EDMONTON - In an effort to show support for striking workers at the Shaw Conference Centre, the Alberta Federation of Labour is urging unions and union members to boycott the facility.
In a letter to more than 200 locals, provincial and national presidents, AFL president Les Steel asked unions to cancel events at the conference centre and encourage members to stop attending things like concerts and trade shows held there.
"Appeals to fairness and decency haven't worked," said Steel. "So maybe they'll start to pay attention when we hit them in their pocketbooks."
Steel admits that unions are not the biggest users of the conference centre - but they still represent a significant amount of business, especially when you include all the union members who individually attend functions held at the centre.
In response to the AFL's call for a boycott, the Alberta Teachers Association and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters have already agreed to take their business elsewhere. The ATA will also be encouraging local school principals to move events such as graduations out of the conference centre.
Workers at the Shaw Conference Centre in downtown Edmonton have been on strike for more than two weeks in an effort to win a first collective agreement.
Steel points out that the workers aren't asking for the moon. They're satisfied with their current wage level, so money isn't an issue. What they're really looking for is protection from unfair treatment. In particular, they want the conference centre to stop its practice of classifying people as part-timers even when they work full-time hours. And they want something done about racism, harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
"This is clearly a group of workers that needs a union and the protection that a collective agreement can bring," says Steel. "A boycott of the facility is the least we can do to help them win a fair deal."
For more information call:
Les Steel, AFL President @ (780) 483-3021 or (780) 499-4135 (cell)
EDMONTON - Unionized workers from around the province are being encouraged to actively support the Alberta Teachers Association and its members in the likely event of a teachers strike.
In a letter sent to more than 250 local union presidents today, AFL president Les Steel urged the labour movement to throw its weight behind the teachers in their fight for smaller classrooms and better pay.
"The ATA is doing everything in its power to win a fair settlement for its members," wrote Steel. "But the reality is (they) will have a hard time winning this struggle on their own - they will also need strong support from the public and their allies in the labour movement."
Steel says that the teachers deserve support because they are fighting to protect and improve a public education system that is being compromised by chronic under-funding.
"We think it's wrong that our young people are being packed into classrooms like sardines," says Steel. "We think it's wrong that parents and students are being forced to hold fund-raisers to fill the holes left by provincial under-funding. And we think it's wrong that the provincial government is doing so little to attract and retain high quality teachers."
"(That's why) we think the teachers deserve support in their fight - because they are fighting to build a public education system that better serves the needs of students and communities across the province."
In addition to concerns about protecting quality education in Alberta, Steel says that working people should support the teachers to protest the inflexible approach to labour relations adopted by the government.
"If the provincial government is able to & force an unsatisfactory settlement on (the teachers), it will send a message to all employers that it pays to be inflexible at the bargaining table," writes Steel. "We simply cannot allow this to happen - we need to stand together with the teachers and show employers that the legitimate concerns of workers cannot simply be swept aside."
Steel says that members of the public can demonstrate support for the teachers by writing letters to their local papers and calling their MLA, the Education Minister or the Premier. They can even bring hot food to the teachers on what are sure to be chilly picket lines, says Steel.
"In short, do everything you can to make it clear that the public sides with the teachers," concludes Steel. "It's the only way that we can win this fight - and ensure that Albertans have the kind of high-quality public education system that they deserve."
For more information call:
Les Steel, AFL President @ 780-483-3021(wk) / 780-499-4135 (cell)
Gil McGowan, AFL Communications @ 780-483-3021
NOTE: The original version of this news release was sent out this morning with the wrong contact number for AFL President Les Steel. The proper number is 780-475-4668
EDMONTON - A government plan to formally deny ambulance workers the right to strike will poison the relationship between paramedics and their employers and make it easier for the government to sweep service-related problems under the carpet, says the Alberta Federation of Labour.
In a brief submitted to a government taskforce today, the AFL said it's not in the public's best interest to see the government's so-called �essential service� legislation expanded to cover emergency medical workers - thereby denying them the right to strike.
�If the recent dispute between paramedics and the City of Edmonton taught us anything, it's that banning strikes and attempting to turn hard-working health care professionals into criminals simply does not work,� says AFL President Les Steel.
The AFL brief argues that any move to outlaw strikes will inevitably undermine the bargaining process and poison relations between employers and workers.
�When workers have the right to strike there is a clear incentive for both parties to compromise and work towards agreement at the bargaining table,� says the brief. �However, in situations where workers do not have the right to strike, the employer has no real incentive to bargain in good faith.�
When employers use strike bans as an excuse not to bargain, workers end up feeling �under-valued� and �brushed off�, says the brief. This poisons the relationship between employers and workers - and in the case of emergency medical services, it could lead to a deterioration in service levels and problems in attracting and retaining skilled staff.
The AFL also says that a ban on strikes will make it easier for the province and various municipal governments to sweep service-related problems under the carpet.
�During negotiations leading up to the recent paramedics' strike in Edmonton, the paramedics wanted to talk about inadequate staffing levels and the shortage of ambulances on Edmonton streets - especially when compared to Calgary,� says Steel.
�But because the City was refusing to bargain in good faith, these issues were never addressed. Clearly, the public would have benefited from an open and frank discussion between management and the union on these issues. But that didn't happen - largely because the City was relying on a strike-ban and binding arbitration to force a deal on the paramedics. This was a clear example of how removing the right to strike is not in the public interest.�
For more information contact:
Les Steel, AFL President @ 780-475-4668 (hm)
EDMONTON - Several hundred union members participating in the Alberta Federation of Labour's biennial convention will rally outside of a downtown PetroCan station tomorrow to show support for striking refinery workers.
The rally will mark the beginning of a province-wide campaign aimed at putting financial pressure on the company to bargain fairly with their employees.
"We'll be asking consumers to stop filling up their vehicles at Petro-Can or buying any products there," AFL president Audrey Cormack. "Our Executive Council has just passed a resolution in support of the local's consumer campaign - and we'll be getting the word out to our members around the province as soon as the convention is over."
The rally will be held between 12:15-1:00 p.m. on Friday, May 4 outside the Petro-Can service station on the corner of 109 Street and 100 Avenue.
Other highlights of the convention agenda for Friday include the following:
- At 9:45 a.m. delegates will discuss a policy paper on human rights entitled "Labour of Loss: An Examination of the Economic Effects of Discrimination in the Canadian Labour Market.
- At 10:30 a.m. Hussan Yussuff, Vice President of the Canadian Labour Congress, will talk about globalization and workers' rights.
- At 2:15 p.m. New Democrat leader Raj Pannu will address the convention.
- At 2:45 p.m. delegates will discuss a policy paper dealing with democracy in Alberta and the labour movement's involvement in the political process.
With the exception of the rally, all of the major convention events will be held in the main ballroom of the Crowne Plaza-Chateau Lacombe Hotel, located at 11101 Bellamy Hill. The AFL convention continues Saturday and Sunday.
All reporters and other media personnel are asked to register at the AFL's convention office in the River Valley Room. People without credentials will not be allowed on the convention floor.
For more information call:
Gil McGowan, AFL Communication @ 990-2650 or 910-1137 (cell)
CALGARY - An agreement to end Calgary's 41-day old transit strike is within reach if city council is willing to show some movement on the key issues of shuttle buses and a wage study for ticketed trades people, says a spokesperson for the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"Those are the two big issues that are still on the table," said AFL Secretary Treasurer Les Steel. "If the political will is there, this strike could be over tomorrow and the drivers could get back to the job of providing top-notch service to Calgarians."
Most Calgarians would be frustrated if they knew just how quickly and inexpensively a deal could be reached, said Steel. He pointed out that the union is now willing to accept an increase in the number of shuttle buses to seven percent of the city's fleet during daylight hours. Previously, they had drawn the line at six percent.
Unfortunately, the city is still refusing to budge from its demand that shuttle buses make up nine percent of the city's fleet. The city is also refusing to consider a wage study to determine if the mechanics, electricians and other ticketed trades people working for Calgary transit are being paid fairly compared to other trades people in the province.
"At the end of the day, this all about fairness and common sense," said Steel. "All the drivers want is an assurance that their jobs aren't going to be put on the chopping block. And all the trades people are saying is that it's going to be hard to recruit and retain people if wages fall below the prevailing provincial average."
Steel says it would cost the city only $187,000 more to operate the transit system under the union's latest contract than it did before the strike. He says that figure pales in comparison to the $6 million that has already been spent on taxi vouchers and the $2 million that the city has spent on advertising.
"Add to that all the overtime wages that are being paid to management personnel and the inconvenience that is being caused to commuters and it becomes clear that the cost of this strike is too high," said Steel. "The time has come for city council to abandon its hard-line position and start treating its employees as respected partners, not adversaries. Now that the union has made a move on shuttle buses, there's a real opportunity to settle this. It's an opportunity city council shouldn't squander."
For information, contact:
Les Steel, Secretary Treasurer @ 780-483-3021(wk)/499-4135 (cell)
The Alberta Federation of Labour is endorsing a boycott of Molson and Labatt products for the duration of the labour dispute at Brewers Distributors Limited (BDL) in Edmonton. The AFL is asking Albertans to not purchase Labatt or Molson products in bars, restaurants or liquor stores throughout Northern Alberta.
"We know that any Molson and Labatt beer purchased from Red Deer north will have been delivered by non-union replacement workers," says Audrey Cormack, President of the AFL. "We are asking Albertans to find other options until the workers at the Edmonton warehouse are back at work."
"We need to send a message to Molson and Labatt," states Cormack. "Profits at the two breweries are hefty, yet they want their workers to suffer a huge 30% wage rollback."
"We are urging Albertans to use their pocket books to let the two breweries know that this kind of greedy profit-taking is not acceptable. Maybe if their sales plummet, they will realize the need to treat workers fairly."
The AFL will be sending a list of brands currently distributed by BDL to all of its members. The AFL currently represents 120,000 workers across Alberta. The boycott does not apply to southern Alberta, where unionized workers at the Calgary warehouse are still at work.
Distribution workers at BDL were locked out last week. The union is asking for wage increases to keep up with inflation. The employer is asking for 30% cuts in pay and other concessions.
"I personally find the taste of Molson and Labatt is a bit sour these days due to their bully tactics against their workers," concludes Cormack.
For more information call:
Audrey M. Cormack, President @ (780) 499-6530 (cell) /483-3021 (wk) 428-9367 (hm)
CALGARY - Hundreds of delegates attending the Alberta Federation of Labour's biennial convention in Calgary will be joining striking workers on the picket line outside Dynamic Furniture (5300 - 6th Avenue, SE) today at 4:00 p.m.
Workers at Dynamic Furniture have been on strike for nearly a year in an effort to win a first contract. "These workers have been terribly mistreated by their employer," says AFL president Audrey Cormack. "We felt it was important to show support for them in their struggle."
For more information call:
Audrey Cormack, AFL President: (780) 499-6530 (cell)
Gil McGowan, AFL Communications: (780) 910-1137 (cell)
In a letter to the Prime Minister, the President of the Alberta Federation of Labour urges him to order federal government negotiators back to the table with a "substantially more reasonable offer" for striking PSAC workers. Escalation of strike action by government employees prompted the AFL President to place pressure on the government.
"The government needs to make a move," says Audrey Cormack. "Federal employees have faced a decade of lay-offs and deficit-cutting. They have gone nine years without a pay increase."
"The government's excuses have evaporated with the deficit. The time has come to reward federal employees for their sacrifices."
Over 1,200 federal workers in Alberta, all members of PSAC, are escalating strike action around the province. Talks have broken down, despite efforts from union officials to keep them going. Picket lines are now up 24 hours a day in front of Canada Place in Edmonton. Prison workers are also expected to escalate their walk out in the next few days.
Cormack's letter hopes to be the first blast in that wake up call. "The Prime Minister is ultimately responsible and has the power to order his negotiators back to the table with a better offer."
"So far all he has ordered is more pepper spray," adds Cormack in reference to the pepper spraying of PSAC strikers last week in Ottawa.
Cormack also points out a glaring double standard in federal government employee relations.
"Senior managers recently received a 30% pay increase for their trouble. However, the men and women who actually do the work have to fight for pennies," notes Cormack. "It is an insult."
Because of the lack of wage increases, federal workers have fallen far behind their private sector counterparts. For example, a pipefitter working for the federal government now makes $8 to $10 an hour less than a private sector pipefitter. There are also gross discrepancies in wages from region to region.
"This is a strike about equity. Equity across regions. Equity across gender. Equity across sectors," adds Cormack. I think that is a fight worth supporting."
EDMONTON - Members of the Alberta Federation of Labour's Executive Council will join the picket line outside the CBC television building this afternoon to show support for striking technical, design and maintenance workers.
The AFL Council - which is meeting in Edmonton today and tomorrow - is composed of leaders representing unionized workers in both the public and private sectors. AFL president Audrey Cormack says the Council will be joining the picket line to demonstrate solidarity with the striking workers and to send a message to CBC management.
"These workers have been without a collective agreement since last June," says Cormack. "We think the time has definitely come for the employer to come back to the table and bargain in good faith. We also think managers should abandon any plans they might have regarding privatization. It just not something that Canadians want for their national broadcaster."
What: AFL Executive Joins CBC Picket line
When: 4:30 p.m., Thursday, February 18, 1999
Where: CBC-TV Building, 8861-75 Street, Edmonton
About 2,000 CBC workers - all members of the Communications, Energy, Workers union (CEP) - initiated legal strike action yesterday to back up demands for better wages and improved job security. Under the expired collective agreement, CBC technicians were making up to 30 per cent less than their counterparts in the private sector. Here in Edmonton, CBC technical staffers make about 15 per cent less than technicians working for CFRN, a privately owned television station.
Spokespeople for the union say that privatization is also a major issue in the dispute. They fear that CBC management has been dragging its heels in negotiations as part of a plan to privatize significant portions of the public broadcaster.
For more information call:
Audery Cormack, President: 483-3021 (work) 499-6530 (cell) 428-9367 (home)
Tuesday, January 19 @ 4:30 pm
Georgia Pacific Plant
403 - 118A Avenue (see map below)
The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) is organizing a support rally for striking workers at the Georgia-Pacific drywall plant in Northeast Edmonton. The workers, members of the Boilermakers Union, Local D-513, were locked out by Georgia-Pacific three days before Christmas.
"Georgia-Pacific is the largest building products manufacturer in North America. It wants to import its U.S.-style bargaining tactics to Alberta. I think working people in Alberta need to remind them that Canada does things differently," says Audrey Cormack, AFL President.
Georgia Pacific is demanding shift changes that may result in job losses for up to one-third of the plant employees. It also wants rollbacks in the workers' benefit package.
The rally is intended to boost the morale of the striking workers on the eve of a new bargaining session.
For further information contact:
Audrey Cormack, President