June 2013: Free Workshop FOIP; Boycott i-Hotel and Edm Hotel & Conv. Centre; Act now on Bill C-377; Bill C-525: Another Tory attempt to undermine unions; Supreme Court sides with workers ...
Free Workshop on Access to Information on Friday, June 28
The Alberta Federation of Labour will host a "Lunch and Learn" workshop covering the basics of Alberta's Freedom of Information legislation. This workshop, the first in a series, is an opportunity for our members, affiliates, and allies to learn about a subject that is of interest to the labour movement.
This workshop will cover the basics of FOIP in Alberta, including:
- How to navigate the FOIP request system
- Why sometimes it's important to get information the government would rather keep secret
- How to word a request to save time and money
- How to follow up with further requests or judicial review.
When: Friday, June 28 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.
Where: AFL Meeting Hall (10654 – 101 Street Edmonton)
See poster for more details.
Due to flooding in Calgary, all protest events related to the federal Conservative Convention have been postponed until the convention can be rescheduled.
Boycott i-Hotel and Edmonton Hotel and Convention Centre in support of UFCW 401
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 started an organizing drive in March to unionize the i-Hotel in Red Deer, Alberta, which was formerly the Holiday Inn on 67th Street.
During the process owner Amin Suleman was made aware of union activity and interfered with the organizing efforts of Local 401.
3 members have been harassed, intimidated, and terminated for expressing their legal right to join a union. The ALRB issued a consent order that UFCW 401 supports and the employer refuses to honour.
UFCW 401 needs your help. They are asking all labour organizations to help them in the fight against a ruthless employer. Please support UFCW 401 by boycotting this employer until an agreement can be reached between the union and employer. UFCW 401 does not want to cripple business and wants people to advise reservations why they are pulling their business. This employer operates two hotels in Alberta.
i-Hotel at 6500 – 67 Street, Red Deer, AB
Edmonton Hotel and Convention Centre at 4520 – 76th Avenue, Edmonton.
Click here for letter from UFCW 401 to the AFL.
For more information please contact Director of Organizing, Chris O'Halloran at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill C-377 – Send a message to the Senate
The Senate will be debating C-377 this week. There is a real chance to expose the bill as transparently anti-union, and potentially to amend or defeat it.
The bill has been pilloried by almost everyone who attended the hearings held by the Senate banking committee.
The CLC and other labour organizations are asking for maximum lobbying (calls to your regional senators, etc.). To find the right phone # or e-mail, please go here.
Below is a commentary by Jim Stanford, CAW Researcher (speaker at our convention) on the Senate's deliberations.
Every member that is able to voice their opposition to this bill could make a difference. PLEASE SEND A MESSAGE TO ALL SENATORS, WRITE YOUR MP AND CC ALL MEMBERS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE.
The Alberta CUPE website allows you to send a message to all senators.
Please visit http://cupe.ca/unions/urges-senate-block-anti-union-bill
They're running an online action on an issue that I think will concern you. It takes two minutes and you can make a difference. Other websites:
Bill C-525: Another Conservative attempt to undermine unions
The Harper government is again turning to its backbenchers to make laws designed to weaken unions. Bill C-525, if passed, will interfere in labour relations and the established rights of workers to join and remain in a union.
Currently, workers in federally regulated industries are recognized as a bargaining agent if they can show that they represent the majority of workers. Bill C-525 will require the union to prove that 50% of all employees – not just those that vote – want to remain in a union. If that doesn't happen, the unit will be decertified. This opens the door to all sorts of employer interference, such as anti-union propaganda and threats to shutdown workplaces, in efforts to suppress votes to get rid of unions.
Bill C-525 will apply to federally regulated unions, but make no mistake that this is another Harper Conservative attempt to weaken unions. If this Bill passes, we'll likely see more brazen attacks. Together, we can send a message to Harper and stop Bill C-525.
For a summary on Bill C-525 read the CUPE release and backgrounder.
View Bill C-525.
Please sign and promote the NDP petition
Supreme Court sides with workers right to privacyOn June 14, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a mandatory random alcohol testing policy imposed by Irving Pulp and Paper at a Saint John, N.B., Kraft mill in 2006 was unreasonable.
The case, which stems from a grievance filed by Communications Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) Local 30 in New Brunswick, has implications to similar cases in Alberta's oil sands. The ruling is a major victory in the fight against random and arbitrary privacy violations through drug and alcohol testing.
"This decision is in line with years of jurisprudence, makes sense, and is in the interest of Canadians. Employers can't arbitrarily introduce a random drug or alcohol testing regime by declaring a workplace "dangerous" without proving that there's a problem," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. "There's a direct parallel between this case and what's happening at Suncor: there's no evidence that there's a problem and the employer can't simply impose their will on the worker and strip them of their privacy without proving there's one."
In 15 years before the policy was imposed, there were eight instances in which a worker was found to be under the influence of alcohol and none involved an accident or injury. During the 22 months the policy was in effect, no one tested positive.
"The expected safety gains to the employer in this case were found by the board to range 'from uncertain ... to minimal at best' while the impact on employee privacy was found to be much more severe," Justice Rosalie Abella wrote for the majority. For more information see June 14 release
AFL wraps up its case against job-sucking Northern Gateway pipelineThe Alberta Federation of Labour made its final arguments to the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearings on Tuesday, June 18 in Terrace, B.C. The Federation made the case that the Pipeline is not in the best interests of Canadians.
The pipeline, if approved, will ship some of our country's best potential jobs down the pipeline to China. In its presentation to the National Energy Board, the AFL showed that it makes economic sense to upgrade bitumen in Alberta – or at least in Canada – rather than exporting it raw to foreign markets.
"The proponents of this project have compared the pipeline to the CPR and called it an important piece of Canadian infrastructure. But the Northern Gateway Pipeline is a piece of Chinese infrastructure, not Canadian infrastructure," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. "The ownership structure of the pipeline shows that the project will benefit China's state-owned oil companies, shipping good-paying oil sands jobs to Asia." For more information see June 17 release with links to a backgrounder and AFL final arguments
Did you know...
- the Northern Gateway pipeline will create only 228 permanent jobs in Canada
- During construction of the pipeline, the project will temporarily create 1,500 construction jobs
- At least 26,000 Canadian jobs would be created if we upgraded/refined the bitumen destined for China here at home.
June 28: Alberta Federation of Labour "Lunch & Learn", 12:30 -2:30 PM
July 1: Canada Day
Aug 5: Civic Holiday
Aug 5-9: AFL Kids' Camp
Aug 24: EDLC "Big Splash Open" Golf Tournament
Aug 31: EDLC Labour Day BBQ
Aug 31: Sept 2: Founding UNIFOR Convention
Sept 2: Labour Day
Sept 8: World Literacy Day
Sept 17-18: AFL Executive Committee/Council
Another week, another RCMP scandal.
On Tuesday, Staff Sgt. Caroline O'Farrell, one of the first women to join the force's storied equestrian show, the Musical Ride, launched an $8-million lawsuit claiming that the RCMP did not properly investigate her allegations of relentless, repeated abuse.
In what sounds like juvenile, cruel bullying and assault that is commonly committed by the dumb kids in junior high, O'Farrell was subjected to painful and humiliating hazing rituals.
Her statement of claim states that she was repeatedly soaked with cold water and then dragged by her arms and legs face down through the horse stall shavings, which included horse manure and urine.
Other than moving her out of the Musical Ride detail, nothing happened to those who assaulted her. O'Farrell has named the Attorney General of Canada and 13 RCMP officers, including senior officers whom she claims continue to work for the RCMP today in senior positions, in the lawsuit. They got promotions, she got shipped off.
It's important to note that most RCMP officers are honourable and dedicated, but there are simply too many dishonourable members.
These ostensibly endless scandals seem to fall into four main categories:
* botched, incompetent investigations that allow criminals to commit or continue their crimes for too long (such as serial killer Willie Pickton and the Air India bombers);
* incompetent investigations that wrongly accuse innocent people (such as the wild horse case near Sundre and the Canmore daycare case);
* the unwarranted brutality by RCMP members against unarmed civilians (such as Robert Dziekanski, who was Tasered to death in Vancouver, and Buddy Tavares, a compliant, helpless brain-injured Kelowna man who was kicked in the face by RCMP officer Geoff Mantler); and
* the sexual harassment of female RCMP members by their colleagues and supervisors.
Better training and better recruitment criteria could help fix the first two problems; harsher penalties, including criminal charges and real time behind bars, might help the third; but perhaps the easiest problem to fix is the fourth — the sexual harassment and bullying of female officers, and sometimes even male officers, by Neanderthal supervisors and bully colleagues. In short, the solution to the toxic harassment issue within the RCMP can be summed up in one word: union.
Not being a big fan of unions, this solution is not an easy one to advocate for. But a high-ranking Calgary Police Service officer mentioned the solution to me many months ago, and as each case of harassment was revealed and I applied the union solution to it, the more it seemed to make sense.
Currently, RCMP officers being harassed on the job have no one to turn to without risking their own career rise, since case after case shows that it was often the officer's direct supervisor or someone even higher up the ranks who was the problem.
Consider Cpl. Catherine Galliford, who was the official spokesperson for the RCMP in B.C. during the Pickton investigation. She alleges that her bosses and superiors exposed themselves to her and extorted sex from her.
After Galliford, who suffers from post-traumatic stress, launched a lawsuit against the RCMP, a veritable flood of complaints and lawsuits followed.
O'Farrell is just one. More than 300 other former women RCMP officers are also suing the force in a class-action lawsuit. The lead plaintiff in that suit is Janet Merlo, who worked as an RCMP constable in Nanaimo, B.C., from 1991 to 2010. In her statement of claim, Merlo alleges she "was subject to persistent and ongoing gender-based discrimination and harassment by individual male members during the time she served as a constable."
For instance, the supervising corporal on Merlo's night shift watch commented to Wayne Merlo (who was then her boyfriend, but became her husband) "words to the effect 'Janet is perfect ... Janet is the right height because you can lay a six-pack of beer on her head while she gives you a blow job.'"
She had dildos placed in her work files and was berated for getting pregnant. Reached recently in Newfoundland, where she recently moved, Merlo says she believes a union would have solved many of her problems.
Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan, not surprisingly, agrees that a union for the RCMP would solve many of the force's issues with regard to sexual assaults and harassment.
"A union would help civilize the workplace, and over time, would eliminate the problem," said McGowan.
"When people think of unions, they think first about the wages and benefits that we've been able to negotiate for our members, and certainly we're proud of those achievements, but one of the most important benefits that unions provide is access to a grievance procedure," said McGowan.
He points out that the union rep cannot be fired or reprimanded for taking on a complaint. As he notes, the most dysfunctional police service in the country is the RCMP, and it is the only one — as far as he knows — that does not have a union.
As the next RCMP harassment scandal is revealed, and the next, and the next, imagine what a codified grievance procedure would do. It would, over time, help rub off some of the layers of tarnish on the country's most iconic but discredited and scandalized police force.
Licia Corbella is a columnist and the editorial page editor. email@example.com
The Calgary Herald, Saturday, May 25, 2013
Editorial byline: Licia Corbella
It's not a good time to be organized labour, or most types of labour, in Canada.
And I'd define "time" as the period when Stephen Harper is Prime Minister of Canada. It began as a minor concern back in 1996 and seems likely to continue at least until the Tories' year-old majority in Parliament faces an election in or around 2015.
A booming economy in the West has unemployment at 7.3 per cent nationally, so it's not the dark days of labour strife in the 1970s and early '80s. Regardless, unions are battling the Harper government over their right to strike while the Conservatives legislate changes that raise the retirement age and restrict employment insurance benefits.
Ottawa also just repealed - deep within the omnibus, and/or ominous, 452-page 2012 budget - a relatively obscure but significant piece of legislation called the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act. Depending on your personal politics, it's either music to your ears or a funeral dirge.
"Connect the dots," urges Gil McGowan, the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"This is not just a war on unions. It's an attack on all working people in Canada to fundamentally change the labour market in ways that benefit employers," McGowan said.
Others, like Canadian Chamber of Commerce president Perrin Beatty, applaud the fact Ottawa is moving to address the persistent labour shortages in the western provinces and he urges more action to resolve "the No. 1 issue" for business in the country.
A number of events have pushed labour issues to the forefront of the policy agenda.
On Wednesday, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt suggested she could table back-to-work legislation as early as Monday when Parliament resumes to bring an end to a strike by 4,800 workers at Calgarybased Canadian Pacific Railway that began Wednesday.
On Thursday, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley announced Employment Insurance benefits would be scaled back and the provisions to qualify for payments under the program that is funded by employers and workers would be stricter.
A story this week by The Canadian Press on the unexplained repeal of the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act simply asked: "Is the Harper government fundamentally anti-labour?"
Most observers would describe Harper's Tories as ideologically strongly pro-business, highly opposed to unions and collective bargaining, and steadfast about reducing Ottawa's $23.5-billion budget deficit. In that respect their actions hardly come as a surprise.
CP wouldn't be the first time Harper used back-to-work legislation. In the year since winning his first majority in Parliament last May, his government used it three times - once with Canada Post and twice with Air Canada.
To be fair, the Tories aren't the only Canadian government to override collectively bargained rights of workers.
In 1997, Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien ended a two-week postal strike by imposing a settlement and current Liberal Leader Bob Rae's "social contract" with Ontario's public sector unions when he was NDP premier in the early 1990s arbitrarily rewrote contracts to address budget woes.
The federal NDP has allowed back-to-work legislation to pass.
For the first five years of Confederation, union activity was a criminal act in Canada. It was 1872, near the end of the Industrial Revolution, when Parliament passed the Trade Unions Act.
Labour leaders would contend it's not simply a coincidence growth of the union movement in the 20th century corresponded with improvements in public health care, public education and the overall working conditions for employees in Canada.
The percentage of working Canadians represented by unions peaked in the 1980s at 38 per cent. It's now about 30 per cent.
This week it was revealed two of Canada's biggest unions were looking at a possible merger. The Canadian Auto Workers and the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers also acknowledged they're looking to the unemployed and the retired as potential new members.
Critics, mostly union leaders and academics, contend Harper's government is abusing labour laws.
One issue in the CP strike centres on a provision Canadian Labour Code that allows Ottawa to force employees to continue to provide services "to prevent an immediate and danger to the safety or health of the public."
Raitt has said she's considering changing the code so "the economy" is deemed essential service for the country.
She's warned the CP strike could cost $540 million in economic activity per week in Canada's $1.8-trillion annual economy.
"The Canadian government will step in on the basis of the national economy and the greater public interest at some point." Raitt said.
While the unions fight on, it's uncertain how much clout organized labour carries these days.
The movement isn't what it once was and the report on the CAWCEP merger acknowledged a goal is to change a perception unions aren't relevant in today's society.
Given their challenges, and common foe in Ottawa, teaming up likely makes sense.
Harper famously said in 1997 "Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term," so you can pretty much see how public policy in Ottawa is going over the rest of his mandate.
Perhaps the best hope for labour leaders might just be that for all of Harper's neo-conservative zeal, the politician in him knows it's smart to get the heavy lifting done in year one of the mandate and hope that voters forget, or at least accept, it.
It means 2012 is shaping up to be a historic year in labour relations in Canada, historically bad.
Calgary Herald, Sat May 26 2012
Byline: Stephen Ewart
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
January 2011: CEP welcomes new members; New Union Magazine; Victory for IAMAW Lodge 99; NUPGE/CLC commit to examine raiding issue
- There were 226 reasons that the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada was celebrating on New Year's Day. That's the number of new members it has, after the Alberta Labour Board confirmed on January 1 that Bee Clean workers at Suncor in Fort McMurray had voted to join CEP Local 707. For more information ...
- Twenty years of bad decisions on tax and royalty policy by successive Conservative governments have left our province's vital public services extremely vulnerable to under-funding. But our broken revenue system can be fixed. That's the theme of the latest edition of Union magazine. Read the online version of the magazine. Get a free subscription to the print version
Victory for the Fighting 99
- The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) Local Lodge 99, has won a battle at the Labour Relations Board. The case was about the employer, Finning, creating a subsidiary, OEM, and inviting the employees to join the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC). The Labour Board decided that this was unfair and that there needed to be an opportunity for the Machinists to keep the group. Over the next few months a run-off against CLAC will occur. For more information...
NUPGE and CLC commit to examine raiding issue
- The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) have agreed to continue working together on the issue of raiding. A statement from NUPGE said: "We commend the leadership of CLC affiliates for the commitment they have made to find a resolution to a practice that destroys labour unity." For more information ...
Hockey Day in Little Buffalo
- The federal and provincial governments have dropped the ball when it comes to dealing fairly with the Lubicon Cree. Now it's time for us to drop the puck - at the new hockey rink in Little Buffalo. The AFL Human Rights and International Solidarity Committee's Operation Hockey has raised funds to build a rink to benefit the Lubicon Cree youth. The rink opens with a big match on February 6th. To join in the celebration, contact the AFL at 780-483-3021 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the Lubicon Cree issue ...
February 4 - Deadline for nominations for 2011 AFL International Women's Day Award
February 6 - Hockey rink opens in Little Buffalo as part of AFL's Project Hockey to benefit the Lubicon Cree youth
February 11 - Deadline to register for AFL Equity Conference (February 25 and 26). Note: Room block cut-off date is January 26; registration deadline is February 11.
February 18 - Deadline to register for 2011 Edmonton and District Labour Council School (www.edlc.ca)
February 20 - UN World Day of Social Justice
February 21 - Alberta Family Day
February 25 - Deadline for nominations for 2011 AFL May Day Solidarity Award
February 25-27 - 2011 Edmonton and District Labour Council School (www.edlc.ca)
Did you know ...
• More than half the cost of natural gas used by oil sands extractors is paid for by taxpayers, according to thetyee.ca.
• 88 per cent of Albertans didn't think we were getting our fair share of revenue from the oil industry, according to a Calgary Herald/Edmonton Journal poll in 2007.
• 58 per cent of Albertans (including two-thirds of Progressive Conservative Party supporters) were opposed to the March 2010 cuts in royalty rates, according to the Calgary Herald.
• The Alberta government aims to capture 50-75 per cent of the oil industry's financial surplus, or "rent," but has failed to capture even the minimum amount almost every year in the last decade.
• Corporate profits in Alberta have soared in the last two decades from $3,635 per capita in 1989 to $15,050 in 2008 (adjusted for inflation).
• Since 2001, Alberta has cut its corporate tax rate to 10 per cent from 15.5 per cent, making the lowest in Canada and depriving the Alberta treasury of $1.1 billion annually.
For more information ...
October 2010: Pension reform; Lakoff lecture/workshop; health-care proposals; workplace injury and fatality records website
- More than three quarters of Canadians support increasing Canada Pension Plan benefits, according to a new national survey released today by Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Public Service Alliance of Canada. For more information ... To learn more about the campaign for pension reform and events being organized by the Alberta Federation of Labour and Canadian Labour Congress, go to ...
Why the right wins ... and how we can stop them
- Albertans have a long history of electing right-wing governments. This has seriously affected the quality of our public debate and hampered our efforts to unionize and represent workers. How can progressives slay this political giant? To find out how, the AFL is bringing in George Lakoff, the communications mastermind behind the U.S. presidential campaign of Barack Obama. For more details ...
Drop undemocratic changes to Alberta's health laws
- Friends of Medicare has launched a campaign to persuade Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky to abandon plans to change provincial health laws, after a legal opinion commissioned by the AFL said the proposals were "not consistent with a democratic society." For more information ...
Government's safety records website gets failing grade
- Alberta's new website offering workplace injury and fatality records may be well intentioned, but presents only a bewildering array of statistics and little useful information for workers, says the AFL. For more information ...
Support U of A janitors in struggle for justice
- A group of janitors at the University of Alberta is suing a cleaning company for tens of thousands of dollars, claiming that overtime money has not been paid. The janitors, many of whom are temporary foreign workers, say they have been threatened with deportation by their employer, University of Alberta contractor Bee Clean Building Maintenance. Show your support at an event at the University of Alberta, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 19, Education Building Room 106, University of Alberta North Campus. For details of the event ... For information and to sign a pledge in support of the workers, go to http://www.j4jatuofa.org/
- October 25, 2010 - CLC Pension Campaign Lobby Training Session, Edmonton
- October 28/29, 2010 - George Lakoff Lecture/Workshop, Edmonton
- November 5-7, 2010 - AB New Democratic Convention, Red Deer
- November 16, 2010 - AFL Lobby Day, Edmonton
- November 19-21, 2010 - Parkland Fall Conference, Edmonton
- November 27, 2010 - AFL Pension Summit, Edmonton
- December 5, 2010 - AFL Women's Committee Commemorative Brunch, Edmonton
Did you know ...
An analysis by the AFL of Alberta government spending shows that it has cut expenditure on environmental monitoring, while spending on public relations has soared. The research revealed:
- 26% drop in spending on environmental monitoring, compliance, and enforcement. Alberta spent $27 million on monitoring, enforcement, and compliance programs in 2003. Budget 2010 projects Alberta Environment will spend $20 million this year.
- 54% increase in spending on public relations since 2003. The Communications line for Alberta Environment grew from $717,000 in 2003 to $1.1 million for 2010.
- 57% increase in spending by the Minister, Deputy Minister, and Communications from a combined total of $1.4 million in 2003 to a projected $2.2 million in 2010.
AFL action plan presented to AFL 46th Constitutional Convention, April 23-26, 2009
A survey released by Canadian LabourWatch Association found unions are irrelevant and their leaders out of touch, but one union leader believes this view of the results is biased and distorted.
LabourWatch hired Nanos Research to conduct a telephone survey of 1,000 employed Canadians between July 27th and Aug. 6th.
One of the most important findings of the Nanos survey is that 77 per cent of non-unionized working Canadians are not interested in being unionized.
The survey also found that more than 25 per cent of currently unionized respondents said they would prefer not to be unionized, if given the choice.
"These results speak for themselves" said John Mortimer, president of LabourWatch.
"Union leader positions on a range of issues are contributing to this continuing slide in both interest and actual union representation."
A spokesperson for union workers in Alberta has a very different interpretation of the survey commissioned by LabourWatch.
"It (LabourWatch) is a who's who of anti-labour organizations that exists to undermine unions and get them off work sites," said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"When you look at this poll, you must consider the source. This is a laughable group that must not be taken seriously."
McGowan said Nanos is a reputable research firm, but it is clear that the questions have been written in such a way as to encourage negative responses to unions.
"Even with this bias approach the survey shows that 75 per cent of the people polled are happy with and support their union," said McGowan. "This is a higher approval rating than any provincial government in Canada and higher than the Harper government. As a labour leader these figures suggest we are on the right track."
In response to the survey's finding that people are not interested in union membership, McGowan argued that the restrictive labour laws in Alberta were the main reason more people are not being able to join a union.
"LabourWatch is not the only organization looking at or asking these types of questions," explained McGowan. "Our own internal survey shows that 30-40 per cent of the people who are not currently unionized would join a union if they could."
Another finding of the survey was that 84 per cent of working Albertans disagreed with union leaders using union dues to pay for advertising campaigns opposing political parties. Almost 70 per cent of working Albertans also disagreed with unions contributing to groups advocating causes unrelated to the workplace.
"The results clearly indicate that workers are rejecting the heavy handed tactics and negative rhetoric of union leaders who claim to speak for all working Albertans, said Stephen Kushner, president of Merit Contractors Association. "The recent provincial election in Alberta which saw the Alberta Building Trades Council (ABTC) and the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) spend millions of dollars on attack ads is a case in point."
In the run up to the Alberta election on March 3, the ABTC and the AFL sponsored a campaign called 'Albertans for Change'. The main aim of this campaign, which began before the election was announced, was to question the leadership abilities of Conservative party leader Ed Stelmach.
Union leaders did not disclose the cost of these so-called attack ads. However, critics of the campaign estimate the cost at $1 million for prime-time TV spots and full-page newspaper ads.
McGowan said the decision to spend union funds on the election campaign was made after going through a very democratic process. The union leadership consulted the grass roots and was fully accountable to members.
Despite this fact, McGowan is concerned about the direction the Conservatives are taking public policy on union dues and political campaigns.
"They (Conservatives) will probably get their wish on this one," said McGowan. "The will issue legislation this fall to reduce the unions ability to spend money during an election."
Journal of Commerce, Mon Sept 15 2008
Byline: Richard Gilbert
EDMONTON _ The Alberta government is bracing for protests after introducing what critics are calling anti-union changes to the province's labour code.
Employment Minister Hector Goudreau has confirmed that extra sheriffs have been brought to the legislature this week in case of any unruly demonstrations.
The legislation bans strikes and lockouts for ambulance workers and prevents unions from subsidizing contract bids by unionized contractors competing with non-union firms.
The changes will also prevent union-supporting workers from joining a non-union company to kick start the process of unionizing the firm _ a practice known as salting.
NDP Leader Brian Mason says the legislation is an act of ''revenge'' for the union-sponsored attack ads used against Premier Ed Stelmach during the recent Alberta election campaign.
A spokesman for the Alberta Building Trades Council did not appear overly concerned by the legislation and says the practice of salting is nearly obsolete in the province.
But the Alberta Federation of Labour and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees reacted much more strongly, suggesting the legislation violates constitutional guarantees of freedom of association.
''This is what Conservatives do _ squeeze workers for the benefit of employers,'' federation president Gil McGowan said in a media release Monday.
''The Conservatives have long been anti-labour and this bill is their latest attempt to kick workers in the shins. They are simply using their new majority to exercise their anti-worker reflexes,'' he added.
McGowan also noted the bill has been timed to keep wages down during the province's economic boom.
Doug Knight of the provincial employees' union said the law ought to be changed so that there is one labour law for everyone, instead of the current system where there is a separate Public Service Employee Relations Act.
Knight said his union also wants other changes, like automatic certification without a vote when more than half the employees in a workplace sign union cards.
''Albertans are now seeing government that is willing to use its election majority to make drastic decisions behind closed doors,'' Knight said in a news release.
The EnergyNews.com, Wed Jun 11 2008