Alberta Federation of Labour Year End Statement, December 2002

The Alberta Federation of Labour expects 2003 to be a year of intense activity on the labour relations front. AFL President Les Steel points to high inflation and slow wage growth in the province fuelling higher wage demands as workers struggle to maintain their standard of living. "November's inflation figure of 9.7% was a shock to most Albertans. We know that this figure was, to some extent, a statistical anomaly, but we also know that the province has the highest inflation rate in Canada, and that the deregulation of utilities has helped to push up the cost of living. Wages in the province aren't keeping up to increases in the cost of living, and if war in the Middle East causes oil prices to skyrocket, the increased energy revenues may be good for government finances, but the resulting inflation will be a disaster for ordinary working Albertans." Figures released by the government show that average weekly earnings for Albertans are growing by about 2% per year. "We believe that when the final figures are in, the inflation rate in Alberta in 2002 will be more than twice that figure," said Steel. "There is no reason why, in an economy as strong as Alberta's, workers should continue to see their real earnings fall." Steel says the AFL also expects more Albertans to seek union membership in the coming year. "A recent Statistics Canada study shows that union representation brings higher wages - over seven percent on average. It also tends to provide better benefit and pension coverage. Most importantly, perhaps, it gives workers the right to be treated with respect and dignity in the workplace." "That's why union membership has been growing in Alberta, supposedly the most anti-union province in Canada; and that's why it will continue to grow. Shaw Strike Exposes Flaws in Labour Law Workers at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton won a victory in November by negotiating their first collective agreement after a bitter seven month struggle against bad-faith bargaining and anti-union tactics. The actions of Economic Development Edmonton, and the senseless prolonging of the strike is clear evidence of the need for improvements to the unfriendly labour laws in Alberta. "Labour laws in this province fail to recognize that workers have the right to organize and bargain collectively. When workers freely choose to be represented by a union, as was the case with the Shaw workers, labour laws should facilitate the process, not act as a barrier to be overcome" said Steel. Kyoto Ratification The December 10, 2002 ratification of the Kyoto Protocol is an historic first step in addressing the issue of climate change. Throughout the debate on ratification, the AFL has supported Kyoto, and looks forward to continuing to work with all levels of government to ensure that workers and communities affected by necessary job shifts are protected by an effective just transition plan. Kyoto will mean new jobs in new industries and is an ideal opportunity to diversify the Alberta economy away from its dependence on rapidly-depleting fossil fuels to ensure sustainable jobs for future generations of Albertan workers. "Kyoto should be seen as a chance for Albertans to become leaders in the emerging industries which will drive the economy of the future" said Steel. "Countries around the world are making the shift already, and Alberta will be left behind unless this government starts seeing Kyoto as an opportunity rather than a threat." Time for Romanow With the release of the long-anticipated Romanow Report, Canadians have been given a clear choice about the future of Medicare. The AFL is calling for the quick and full implementation of the recommendations of Romanow by the Federal government. Medicare is not only the right system, it is the smart system. Study after study proves that public healthcare has better results and is cheaper than for-profit delivery. Public healthcare protects families and is also a competitive advantage which makes Canada an attractive place to do business. "Companies in Canada must recognize that if we go down the road of for-profit healthcare, they will be joining their American counterparts in paying more for coverage" warns Steel. "What working people lose from the public system, they will be demanding at the bargaining table." Democratic Deficit The year 2002 was characterized by an increasing erosion of democratic rights. Effective protest and meaningful participation in government became more difficult than ever. The G8 Summit held in Kananaskis was the largest, most expensive peace time security operation in Canadian history. All three levels of government actively interfered with the rights of citizens to assemble and protest, and Calgarians were subjected to months of fear-mongering. Despite broad support for ratification, Albertans were subjected to a multi-million dollar anti-Kyoto propaganda campaign while the Klein government chastised the Federal government for "consulting but not listening." At the same time, the Alberta government has hypocritically pushed ahead with privatization and for-profit healthcare despite strong opposition by Albertans. "What we are seeing is an increasing disconnect between the wants of ordinary Albertans and the policy coming from government. At the same time government is clamping down on the right to protest" said Steel. "That's why labour, students, activists and community groups will continue to work together in the coming year." For more information, contact: Les Steel, AFL President at (780) 499-4135 (cell) or (780) 475-4668 (hm)

Time for Alberta to "walk the talk" on Kyoto job impacts

EDMONTON - The Alberta Federation of Labour applauds today's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in the House of Commons, and says its time for all levels of government to walk the talk on helping workers who may be affected by climate change policies. "Workers in Alberta and across Canada know that action on climate change is critical for future generations" says AFL President Les Steel. "We believe that Kyoto is an important first step in addressing the problem, but we have to do it right." "For months we've been hearing the Alberta government say how concerned it is about the potential impact of Kyoto on jobs," says Steel. "With today's ratification vote, it's time for Klein to stop the fear-mongering and work with the labour movement and the federal government to ensure no workers are made to bear an unfair burden of implementation." Steel says that while millions of new jobs will be created in Canada even with Kyoto in place, there will be job shifts from some sectors to others. He says the AFL has always supported Kyoto, but with a just transition plan in place to help workers adapt and train for the new jobs that will be created. "We know that Kyoto can be implemented in a way that is good for workers and communities as well as good for the environment. The best thing that the Alberta government can do now is get on board to make sure it happens." Don MacNeil, western administrative vice president for the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, agrees. "Our members, including 35,000 who have jobs in the energy sector, support Kyoto and know that it's the right thing to do," he says. "We have a workable just transition plan that will ensure that workers and their families and their communities can benefit from new opportunities, but it will take political will. The actions of the Alberta government in the coming months will show if their new-found concern about jobs is rhetoric or reality.""Nobody is more concerned with jobs than the labour movement," adds Steel. "But our members know that healthy jobs and a healthy environment go hand in hand." For more information call: Les Steel, AFL President @ (780) 499-4135 Don MacNeil, CEP Western Regional Administrative VP @ (780) 984-5289

Romanow has it right, says AFL

EDMONTON - The Alberta Federation of Labour, representing more than 120,000 unionized workers from across the province, has expressed strong support for the key recommendations of the final report released today by Roy Romanow's Commission on the Future of Health Care. "Mr. Romanow has presented us with a blue-print for reform that, if implemented, will revitalize Medicare and guarantee it's long-term good health," says AFL president Les Steel. "This is probably the best chance we'll ever get to save Medicare from the privatizers and preserve it for future generations. Canadians now have to put pressure on their elected representative to make sure they don't squander this historic opportunity." Steel says the Romanow report is particularly important here in Alberta because it shows that de-listing, down-loading and privatization are not the only options available to us. "The Klein government has worked hard over the past few years to convince Albertans that there is no alternative to privatization in health care," says Steel. "But the Romanow report demonstrates just how wrong the Alberta Tories are. It shows that privatization doesn't work and that it is not in the best interests of ordinary citizens." Steel says that he has some reservations about the Romanow report - but none that are serious enough to justify rejecting it. "We would have preferred it if Romanow hadn't given the green light to privatization in non-medical service like laundry and food preparation in hospitals," he says. "In his report Mr. Romanow conclusively demonstrates that the private sector costs more and delivers less when it comes to core medical services. We think the same logic applies to non medical services. If fact, here in Alberta we've had a lot of experience with privatization in things like hospital laundry and dietary service. The record shows that very little money has been saved - and quality has suffered. Cleaning hospital rooms and hospital laundry is not the same as cleaning in a hotel." Steel says he is also disappointed that Romanow didn't recommend a more aggressive mechanism for enforcing the principles of the Canada Health Act. "The Alberta government has already made it clear it intends to go ahead with reforms outlined in the Mazankowski report - reforms that run entirely contrary to the vision presented by Romanow. We would have liked to have seen some kind of enforcement mechanism that would stop provincial governments from standing in the way of progressive, public sector reform." However, despite these concerns, Steel says the AFL is extremely pleased with the report produced by the Romanow commission. "The bottom line is that it reinforces what we've been saying for years and what ordinary Canadians believe themselves - namely that the best solutions for reform can be found within the public system, not the private sector." For more information call: Les Steel, AFL President  @  780-483-3021 (wk) or 780-499-4135 (cell)

Rally at the Shaw is still a go - unless a last-minute deal can be reached

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)

EDE squanders chance to keep Grey Cup free of disruptions

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)

Labour leaders to meet with federal environment minister today

OTTAWA - The president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, along with several other prominent labour leaders from across the country, will attend a special two-and-a-half hour meeting with federal Environment Minister David Anderson later today. At the meeting, Steel will demand the creation of a substantial transition fund to help workers who may be displaced as a result of the Kyoto Accord. "We're on record as supporting Kyoto. It's the right thing to do for our environment," says Steel. "But, at the same time, we can't forget about the thousands of workers who may lose their jobs. If we're going to go ahead with Kyoto, mechanisms have to be put in place to help workers and communities make the transition to a greener economy." Steel says that millions of jobs will be created over the next decade in Canada, whether the Kyoto Accord is ratified or not. But, he says there is no doubt that Kyoto will result in employment reductions in at least a few sectors. "The solution to this shift in jobs is not to forego action on climate change," says Steel. "The real answer is to ensure that those who do lose their jobs are given options to find new employment, particularly in related sectors that are expected to experience growth. That's the message we'll be delivering to the Minister tomorrow: Kyoto, yes, but don't leave workers behind." The meeting with Anderson will take place today between noon and 2:30 p.m. Alberta time. Steel will be available to answer questions from reporters after 2:45 p.m. Alberta time. For more information call: Les Steel, AFL President @ (780) 499-4135 Gil McGowan, AFL Communications @ (780) 483-3021 or (780) 910-1137 (cell)

Activists Leaflet Zellers and the Bay in Campaign Against Sweatshop Abuses

EDMONTON                                   CALGARYSaturday, October 26th,              Saturday, October 26th, 20022002                                                200212:00 noon                                    12:00 noon    The Bay                                          The BayKingsway Garden Mall                  Downtown Stephen Avenue Malll1st level main entrance to Bay    8 Avenue & 1 Street, SW south side by transit centre The Human Rights and International Solidarity Committee of the Alberta Federation of Labour will be leafleting "The Bay" and Zellers stores in Edmonton and Calgary this Saturday, starting at 12:00 noon.  The protestors will be trying to persuade the Hudson's Bay Company to work with unions and suppliers to eliminate sweatshop working conditions. Currently the Hudson's Bay Company has contracts with three factories in the southern African country of Lesotho which produces clothing under the Zellers brand name. However, HBC has indicated that it was cutting and running from at least one of the factories rather than working with the factory management and the Lesotho garment workers' union to help eliminate sweatshop abuses.  This is the same factory that recently signed an agreement with the union to make improvements in working conditions. "We need to send a message to the Hudson's Bay Company to be responsible corporate citizens and stay in Lesotho and be part of the solution to end sweatshop abuses," says HR&IS Committee Chairperson, Ramon Antipan. For More Information: Ramon Antipan, Chair, AFL's Human Rights & International Solidarity Committee @    780-423-9000 (wk)  780-475-6856(hm)

Unions, NGOs and Environmental Activists to meet regarding Kyoto Protocol

WHEN: Thursday, October 17, 2002 at 1:30 p.m. WHERE: The Inn of 7th, Courtyard Room10001 - 107 Street Edmonton The Alberta Federation of Labour, Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Unions, Canadian Labour Congress, as well as a number of NGOs and environmental groups will be meeting this morning to discuss the Kyoto Protocol. Representatives from these groups will be available at 1:30 p.m. to encapsulate discussions from the morning session and respond to questions from the media. For More Information: Les Steel, AFL President @ 780-499-4135 (cell) or 780-483-3021 (work)

Shaw strike is costing Edmonton millions in lost convention business

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 **Backgrounder Attached**BACKGROUNDER: ECONOMIC IMPACT OFSHAW 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. ATA Totals Revenue lost to Conference Centre:     $350,000-400,000Revenue 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. UNA Totals 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. Carpenter Totals 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. CEP Totals Revenue lost to Conference Centre:     $130,000+Revenue lost to Edmonton Businesses:   $5.0 million (approx.)(Hotels, restaurants, transportation etc.)

Chilean activist asks Canadians to remember the "other September 11"

EDMONTON - As people around the world look back on last year's terrorist attacks in the United States, a Chilean activist is urging Canadians not to forget the horror of the "other September 11." Viviana Diaz, President of the Association of the Relatives of the Disappeared in Chile, is on a cross-Canada speaking tour aimed at reminding people of the military coup that took place in her country on September 11, 1973. During that coup, terrorists bombed the Chilean Parliament buildings, assassinated the elected president, Salvador Allende, and toppled Allende's popular government. Thousands of people were killed on that day and in the 17 years of military dictatorship that followed. Thousands of others "disappeared" and remain unaccounted for today. WHAT:  News Conference to Discuss the "Other September 11"WHO:  Association of the Relatives of the Disappeared in ChileWHEN:  11:30 am, Tuesday, September 24WHERE: CUPE 474 Boardroom, 10989-124 Street, Edmonton As part of her visit to Edmonton, Diaz will meet with many of the hundreds of Chileans who settled in Edmonton after fleeing or being exiled from their homeland. She will also hold a news conference on Tuesday, September 24 to review the history of the "other September 11" and give an update on efforts to uncover what really happened to the "disappeared." "Americans often talk about September 11 as an attack on freedom and democracy," says Ramon Antipan, an activist from Edmonton's Chilean community. "But September 11, 1973 was even more devastating to the people of Chile. It robbed them of their freedom and it destroyed their democratic system - which, at the time, was the oldest and most stable democracy in South America." In addition to her news conference, Diaz will participate in a special reception and seminar at the Stanley Milner Library Theatre at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 24. Her visit to Edmonton is co-sponsored by the Chilean-Canadian Community of Edmonton, the Stanley Milner Library, the University of Alberta's International Association and the Alberta Federation of Labour. For more information call: AFL Communications    @ 780-483-3021