EDMONTON - Health care workers from seven different unions will rally at the Legislature over the lunch hour tomorrow to protest Bill 27, the government's controversial amendment to the Alberta Labour Relations Code.
If passed, the Bill will strip the right to strike from more than 7,000 community health workers; it will remove decision-making power from the impartial Alberta Labour Relations Board and hand it to the provincial cabinet; and it will set up a process that could lead to lower wages and reduced conditions of work in the health sector.
"These are the most sweeping and potential damaging changes to Alberta's labour laws that we've seen in the past 20 years," says Les Steel President of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"And they're being rammed through the Legislature without input from the public or affected health care workers. If the government thinks they can use the distraction of war to pass bad laws without public scrutiny, they've got another thing coming."
The rally will be held on the Legislature steps starting at noon tomorrow, Thursday, March 20, 2003. Speakers will include:
- Judy Darcy, National President, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
- Heather Smith, President, United Nurses of Alberta (UNA)
- Elisabeth Ballermann, President, Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA)
- Yvonne Fast, President, CUPE Alberta Division
- Brian Mason, Deputy Leader, Alberta New Democrats
Bill 27 was introduced last week without any warning and without any consultation with health care workers. The Bill has been rushed through the Legislature, passing Second Reading on Monday and moving to committee debate today. It could be passed as soon as tomorrow afternoon.
The rally is being organized by CUPE, with support from the AFL, UNA, HSAA, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP), the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the United Steelworkers of America (USWA), and the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE).
For more information call:
Gil McGowan, AFL Communications @ (780) 483-3021 or (780) 910-1137 (cell)
Pam Beattie, CUPE Communications @ (780) 288-1230 (cell)
EDMONTON - The Alberta Federation of Labour and seven unions representing health care workers in the province have decided to launch a formal challenge to Bill 27, a bill to amend the Alberta Labour Code, on the grounds that it violates the NAFTA side agreement on labour.
"One of the key features of Bill 27 is that it robs health care workers and their unions of the right to due process when it comes to basic labour relations," says AFL president Les Steel.
"This is a clear violation of the obligations outlined under the North American Agreement on Labour Cooperation (NAALC) - better known as the NAFTA side agreement on labour. The agreement was entered into in 1995 by then Labour Minister Stockwell Day on behalf of the Alberta government, and it's still in force today."
The union complaint - which will be filed later this month - argues that Bill 27 violates Part Two, Section Five of the NAALC which says that each party (Canada, the U.S. and Mexico) shall ensure that all labour relations proceedings "comply with due process of the law."
As it stands right now, the Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) administers the rules governing collective bargaining in Alberta. They decide who unions can bargain for, when they can bargain, how they can bargain - and even sometimes what they can bargain.
But the ALRB is bound by law to exercise its authority in an even-handed manner. In particular, before making any decisions, the Board conducts formal hearings at which all parties have the right to state their case publicly. The Board then makes its decisions based on the law and the evidence.
It is exactly this impartial and balanced approach - a process that respects both sides in labour relations - that is being thrown out by Bill 27, says Steel.
"Basically, with Bill 27 the government is breaking its promises under NAFTA and completely short-circuiting the LRB process. Instead of decisions being made with input from all parties, the power is going to be transferred to the provincial cabinet. There will be no fair hearing for health care workers - and no due process. It will be a kangaroo court."
The unions' brief to the NAFTA Administrative Office is being prepared by Bob Blair, a prominent Edmonton labour lawyer, and former chair of the ALRB.
He says Bill 27 will give the cabinet power to determine appropriate bargaining units in health care; to determine which unions emerge as bargaining agents after regional health authorities have been amalgamated; and to determine which collective agreements are going to govern in those new bargaining units.
"This is a serious departure from past practice - and a clear violation of our commitment to due process under NAFTA," says Blair. "The LRB has traditionally maintained its impartiality by engaging in a very careful balancing act between the interests of the employer and the workers. But with Bill 27, the government is throwing out all pretense of impartiality."
Steel agrees, saying that the changes are clearly being made to advance the agendas of the employers - the regional health authorities."In this kind of setting, there is absolutely no way that workers will get a fair hearing."
The complaint is being filed jointly by: the Alberta Federation of Labour, the United Nurses of Alberta, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, the Communications, Energy & Paperworkers Union of Canada, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, the United Steelworkers of America, and the International Union of Operating Engineers.
For more information call:
Les Steel, AFL President (780) 499-4135 (cell) / (780) 483-3021 (wk)
Bob Blair, Lawyer, Blair Chahley & Seveny (780) 423-3433 (wk) / (780) 919-3357 (cell)
EDMONTON - The leaders of unions representing health care workers in Alberta will meet tomorrow morning to discuss a new piece of provincial legislation that will strip the right-to-strike from thousands of their members.
The local union leaders will be joined by Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, who has described the proposed strike-ban legislation as "draconian and uncalled for."
After a private breakfast meeting, the union leaders will gather for a news conference at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 11 in Salon C of the Crowne Plaza - Chateau Lacombe Hotel in downtown Edmonton (10111 Bellamy Hill).
At the news conference, the union leaders will summarize their concerns about the new legislation - and how they plan to respond to it.
"Alberta already has the most restrictive legislation in the country," says Les Steel, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"These amendments are just going to make a bad situation worse. Basically, they're going to be stripping thousands of workers of the right to control their own labour and the right to choose one union over another. It's a huge step backward."
The news conference will be attended by representatives from the following unions and labour organizations: the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL); the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA); the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE); the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA); the International Operating Engineers (IOE); the United Steelworkers of America (USWA); the Communication Energy Paperworkers union (CEP); and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW).
The Alberta government is expected to introduce its package of labour law amendments into the Legislature tomorrow afternoon. Leaks from the government suggest that the legislation will strip the right-to-strike from paramedics and people working in long-term and community health care.
For more information, contact:
Les Steel, AFL President at (780) 483-3021 (wk) or (780) 499-4135 (cell)
Gil McGowan, AFL Communications at (780) 483-3021 (wk) or (780) 910-1137 (cell)
EDMONTON - Despite a booming economy and an expected multi-billion-dollar budget surplus, the Alberta government will not likely use the upcoming session of the Legislature to make life any easier for working people, says the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"Thanks to our abundant natural resources and our strong provincial economy, we are in a better position than any other province in the country to shore up the programs and services that really matter to people," says Les Steel.
"Yet our government is showing no interest in addressing the social deficit it created through years of short-sighted and mean-spirited fiscal policy. In fact, most senior members of the government have their heads firmly in the sand when it comes to acknowledging the problems their own policies have created."
Steel says the government's attitude towards needed social spending was summed up recently when the Education minister denied that parents were being forced to fund-raise for classroom essentials and when a government backbencher accused the Edmonton Public School Board of "grandstanding" when they announced a huge budget shortfall.
"Where have these people been?" asks Steel. "Despite our vast wealth, this government has consistently under-funded the services that matter most to Albertans. But instead of acknowledging the role their own policies have played in the erosion of quality services, they blame the victims. They say it's the teachers fault or the school boards fault - anyone but their own. It's incredible."
As a result of the government on-going ideological aversion to social spending - and their continuing refusal to shed their right-wing, rose-coloured glasses when looking at the consequences - Steel says the next session of the Legislature may be more memorable for the problems it doesn't deal with than for those it does.
"What about the minimum wage?" asks Steel. "We've slipped to the bottom of the pack in the country - again. And what about labour law reform? Last year we saw just how uneven the playing field is for workers during the Shaw Conference Centre strike in Edmonton. And the Minister struck a committee to consider changes. But where are the reforms? Where are the new protections for workers?"
Aside from all the pressing issues that haven't been put on the table, Steel worries that the government may use the next session of the Legislature to push ahead with dangerous privatization schemes (P-3s in particular) and to "get even" with public-sector workers - particularly nurses and teachers - who recently managed to win long-overdue wage increases.
"The Tories talk a good game when it comes to education and health care," says Steel. "They say our nurses and teachers are valuable and that more needs to be done to attract and retain them. But inside, members of the government caucus are seething. They're not used to anyone standing up to them - and that's exactly what both the teachers and nurses did. So what we're concerned about is retaliation. We're worried the government will continue its lip-service on health and education, while at the same time moving to knife the nurses and teachers in the back."
Steel predicts that revenge against the teachers will come in the form of inadequate funding for education - so that deteriorating standards can be blamed on "greedy" teachers and their recent wage settlement. When it comes to the nurses - who are currently at the bargaining table - Steel worries that the government will emulate B.C. and use legislative power to reach into contracts and nullify provisions that have been on the books for years.
"At the bargaining table, the government has repeatedly brought up the B.C. example," says Steel. "It may be just a tactic to scare the nurses. But on the other hand, it may be more than a threat. Only time will tell."
If the government uses legislation to tear up existing contracts or goes ahead with plans to implement P-3s, they will face a battle with the labour movement, says Steel.
"Both issues are red flags for us," he says. "When it comes to contracts, we believe firmly that a deal is a deal - and we'll fight to save our collective agreements. On the subject of privatization, we're also drawing a line in the sand. We don't think P-3s or any other kind of privatization of core services is in the public interest. We'll fight for a moratorium on these schemes until the government provides proof that they save money or improve service."
For more information, contact:
Les Steel, AFL President at (780) 483-3021 (wk) or (780) 499-4135 (cell)
Gil McGowan, AFL Communications at (780) 483-3021 (wk)
Les Steel, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour, February 2003
We need to change - to take advantage of new opportunities and meet new challenges
As trade unionists we are currently living through a period that can best be described as schizophrenic.
It's a time of big challenges - some of the most serious we've ever faced. But, on the other hand, it's also a time of new hope and new opportunities.
On the positive side - I'm convinced that we're starting to see the first tell-tale signs that the long winter of knee-jerk, business-first thinking that has dominated our country since the days of Brian Mulroney may finally be coming to an end.
This may seem like a surprising claim to make - especially here in B.C., right in the middle of Gordon Campbell's first term.
But on the ground - in communities, in homes, in coffee shops - attitudes are changing.
After Enron and Worldcom and all the other corporate scandals that have come to light over the past year, people are no longer so willing to put blind faith in the business community.
Ordinary Canadians are also becoming more and more skeptical of the corporate agenda that our governments have been pursuing for the past fifteen years or more years.
Yes, our leaders are still talking about budget cuts. And, yes, they're still pushing for privatization, wage roll-backs, down-sizing, more international trade deals and tax cuts for the well-off.
But poll after poll tells us that ordinary Canadians are on a different page.
Joe and Jane Canadian no longer agree with the National Post and the Fraser Institute that cutting the debt and cutting taxes are the big issues.
What they're really concerned about are things that effect their pocketbook, their communities and their families.
In fact, Canadians are now starting to focus on many of the things that we in the labour movement have been talking about for years: things like health care; education; jobs and job security; the environment.
Recent polls have also shown some interesting shifts in the political landscape.
A few years ago the Reform party and then the Canadian Alliance were driving the agenda in this country. They weren't in government, but for most of the 90s they succeeded in moving the political centre of gravity in this country far to the right.
But today, according to the latest EKOS poll, the Alliance has slipped to 10 percent of popular support - down from more than 25 percent less than a year ago.
At the same time, the NDP has jumped to nearly 18 percent - from just nine percent during the last election.
Even in Alberta - home of rock steady, one-party rule - support for the Conservative party has notched down slightly.
By themselves, none of these signs can be described as a revolution. And I certainly don't think that Canadians are going to be flocking to the NDP any time soon.
But taken together, the signs suggest that something is going on, something is changing under the surface.
It's like the first warm day after a long winter. The snow still covers everything - but there is a steady 'drip, drip, drip' that tells us that things are going to change - that the snow will be gone soon - and that the cold winds will soon be replaced by something more hospitable.
For those of us in the labour movement who have endured nearly twenty years of anti-union, neo-conservative winter - a spring thaw would certainly be welcome.
And that's exactly what seems to be happening. The pendulum is swinging. And this time it looks like it's swinging with us - not into us.
That's the good news. But as I said off the top, the world we in live today is not all roses.
On the negative side of the ledger, we face a number of serious challenges - some more daunting and potentially dangerous for our members than anything we've ever faced before.
How bad is it? To be honest, there's a whole shopping list of concerns.
Starting at the level of individual unions, we all have battles with employers.
Your union, for example, is currently dealing with major layoffs at Telus. The CEO and his managers made bad business decisions and they want to make your members pay the price.
It's the same story in hundreds of other workplaces.
Managers talk about bad investments; a declining market; weak demand - and they deal with the problem by discarding workers like post-it notes or by going after things like our pensions and other benefits.
But, unfortunately, the bad news doesn't stop at the plant gate.
At the provincial level here in B.C., you've got a government that has declared open season on public services and public sector workers.
It's a familiar song to all of us in Alberta. We went through the same meat grinder eight years ago.
The big irony is that, just as the public seems to be getting tired of the right-wing crowd, they seem to be getting bolder and meaner.
Maybe Ralph can blame it on not getting enough to drink these days - and maybe Campbell is cranky because he gets too much. But either way the result is the same - they're both in a nasty mood and they both seem to really love taking it out on working people and the unions that represent them.
I wish I could say that we're just dealing with two bad apples. But the truth is that our challenges don't stop at the provincial border either - or even at the Canadian border.
At the national level, we've got a government that tries to portray itself as socially responsible - but has slashed spending on core services to levels we haven't seen since the 50s.
And at the international level, we've got a looming war in the Middle East - a war that almost no one supports - and which is already wreaking havoc on energy prices and the economy in general.
That's the list of challenges we're facing. And I could add more: like the threat posed to working people by poorly thought out international trade agreements. Or the looming crisis as employers water down our pension funds. Or the long-term implications of low unionization rates among young workers.
The list goes on - but the point is: we have our work cut out for us.
The big question now is how do we respond to the challenges I've just talked about - and how do we capitalize on the opportunities that come with a more progressive shift in public opinion?
One option would be to do nothing - or to do the same things we've always done.
Maybe if we simply sit tight and wait, the pendulum will swing back our way.
But then again - if all we do is wait, the pendulum may not swing at all; or it might not swing as far as we'd like it to; or might swing right past us.
As you might have guessed, we at the Alberta Fed have come to the conclusion that the labour movement has to take a more active approach.
That's one of the reasons I'm so pleased to speak at conventions like this one. We want to spread the gospel of activism - and we want to share our ideas and experiences about what we think will work to make the labour movement stronger.
For us, it all starts with a clear vision of the role of unions.
We firmly believe that the labour movement is more than a collection of service groups. We are one of the few institutions in society that is big enough and strong enough to stand up to the corporate and political powers-that-be.
We also believe that the labour movement has an obligation to use its size, its power and its resources to not only help our own members - but also to go to bat for families, for the unorganized and for the broader communities in which we all live.
When it comes specific solutions and strategies, we don't pretend to have all the answers. But over the past seven or eight years we've been kicked around a lot. In the process, we've suffered a few defeats; we've enjoyed a few victories - and we've learned quite a few lessons.
This morning, I just want to touch on the three of the most important lessons we've learned - lessons that we think all unions can benefit from.
First - we've learned that we can't do it alone.
Whether we're talking about an individual strike or a province-wide campaign against cutbacks, we've learned that we get better results when we have partners - especially partners from outside the labour movement.
About a year ago, Ipso-Reid releases a poll that helped illustrate why building coalitions is so important.
Basically, the survey asked Canadians to rate different groups in terms of trust. Not surprisingly, politicians were at the bottom of the barrel. But union spokespeople and union leaders weren't far behind.
We may not like to admit it - but unions have a serious image problem - and a serious credibility problem. Too often we're dismissed as self-interested and out to feather our own nests.
That's why, in Alberta, we've made a point of partnering with organizations outside the labour movement that share our priorities.
Community groups, seniors groups, student groups, religious groups, women's groups, environmental groups, health care advocacy groups, immigrant groups, anti-poverty advocates, progressive academics.
You name it - we need to forge ties and build bridge with all these groups.
And it's not just a crass attempt to steal their credibility. It's about sharing resources, sharing people power, sharing networks, sharing ideas - and working together for change.
The strength of coalitions was really brought home for us in the battle against Bill 11, the Klein government's private health care law.
The protests against that law were historic in their size and scope. Literally thousands and thousands of people who had never protested before came out and joined us.
Another example of the strength of coalitions was our experience organizing protests against the G-8 last summer in Calgary. Thanks to the work of a very broad coalition of groups, we were able to organize a major counter summit and sustain major protests for nearly a week - all in Canada's most conservative city.
But, as was the case with Bill 11, the coalition was what made the difference.
So, for us, in many ways it's the oldest lesson of the labour movement: that we're stronger if we stand together. And we're stronger yet if we reach beyond our own unions and our own labour circles into the broader community.
The second lesson we've learned is that we have to do a better job of cooperating within the labour movement itself. Too often, we get trapped in silos. We keep our heads down and do our work with our own members. But the result is that we end up not seeing the forest for the trees. We also often end up recreating the wheel.
Once again, our experience with Bill 11 proved this point. The Fed could have gone off and organized it's own campaign. The nurses' and CUPE and the health sciences association could each have gone off in their own directions. But instead, we worked together as part of a broader coalition.
The result was that, by pooling our money and our people, we were able to run a bigger, smarter and more effective campaign than we ever would have been able to pull off individually.
Over the past year, we've even started to apply this logic to organizing the unorganized. In partnership with the two other prairie provinces, we're talking about establishing a central organizing school similar to the one set-up by the Fed here in B.C. We're even talking about joint organizing drives. So instead of competing with each other, instead of working against each other - we're working together.
That's what we mean when we talk about cooperation between unions. We think solidarity should be more than a word we sing in a song every few years at conventions.
The third and final lesson that I'd like to highlight today is that we need to get over the fear of trying new things.
When the Alberta government first started slashing in 1993, we did all the usual things. We wrote a leaflet that almost no one read. We organized rallies that only a few hundred people attended. We sent out a few harshly worded press releases. We even circulated a petition and started a postcard campaign.
The problem was that we did exactly what Ralph Klein expected us to do - and he didn't give a crap. As long it was just the usual suspects on the Legislature steps he knew he could get away with ignoring us.
For two years, we were like Bart Simpson in that episode where he keeps touching the hot burner and saying 'ow'. We didn't learn. We kept doing the same things over and over again even though they didn't work.
The good news is that we finally snapped out of it thanks to a wildcat health care strike in Calgary. Several thousand people walked off the job spontaneously to protest cuts and contracting out. We mobilized the community. We mobilized the churches. People started honking their horns. They started bringing coffee and donuts to the picket lines. Right in Ralph Klein's home base.
And you know what? As a result of that strike - and all the support we mobilized in the community - the Klein government stopped cutting: at least in health care. They said they would never blink - but they canceled more than half a billion dollars in planned cuts.
Since then, we've done other things that have helped us win victories.
We borrowed from the corporate world by using TV ads, polling and direct mail campaigns. We borrowed from Hollywood by rounding up real life stories of people whose health had been compromised because they couldn't afford private MRIs. And just last month, we went back to old-style person-to-person organizing.
Through the Friends of Medicare coalition, we canvassed more than 20,000 people in Federal Health Minister Anne McLellan's Edmonton riding - and we got more than five thousand of them to sign a card saying they might not vote for her in the next election if she doesn't do something to stop for-profit delivery of health services.
The point of all this is not to illustrate how brilliant we are in Alberta. If we were really that brilliant, we wouldn't still be dealing with Ralph as Premier three elections later.
What I am trying to say is that unions can make change - even in the most inhospitable climates. We can make gains for our members and we can defend and even advance our broader social agenda. We can do it by building bridges to other groups. We can do it by working together within the labour movement. And we can do it by trying new things, by working better and working smarter.
In the end, I'm convinced that we can benefit from the spring thaw that is driving Canadians away from the business-first crowd. I'm convinced that unions like yours can make Gordon Campbell blink here in B.C. just like we made Ralph blink in Alberta. And I'm convinced that you can take Telus on and win a better deal for your members.
The pendulum is swinging our way. If we're prepared, if we're smart, if we're creative I know we can grab on make some real headway on the issues that matter most to all of us.
EDMONTON - A large demonstration will still be held outside the CFL Dinner Friday night unless a last-minute deal can be reached to end the seven-month-old strike at the Shaw Conference Centre.
"At this point, there is good reason for optimism," says Les Steel, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "But the deal is not done yet - and until it is, the rally is still a go."
Negotiations stalled over the past few days as managers at the Centre attempted to set terms for how a ratification vote would be held. But yesterday evening, the Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) ruled that the union has the right to conduct its own vote, without interference from management.
As a result, the union has decided to put a deal, based on a report prepared by mediator Mike Necula, to its members for a vote tonight and tomorrow morning.
"If the members ratify the agreement, the ball will be in EDE's and City Council's court," said Alex Grimaldi, president of the Edmonton and District Labour Council (EDLC).
"If EDE accepts the results of the vote, the deal will be done and there will be no disruptions during Grey Cup weekend. But if they refuse to accept the vote, all bets are off. We hope City Council will use its clout as owner of the Conference Centre to pressure EDE into doing the right thing."
Using a football analogy, Steel said the ball has been moved into easy reach of the end zone - all that's needed is one final push to put six points on the board.
"It's third and goal with ten seconds on the clock," said Steel. "The workers and management have a chance to put this game away and keep the Grey Cup free of disruptions. But it's going to take one last burst of effort and good will. We have to make sure no one drops the ball."
Grimaldi agreed, adding that no one in the labour movement wants to rain on the Grey Cup parade.
"If a deal is reached, we'll turn our protest into a big tail-gate party," he said. "We want to be able to celebrate success for the Eskimos and an end to a bitter strike that has given our city a black eye."
For more information call
Les Steel, AFL President @ 780-499-4135 (cell)
Alex Grimaldi, EDLC President @ 780-940-6797 (cell)
EDMONTON - Hopes of a Grey Cup weekend free from disruptions and labour unrest are "disappearing fast" as a result of yet more examples of bad faith bargaining by management at the Shaw Conference Centre.
Last Friday, it looked like a deal had finally been reached to end the bitter six-month strike at the city-owned convention facility. But over the week-end, it became clear that managers at Economic Development Edmonton (EDE) are still more interested in busting the union than reaching a fair settlement with striking workers.
"We don't think it was a coincidence that EDE was sounding so hopeful and conciliatory on Friday morning," says AFL president Les Steel. "City Council was meeting to discuss the strike, with the possibility of intervening with binding arbitration. But Council backed-off when EDE convinced them that a deal was imminent. As it turned out, there was no deal - and EDE knew it. It's yet another example of EDE attempting to manipulate Council."
Steel says that after Council was convinced to stay out of the dispute, EDE returned to its hard-line approach to bargaining.
"At the time, there were only two items left on the table - the back-to-work agreement and the process for ratification," said Steel. "In most labour disputes, these are mere formalities. But in this case, EDE put forward demands that were so outrageous that it was obvious the workers couldn't accept. So far in this strike, EDE has been found guilty of bargaining in bad faith four times. This proves that they're still playing the same game."
Alex Grimaldi, president of the Edmonton and District Labour Council (EDLC), says the back-to-work agreement proposed by management doesn't guarantee that strikers will get their jobs back. And it even calls for a letter of resignation from a striker who was ordered reinstated by the Labour Relations Board. At the same time, EDE is trying to dictate how the ratification vote should be structured.
"Under the law, unions have the right to run their own votes with supervision from the Labour Relations Board, if necessary," says Grimaldi. "But EDE says they want to run the show, presumably in order to continue their campaign against the union."
Grimaldi says EDE is trying to portray itself as a defender of democracy - but their proposed vote would be no more democratic that the votes held in "tin-pot dictatorships were supporters of the ruling party are bused to voting stations and opponents are excluded."
"It's obvious they want to influence the vote, defeat the contract and set up a vote on decertification," agrees Steel. "That's why the workers can't accept these terms. And it's why - if nothing changes - there will probably be demonstrations at the Shaw Conference Centre during the Grey Cup. It's not what most union supporters would like to be doing - they'd rather be watching the game. But EDE is leaving us with no choice."
Both Steel and Grimaldi say that the only way to avoid demonstrations and disruptions during the Grey Cup is for City Council to finally realize that they're being "strung along" by EDE - and submit the dispute to binding arbitration.
For more information call:
Les Steel, AFL President 780-499-4135 (cell)
Alex Grimaldi, EDLC President 780-940-6797 (cell)
EDMONTON - The labour dispute at the Shaw Conference Centre has already resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in convention business - and if it drags on that figure could easily run into the millions.
That's the message delivered by major unions at a news conference in Edmonton this morning.
"The people who run the Conference Centre have been telling City Council that the strike has had no economic impact," says Les Steel, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"But nothing could be further from the truth. Unions have been canceling major events at the Conference Centre since the strike began in May. And, the amount of lost business is substantial."
At the news conference, it was revealed that several major unions - including the Alberta Teachers Association, the United Nurses of Alberta, the Carpenters Union and the Communications, Energy & Paperworkers Union - have already decided to divert more than $800,000 of business away from the Shaw.
The amount of potential revenue lost to other businesses in the downtown area was estimated at more than $10 million.
"Huge amounts of business are being lost - not only to the Convention Centre, but also to businesses in the downtown area," says Steel. "What we're trying to demonstrate is that there will be a big price to pay if this strike is allowed to drag on."
Steel says the labour movement would be happy to lift its boycott on the Shaw Centre - as soon as a fair settlement is reached with the striking workers.
"Boycotting the Shaw is not something we want to do," he says. "We'd love to do business with the Shaw - but that's not going to happen until they start treating their workers with respect. And it's not going to happen until the workers get the protection they deserve in the form of a fair and reasonable collective agreement."
Steel says the strike could be ended quickly and business returned to normal if EDE and the City would simply agree to submit the dispute to independent, third-party arbitration.
"Today we are announcing the amount of money that the union movement is diverting away from the Shaw, but we could just as easily be talking about the millions of dollars that would go into the conference centre if a fair settlement was in place. It's just a matter of political will."
For more information contact::
Les Steel, AFL President @ 780-499-4135
Gil McGowan, AFL Communications @ 780-483-3021
ECONOMIC IMPACT OF
SHAW CONFERENCE CENTRE BOYCOTT
I. ALBERTA TEACHERS' ASSOCIATION (ATA)
The ATA holds three major conventions in Edmonton each year, often at the Shaw Conference Centre. The Greater Edmonton convention attracts 8,500 teachers. The North Central convention draws 5,800 teachers. And the East Central convention is attended by 1,400 teachers.
The ATA says all of these conventions may be moved from the downtown area if the Shaw strike is not resolved fairly.
Taken together, these conventions account for between $350,000 - $400,000 in revenue for the Conference Centre each year. But the implications for businesses in the downtown core are even more significant.
The ATA estimates that the Great Edmonton convention generates about $800,000 in business for downtown hotels, restaurants, shops and other businesses. The North Central convention brings in about $1.74 million and the East Central about $150,000.
Revenue lost to Conference Centre: $350,000-400,000
Revenue lost to Downtown Businesses: $2.7 million
(Hotels, restaurants, transportation etc.)
II. United Nurses of Alberta (UNA)
UNA had signed agreements with the Shaw Conference Centre for their 2003 and 2004 Annual General Meetings. As a result of the strike, UNA has cancelled those bookings.
UNA's AGMs are two-day events that attract 400-500 nurses from around the province. In 1999, UNA spend $16,500 on their AGM at the Shaw. Assuming that prices haven't change significantly, the cancellation of the 2003 and 2004 bookings will cost the Shaw $33,000.
UNA has also decided to hold its one-day 2003 Negotiation Reporting Meeting (450 delegates) elsewhere. That's a loss of another $5,000 - $6,000 to the Shaw.
Assuming that delegates to UNA meetings spend $150 a day (hotel, food, transportation, shopping etc.) the total loss of revenue to the downtown businesses would be more than half a million dollars - just on these three events.
Revenue lost to Conference Centre: $38,000+
Revenue lost to Downtown Businesses: $515,000 (approx.)
(Hotels, restaurants, transportation etc.)
III. UNITED BROTHERHOOD OF CARPENTERS (UBCJA)
The Edmonton local of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters will soon be holding a large function to celebrate its 100th anniversary. This gala, which is expected to attract more than 1,000 people, was originally scheduled to be held at the Shaw Conference Centre. But as a result of the strike, the location has been changed.
The Carpenters say they would have spent $150,000 at the Convention Centre. That money is now being spent at the University of Alberta's Butterdome.
The Carpenters also say the Convention Centre has now been taken out of the running for any of the union's upcoming international conventions. These five-day events typically attract 3,500 delegates from across Canada and the United States.
Assuming that delegates spend $150 a day on hotels, food, transportation etc., the amount of revenue lost to downtown businesses is about $2.6 million. Losses to the Convention Centre itself would probably been in excess of $200,000.
Revenue lost to Conference Centre: $350,000+
Revenue lost to Downtown Businesses: $2.6 million (approx.)
(Hotels, restaurants, transportation etc.)
IV. COMMUNICATIONS, ENERGY & PAPERWORKERS UNION (CEP)
Edmonton was being considered for CEP's national convention in the Fall of 2004. However, as a result of the strike, the convention will be held elsewhere. CEP national conventions attract 1,400 delegates, 1,000 spouses, guests and observers over a six-day period. CEP estimates they would have paid at least $100,000 to the Shaw Conference Centre itself. Loss in economic spin-off to the Edmonton economy is estimated at more than four million dollars.
CEP also decided to hold its Western Regional Conference for the of Fall 2003 in another city. This conference attracts 500 delegates, 300 spouses and children and 100 staff, guests and observers.
CEP estimates that its decision to move this conference from Edmonton represents a loss of about $30,000 in direct lost revenue to the Conference Centre - and about $1,000,000 in economic spin-off for Edmonton businesses.
Revenue lost to Conference Centre: $130,000+
Revenue lost to Edmonton Businesses: $5.0 million (approx.)
(Hotels, restaurants, transportation etc.)
The Alberta Labour Relations Board is jeopardizing its fundamental need to be seen to be neutral on labour relations conflicts by its continued insistence upon assessing punitive damages against the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), the Alberta Federation of Labour says today. The Board yesterday rejected AUPE's appeal of the two-month suspension of dues ordered by the Board following a strike in the health care sector in May 2000.
"The Labour Relations Board has crossed a boundary with this ruling," charges Alberta Federation of Labour President Les Steel. "Prior to this, the Board - like other such bodies in Canada - has restricted its rulings to efforts to restore or 'make whole' damages arising from violations of labour law," said Steel. "But now, long after normal relations have resumed between the effected parties, the Board has chosen to issue punitive damages against the union."
"We have never seen punitive damages issued to employers for willful, and permanently damaging actions against workers," said Steel. "For example, there have been no punitive actions taken against the Economic Development Edmonton for its disgraceful conduct during the ongoing Shaw Conference Centre Strike."
"By taking this unusual and ill-considered action against a union while at the same time refusing to take punitive actions against offending employers, the ALRB is showing itself not to be an impartial umpire in labour relations" said Steel.
"This decision undermines the Board's function in labour relations while at the same time sending a very bad message to unions, workers and employers in Alberta," concluded Steel.
For more Information, contact:
Les Steel, President @ 780-483-3021 (wk) / 780-499-4135 (cell)
EDMONTON - A barbeque and rally is planned for tomorrow, August 27th, 2002 at 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. respectively at Sir Winston Churchill Square in front of City Hall.
WHEN: August 27th, 2002
WHAT: BBQ - 3:00 p.m. RALLY - 5:00 p.m.
WHERE: EDMONTON CITY HALL -
SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL SQUARE
WHY: To support striking workers at the Shaw Conference Centre
This BBQ and rally has been planned to make Edmonton City Councillors and Edmontonians more aware of the issues in the dispute between striking members of United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401 and the Shaw Conference Centre Board (Edmonton Economic Development).
The workers at the Shaw Conference Centre, members of UFCW 401, have been on strike since May 1st in an attempt to achieve a first collective agreement.
For more information call:
UFCW Local 401 Strike Headquarters @ 420-0245