EDMONTON - The changes to Alberta's Employment Standards regulations announced yesterday prove that the Klein government is more interested in catering to the whims of employers than protecting the rights of working people, says a spokesman for Alberta's largest labour organization.
Les Steel, Secretary Treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour, says the new regulations unveiled yesterday afternoon by a government regulatory review committee amount to a "betrayal of working people" - especially the thousands of people working in the oilfield servicing industry.
Under the new rules, employers will finally be required to pay domestic workers such as nannies at least the minimum wage. Ambulance attendants will also be given a break - they will be guaranteed at least four days free from on-call duties each month.
But that's where the good news for workers ends. Once the new regulations are implemented on July 1, people working in oilfield servicing and fish farming will be denied all protection under the Employment Standards Code - which sets out rules for things like maximum hours of work, overtime pay, vacations and the minimum wage.
Oilfield workers will be particularly hard hit. Under the old rules, there was a 12-hour limit on the length of time these people could be required to work in a given day. Now that limit has been removed entirely - opening the door for 14, 16 or even 18-hour shifts.
"The government review committee said their goal was to 'update and streamline' this province's basic workplace rules," says Steel. "But - with a few small exceptions - the committee is actually moving labour law in Alberta backward not forward. The exemption of oilfield service workers is particularly serious - it's an accident waiting to happen. If people are forced to work too long, injuries and deaths will increase, it's as simple as that."
Steel says the big problem with Alberta's Employment Standards law is that it exempts whole industries and categories of workers - leaving thousands of workers without even the minimum protections guaranteed by the Code.
For example, all agricultural workers and many salespeople are exempt from the Code. Other workers are exempt from certain sections of the Code. Domestic workers for example are still not entitled to over-time pay.
"The position of the AFL is that there should be no exemptions to the basic floor of rights established by the Employment Standards Code," says Steel. "Every exemption granted weakens that floor of rights not just for the workers involved but for the entire Alberta workforce."
Steel says the latest regulatory changes prove that the current Alberta government will always put the interests of employers ahead of the interest of workers - especially when the employers are from the influential oil and gas industry.
"What good are workplace rules like the Employment Standards Code if the government is willing to set them aside every time an industry asks for special treatment?" asks Steel. "We think the time has come for all employers in this province to follow the same basic rules - with no exceptions. These latest changes are clearly a step in the wrong direction."
For more information call:
Les Steel, Secretary Treasurer @ 483-3021 (wk)
Gil McGowan, Director of Communications @ 483-3021 (wk)