decides? We'll decide! Whose work? Our work!" was the cry heard across the downtown core yesterday.
Hundreds of Canada Post workers united with other labour unions to voice their frustration with recent back-to-work legislation put forward by the federal government.
"When the call for support is put out, others answer. An injury to one is an injury to all," said Guy Smith, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. "Free collective bargaining is a basic democratic right."
The United Nurses Association and the AUPE were among the groups backing the postal workers union. Approximately 1,200 people showed up to march down Jasper Avenue, literally stopping daytime traffic.
"We are outraged by the federal government's actions," said Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan.
Workers are upset they are not being allowed to negotiate any further, and union representatives described legislation proposed by Stephen Harper as heavy-handed.
Others were just excited to be a part of something of this magnitude.
"It's amazing to see all these people rallying together for this one purpose," said postal worker Zach Marke.
MetroNews, Wed Jun 22 2011
Marching through Edmonton's core, hundreds of angry postal workers and union leaders shouted their message loud and clear.
"We're working united, we'll never be defeated!" workers shouted on Tuesday outside of the downtown Canada Post depot.
Wearing signs such as "Harper is stealing from the working class," representatives from 29 unions protested the proposed back-to-work federal legislation that would order employees back to work immediately — negotiation or not.
"We're going to be the first ones to feel this, but people have to realize this isn't just about CUPW, or Air Canada — this is about working people in this country having some power and some strength," said Bev Ray, president of Edmonton Canadian Union Postal Workers (CUPW).
"(We're) not going away, (we're) not backing down and while this government might impose this legislation — it's not over yet."
Canada Post and CUPW have been negotiating since the beginning of June after Canada Post wanted to start paying new workers less than established employees and change sick-leave mandates.
Postal workers have been on a nationwide lockout, leaving the country with no mail service since June 14.
But the new back-to-work bill — already imposed on Air Canada workers — could see employees returning to their positions despite a compromise on negotiations, a move Harper said is to protect the economy.
The bill legislates wage increases less than Canada Post's last offer of 1.9% in 2011 to 2013 and 2% in 2014. The bill mandates 1.75% in 2011, 1.5% in 2012 and 2% in 2013 and 2014.
In a statement, Denis Lemelin, CUPW national president, said that over a four-year period the bill would take $875.50 out of the pockets of an average full-time postal worker. Collectively, that is $35 million from postal workers and their families nationwide, he says.
"This is not just a fight for the post office, it's not just a fight for the people that work at Air Canada — this is a fight for the middle class and you're leading the way," said Gil McGowan, Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) president.
"We are here today to tell you not only that you're not alone, but that we're incredibly proud of what you're doing."
Among the crowd was Elisabeth Ballermann, president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta who says "an attack on one is an attack on all."
Other unions at the rally included AUPE, United Nurses of Alberta, CUPE and dozens more.
CUPW worker Stephen Hargrade says the fight is no longer about the postal workers.
"It's all just about how much we're gonna give up," he said. "The federal government is basically saying, 'Good luck, keep your mouth shut and go to work.' "
A written statement on behalf of the AFL will be sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said McGowan. The statement condemns the federal government's actions calling the legislation "heavy handed" and a "one-sided attempt to undermine all working Canadians at the expense of employers."
The legislation has been tabled, while CUPW and Canada Post continue to negotiate.
Edmonton Sun, Tues Jun 21 2011
Byline: Jasmine Franklin
Unions vow to fight Harper’s anti-worker agenda: Labour leaders from across Alberta condemn ‘one-sided’ back-to-work legislation
Alberta's labour leaders sent a strong message to the Harper government today, condemning the anti-worker agenda shown by back-to-work legislation in the Canada Post and Air Canada disputes.
"Rather than helping find a solution to disputes by acting as an independent umpire or counselor, this government has chosen to take sides and help the employers impose their will on working Canadians," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL).
He described the government's back-to-work legislation as heavy handed and one-sided attempts to undermine all working Canadians at the expense of employers.
Members of the AFL's executive committee, representing 145,000 private and public-sector workers from a range of unions, joined postal workers rallying at the Canada Post downtown plant at 9808 103A Avenue, Edmonton, today (Tuesday, June 21).
They issued a statement expressing their outrage at the attacks on workers.
"We are outraged on behalf of the members of CAW and CUPW whose rights and interests have been trampled upon," says the statement.
"We are outraged on behalf of all unionized Canadians who now know that the federal government is willing to use its considerable power not to provide a level playing field for negotiations, but to tip that playing field dramatically in favour of employers.
"Finally, we are outraged on behalf of all working Canadians – both union and non-union – because through its actions, the Harper government has made common cause with employers and employer groups that want to strip away and water down the hard-won wages and benefits that provide a foundation for Canada's increasingly precarious middle class."
The union leaders committed to exposing "the Harper government's new, unprecedented and dangerous approach to labour relations" and to fighting to protect the wages, benefits and conditions that help define and provide a foundation for the Canadian middle class," says the statement.
"From our perspective, the Harper agenda threatens the very fabric and foundations of the Canadian middle class. It parallels the attacks on public-sector unions in Wisconsin and other U.S. states, differing only in form, not substance – and it will not go unopposed in Alberta."
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CONTACT: Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888.
Read the full statement by the AFL executive committee here. (Link to statement).
Edmonton postal workers rally against proposed back-to-work legislation: Other unions join voices to send message to federal government
EDMONTON - Solidarity was the message postal workers and labour unions took to the streets of Edmonton Tuesday after a rally at Canada Post's downtown plant.
"You are not alone. You're among brothers and sisters and we brought them here with us today," Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said to a crowd of approximately 1,200.
The AFL released a statement Tuesday afternoon criticizing the back-to-work legislation proposed by the federal government.
"We are outraged on behalf of all unionized Canadians, who now know that the federal government is willing to use its considerable power not to provide a level playing field for negotiations," the statement read. The statement referred to the proposed legislation as dangerous and unprecedented.
Other unions, such as the United Nurses Association and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, marched and chanted down Jasper Avenue in support of the postal workers.
"It's a turning point for everyone if we allow the federal government this type of power. Let the free collective bargaining run its course," said Guy Smith, president of the AUPE.
Workers say they are upset that they are being stripped of the right to negotiate and criticize the proposed legislation that offers less than Canada Post's last pitch to the union.
In the government's proposal, Canada Post workers will receive less of a wage increase than the increase offered in negotiations by Canada Post and set the length of the collective agreement to four years.
"They locked us out. We were rotating, which kept the mail moving, and we get penalized," said Brian Henderson, a Canada Post employee. "If they think they had an unhappy workforce before, just wait until we go back. We are not going to be a happy crowd."
Bev Ray, Edmonton's Canadian Union of Postal Workers president, said she would not speculate on what will happen if the legislation is passed, but that employees will follow orders from the national union.
"This is legislation that responds solely to the needs of the large corporation," Ray said. "It's some of the most restrictive legislation we've seen."
Canada Post spokeswoman Anick Losier said she would not comment on the back-to-work legislation, but that the corporation is hoping for a negotiated settlement quickly.
"We have a sense of urgency to find a resolution as soon as possible," she said. "We are trying to find common ground with our union."
Edmonton Journal, Tues Jun 21 2011
Byline: Codi Wilson
Organized labour is accusing the Harper government of "Americanizing" collective bargaining.
The accusation came Tuesday during a noon hour rally outside Canada Post's downtown plant in Edmonton. It saw a couple hundred people from across the union spectrum support locked out postal workers. The unions are upset at what they describe as "heavy-handedness" in negotiations.
What's got them going is the government's back-to-work legislation which imposes lower wages than Canada Post's last offer when the rotating strikes began.
"The arbitrator that's going to be appointed is going to be looking at the final offer of Canada Post, the final offer of the union (and) he or she will pick one, and that's what's going to make up the collective agreement for the next four years," said Bev Ray, the Edmonton local president for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), whose members have been locked out since last Thursday.
Gil McGowan with the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) says, to have a wage roll back in legislation language is unprecedented.
"In this case, the government, I would argue," he said, "this is an American style approach."
Ray says, with the legislation now tabled for a couple of days, the hope is in the interim, talks will resume.
Labour Minister Lisa Raitt says the settlement is in line with other federal unions.
iNews880am, Tues Jun 21 2011
Calgary postal workers are hoping the union and Canada Post can iron out a collective agreement before being forced to return to the job by looming back-to-work legislation.
"We are not thrilled. We are better off if we can negotiate our own collective agreement, but once this starts, our hands are pretty close to being tied," said Anna Beale, CUPW Calgary local president, as she gathered Wednesday outside the city's main depot with dozens of other workers holding "Locked Out" signs.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Labour Minister Lisa Raitt announced in the House of Commons on Wednesday that the government was tabling back-towork-legislation to end the labour dispute at Canada Post, arguing that the action is needed to protect Canadians and the economy.
This came a day after Canada Post halted operations nationwide and locked out nearly 50,000 workers, and a day after Ottawa announced it would be ending another national strike involving Air Canada employees with back-to-work legislation.
Normally, when legislative notice is given, the government cannot introduce the bill for 48 hours.
Beale questioned what spurred the government to suddenly take action on the Canada Post dispute two weeks after the rotating strikes started.
"(Tuesday), we were a blip on their radar and (Wednesday), it's practically a national emergency."
Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, which represents 145,000 workers, criticized the government's actions in both national strikes.
"Using back-to-work legislation removes the incentive for the employer to come to the table and negotiate. With the hands of the workers tied, the employer can impose an unjust and unpopular deal that fails to address the issues that led to the dispute," McGowan said in a news release.
Meanwhile, Canada Post spent the day sealing street letterboxes as part of the lockout, said company spokesman Jon Hamilton.
Hamilton said Canada Post was forced to cease operations after seeing losses of close to $100 million since the rotating strikes began.
He said the lockout was also initiated because there was some "heightened activity" hampering the ability for both employees and customers to get safely in and out of postal buildings.
In addition, Hamilton said there has been no movement at the negotiating table.
Corporate post offices have closed. Rural and franchise offices will remain open to process mail orders and ID verification, but no mail will be "inducted," or put through the system, he said.
Any mail already in the system will be inventoried, secured and prepared for when mail operations resume, Hamilton said.
If anyone tries to mail letters in the Calgary today, those items could be "stranded," Hamilton warned.
Rural carriers, who are part of a different bargaining unit, can continue delivering mail that has been sorted for the next few days, as long as they can move safely in out and out of post office buildings, Hamilton said.
Socio-economic cheques will also be delivered through regular mail by volunteer letter carriers Monday, Hamilton said.
He said he doesn't know how much mail is stuck in the system as millions of pieces of mail are normally processed in Canada on a daily basis.
Beale estimated that about 300 monotainers -large steel bins measuring about 1.2 metres in length, width and height -containing magazines and ad mail, as well as heaps of mail near the letter carrier cases, are piling up at Calgary's main plant.
In response to the postal disruption, Service Canada issued a news release encouraging clients who receive employment insurance benefits by mail to sign up for direct deposit payment or to arrange to pick up their benefit payments from a distribution centre.
Service Alberta suggested the same thing with clients collecting provincial cheques, and also initiated its emergency mail plan starting today to ensure "critical mail" can continue to flow between Albertans and provincial departments.
Calgarians can drop off essential correspondence addressed to provincial departments at Monarch Messenger Services, 4710 78th Ave. S.E., on weekdays between 8: 15 a.m. and 4: 30 p.m. No stamps are required, but the sender and recipient's full addresses should be clearly marked.
Albertans expecting essential mail from the province will be contacted with a pickup date and location.
The union is asking for a four-year contract with a wage increase of 3.3 per cent in the first year followed by 2.75 per cent in the subsequent years. It also wants a short-term disability plan instead of banking sick days.
The company has proposed a 1.9 per cent wage increase per year, with wages starting at $19 an hour and capping at $26, as well as a benefit pension plan and up to seven weeks' vacation.
Calgary Herald, Thurs Jun 16 2011
Byline: Clara Ho
Canada Post's decision to lock out its unionized workers Tuesday night was more of a shock to local union president Doris Salmaso, than was Wednesday's announcement by the federal government that it plans to introduce back-to-work legislation.
Salmaso, who represents some 100 Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) in the Medicine Hat-Brooks area, said Wednesday that her national union had already talked about the possibility of the federal government intervening to end the labour dispute with Canada Post.
"I was surprised at the lockout announced Tuesday night," she told the News in an interview Wednesday. "I thought they'd (Canada Post) at least let us deliver the stacks of mail that were packed up inside our processing building."
According to Salmaso, there was a lot more mail stacked up here and elsewhere in the country than what Canada Post has been admitting too.
With the lockout, Salmaso — along with her fellow union workers — are now only getting a cheque for $175 a week from CUPW. All benefits, as well, as far as she's been informed, along with their regular pay from Canada Post, have been terminated.
It also means that depending on the length of the present lockout and what legislation the federal government brings in to force both party's to negotiate in good faith, many union members may have to refinance their mortgages, and find alternate arrangements to pay a wide-range of things from food to medications, she added.
On Wednesday, union workers spent the day picketing outside the Canada Post Medicine Hat Processing Centre on Kipling Street, and at the company's Canada Post Office on First Street SE.
The present strike by CUPW is the first in 14 years.
Among a number of things on the table are that union negotiators have asked for a wage bump of 3.2 per cent in the first year, followed by 2.75 per cent in the subsequent years of a four-year contract.
Canada Post has offered a 1.9 per cent increase a year, with wages starting at $18 an hour for new employees and increases capped at $26 for new and existing employees.
Employees also receive a benefit pension plan and up to seven weeks vacation.
Negotiations have been going on for seven months.
As postal workers walked their picket lines Wednesday, the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) threw its weight behind them.
"The Canadian Union of Postal Workers has made great proposals to take Canada Post profits and invest them in better service, but these have been rejected by the employer," said AFL president Gil McGowan.
"CUPW has also proposed ways to increase profits, such as offering banking services like many post offices in countries around the world, but these ideas have also been dismissed."
The City of Medicine Hat Wednesday announced that it had made a number of arrangements to ensure continued customer service and business operations during the current disruption in postal service.
Medicine Hat News, Thurs Jun 16 2011
Issue: 48,000 members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) have been locked out by Canada Post
Actions Requested: Help them on the picket lines in your area. In Edmonton, go to the main plant at 12135-149 Street or to the downtown plant at 9808 - 103A Avenue. In Calgary, join them at 1100 - 49 Avenue, N.E. In Fort McMurray, go to the Hardin Street deport between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Thursday for a BBQ on the line. Check your local Canada Post depots for other picket lines.
When: Tonight (Wednesday, June 15th) and tomorrow (Thursday, June 16th)
Issue – CUPW Calls on Allies for Support
Canada Post locked out 48,000 workers across the country last night (Tuesday, June 14th). Today, they have been on the picket lines and are asking us to come out to provide support and strengthen those lines.
Anyone able to come by the main Edmonton plant at 12135-149 Street or the downtown plant 9808 - 103A Avenue would be appreciated. At the main Edmonton plant, the early shift 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. is in desperate need of fortifying the lines.
CUPW says it does not know what the next 48 hours holds, but the federal government is positioning itself to impose back-to-work legislation. Flooding MP offices with calls and e-mails and coming out to join the picket lines to bolster support would lift the spirits of our brothers and sisters.
Local urban Canada Post workers are solidly on the picket line now after Canada Post locked them out Tuesday night.
That's a change from Tuesday morning when striking workers in Fort McMurray brought out the picket signs for the first time since the strike's June 3 start with the intention of only picketing two days a week: Tuesdays and Thursdays.
That was because the corporation had cut carriers to three days a week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday — leading union members to treat the other two days as lock-out days, with picket lines set up in front of the Hardin Street and Riedel Street postal buildings.
Dana Gabriel, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers Local 736 in Fort McMurray, said this morning that CUPW has been ready and willing to negotiate for weeks because "we've been ready to negotiate a fair agreement ... but Canada Post didn't seem to want to."
He believes Canada Post had the lock out planned all along.
Gabriel had pointed out Tuesday that the Canadian charter says that when Canada Post became a corporation, that there will be mail delivery five days a week to businesses and residences.
Late Tuesday morning, a group of about 20 workers were carrying signs and making noise outside Canada Post's main Riedel location. Numerous honks and shouts of supports from passersby earned rollicking shouts of thanks in return.
"We picketed Hardin Street this morning from seven to nine, now we have another one, 11 to one here," said Gabriel Tuesday.
He noted that support for the striking workers has been "awesome."
"A lot of horn blowing; truckers are great, getting those loud horns going on the highway this morning from all sorts of people, from company trucks, from personal vehicles, the support's been great."
Joining Gabriel and his co-workers on the picket line Tuesday was Nancy Furlong from the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"There are ongoing problems across this country with employers attacking pension plans and this is an important strike because they're holding the line in terms of pensions," said Furlong. "The same thing is happening with the current CAW strike with Air Canada and we expect to see that everywhere because employers are trying to deny workers the right to retire at a decent rate at a decent age and that's going to continue to be problem all this summer."
She said it's wonderful the Canada Post workers are standing firm on the issue.
Gabriel noted the CUPW national president Denis Lemelin, and Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra met with federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, and CUPW offered to come back under the old contract which expired in January "as long as they guaranteed we could deliver the mail five days a week.
"Canada Post basically told them no and that they were going to a three-day work week. It's sort of like the tail wagging the dog," said Gabriel.
"There is mail to be delivered. ... We want to work. We want to service our customers and the corporation isn't letting us."
On Thursday, the striking workers are holding a solidarity barbecue 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Hardin Street location and Gabriel said members of the public are invited including brothers and sisters from other unions.
Meanwhile, a statement issued Tuesday by Canada Post said financial losses are mounting as the rotating strike enters its 12th day. Canada Post estimates that it has lost over $70 million in revenue, a figure that is climbing daily.
Exacerbating the problems is the fact that Canada Post is continuing to incur a significant wage bill for 48,000 members of CUPW while their union inflicts massive losses on the company through costly rotating strikes, said the announcement.
The uncertainty of where CUPW members will strike from day-to-day made it difficult for Canada Post to plan its logistics and transport network let alone the staffing levels. Tuesday's strike action in the two largest metropolitan centres in Canada — Toronto and Montreal — where over 60% of national mail volume originates will cripple the whole postal network. If rotating strikes continue to impact the business at this pace, Canada Post will not be in a position to sustain its operations across the country.
Fort McMurray Today, Wed Jun 15 2011
Byline: Carol Christian