EDMONTON-Alberta unions are up in arms after learning about an "unethical and probably illegal" scheme to bust the union at a prominent Edmonton printing company.
"It's bad enough that they've fired all the employees and handed their jobs to non-union workers," says Gil McGowan, president of Alberta's largest union organization, the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"But to do it on Family Day, when most of the employees were at home enjoying time with their families, is simply reprehensible."
McGowan says the owners of Ed-Web have miscalculated if they thought they could get away with the firing because of the relatively small number of employees involved.
"This may be a small group of workers, but the basic principles involved are huge," says McGowan.
"We may not have the best labour laws in the country, but even here in Alberta it is illegal for employers to close down a union shop and open up across the street with a new, non-union work force. That's exactly what's happened here - and we simply won't allow them to get away with it."
Ed-Web managers informed the union of the firings late in the afternoon on Family Day. Fifteen press room workers and five bindery workers - all members of the Communication, Energy, Paperworkers Workers union Local 255-G - received formal pink slips the next day.
"This was a huge shock to all of us," says local union president Ray Wade. "These were decent, family-sustaining jobs. The union has worked with the company to make this a profitable operation for more than 30 years. This clearly isn't about economics - it's about busting the union."
Wade says the firings are particularly difficult because several of the affected workers have young families.
"One of our guys was just getting back on his feet after losing his home in the St. Albert condo fire in December. He's got a wife and a baby. This is just devastating for them," says Wade.
Ed-Web is part of a larger printing conglomerate that includes Edmonton-based Central Web and Calgary Colour Press in Calgary. Ed-Web is best known for printing the popular Trader publications and the various renters' guides. The work done by union members at Ed-Web has now been transferred to a new press at the non-union Central Web plant.
McGowan says the Ed-Web case is significant because it strikes at the heart of the right that workers have to join union and bargain collectively.
"The Supreme Court has ruled that Canadians have a constitutional right to belong to unions. But that's an empty right if employers can simply fire union members at will and replace them with non-union workers. That's why the broader labour movement is taking a big interest in this case - the Ed-Web worker's fight is our fight."
NOTE TO ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: AFL President Gil McGowan and local union president Ray Wade will be on the picket line outside Ed-Web at noon today. Ed-Web is located at 14101-128 Ave. TV and photo editors may be interested to note that a large FOR LEASE sign has already been erected outside the building.
For more information call:
Gil McGowan, AFL President at 780.915-4599 (cell)
Ray Wade, President, CEP Local 255-G at 780.668-6400 (cell)