AFL cautions government about the pitfalls of denying paramedics the right to strike

CORRECTION 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)

Government Creates False "Emergency" to Strip Ambulance Workers of Rights

The AFL reacted to the government announcement of a Public Emergency Tribunal in the Edmonton paramedic dispute by denouncing it as an act of a "two bit dictator". The move sweeps away the ambulance workers' rights without respect to process or to the legal right to strike. "This government is acting like a two-bit dictator," says AFL President Les Steel. "When rights become inconvenient, they act single-handedly to sweep away those rights. This sounds like something a third world dictator would do." Steel notes that under the Labour Relations Code, paramedics and ambulance workers have the right to strike. By imposing a settlement if one is not found in the next 30 days, the government is overturning this legal right without going through the appropriate legislative process. "It is legislation by decree, which I thought was outlawed in this country." "Why is the government picking on the workers? Why is it not ordering the City to bargain fairly and find a settlement?" Steel asks. "There is no public emergency here," Steel added. "This is a transparent excuse to strip away the right to strike from ambulance workers. There is no justification for a Tribunal and forced arbitration." Steel states the government has not adequately proven the existence of an emergency. "The City had contingency plans. Hospitals are still operating at full speed." "The best way to prevent disruption is to ensure both sides are serious about finding a settlement. Today's action by the Minister makes that less likely, as the City now has no reason to bargain." "The province has inappropriately taken sides in this dispute. By stripping away the right to strike, it puts the workers into a no-win situation." Steel points out that the City now has nothing forcing it to bargain fairly. If it waits 30 days, the province will come up with a settlement for it. "If the Minister is capable of sweeping away the right to strike for these workers, who is next? Who is next to arbitrarily lose their rights to this government?" Steel concluded. For more information call: Les Steel, President      @     499-4135 (cell) or 483-3021 (wk)

AFL will elect new president and council tomorrow

EDMONTON - Union leaders and activists attending the biennial convention of the Alberta Federation of Labour will elect a new President, Secretary-Treasurer and Executive Council tomorrow morning. The current president, Audrey Cormack, is stepping down after serving three two-year terms at the helm of Alberta's largest labour organization. The new officers and council members will be selected by delegates representing dozens of union locals from around the province. The elections will be the highlight of the final day of the AFL convention, which is currently being held at the Crowne Plaza-Chateau Lacombe Hotel in Edmonton. The hotel is located at 10111 Bellamy Hill. The elections will be held between 11 and 11:30 a.m. on May 6 in the hotel's main ballroom. Another highlight of the day will be a presentation at 10 a.m. from the Calgary Coalition on Police Brutality. The Coalition will talk about the excessive use of force by police on the Calgary Herald picket line and at the World Petroleum Congress that was held in Calgary last year. Closing ceremonies will begin at noon and the convention will adjourn at 12:45 p.m. The new president will be available to talk to reporters between 12:45 and 1 p.m. After that, the new Executive will have its first meeting. For more information call: Gil McGowan, AFL Communication @ 990-2650 or 910-1137 (cell) Read more

AFL delegates debate strategies to halt erosion of democracy

EDMONTON - Delegates to the Alberta's Federation of Labour's biennial convention will turn their attention to politics and corporate globalization tomorrow, as they participate in a panel discussion on the links between democracy, globalization and workers' rights. The panel will be made up of four prominent activists and writers including: Linda Goyette, a two-time National Newspaper Award-winning journalist; Colleen Fuller, acclaimed author of Caring for Profit, a recent book on the spread of private health care in Canada; Scott Harris, a youth activist who participated in the demonstrations against the FTAA in Quebec City; and Rodney Bobiwash, a native activist and scholar from Ontario. "We selected a panel that will effectively shine a spotlight on the ways in which real democracy is being eroded in Canada and around the world," says AFL president Audrey Cormack. "They will talk about how, as a result of things like NAFTA and the WTO, the interests of working people are being forced to take a back seat to the interests of corporations and the wealthy." The panel discussion will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 5. Each panelist will speak for ten minutes. This will be followed by about an hour of discussion and debate from convention delegates. Other highlights of the AFL convention on Saturday include the following: At 3 p.m. delegates will discuss a policy paper on drugs and alcohol in the workplace At 4 p.m. there will be an all-candidates forum for all those seeking election to the AFL's Executive Council, including those who are running for the positions AFL President or Secretary-Treasurer. The AFL convention is being held at the Crowne Plaza-Chateau Lacombe Hotel, which is located at 11101 Bellamy Hill in Edmonton. All major sessions of the convention will be held in the hotel's main ballroom. Reporters and other media personnel are asked to register at the AFL convention office (River Valley Room). Only people with proper credentials will be allowed on the convention floor. The AFL Convention wraps up at lunch-time Sunday, after the election of a new Executive Council. For more information call: Gil McGowan, AFL Communication @ 990-2650 or 910-1137 (cell)

Breaking out of the Rut: A Position Paper on Politics and Democracy in Alberta (2001)

Breaking Out of the Rut: A Position Paper on Politics and Democracy in Alberta (May 2001) Democracy Position Paper presented to 3rd Biennial Convention, May 3 - 6, 2001

Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace (2001)

Position Statement - Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace (2001) Presented at the 3rd Biennial Convention, May 3 - 6, 2001

Labour of Loss (2001)

Labour of Loss: An Examination of the Economic Effects of Discrimination in the Canadian Labour Market and Recommendations for the Labour Movement in the New Millennium (Policy Paper presented at 3rd Biennial Convention, May 3 - 6, 2001)  

AFL delegates will rally at Petro-Can tomorrow to support striking workers

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)

AFL convention opens tomorrow in Edmonton

EDMONTON - More than three hundred union leaders and activists from around the province will be in Edmonton tomorrow to participate in the opening day of the Alberta Federation of Labour's biennial convention. During the course of the four-day meeting, delegates will focus their discussions on the linkages that exist between democracy, globalization and workers rights. The convention is being held May 3-6 at the Crowne Plaza-Chateau Lacombe Hotel in Edmonton, which is located at 10111 Bellamy Hill. Highlights for the first day of convention (Thursday, May 3) include the following: Out-going AFL president Audrey Cormack will deliver her address to delegates at 10:30 a.m. This will be Cormack's final formal address as AFL president. After six years as president, she will be stepping down at the end of this convention. At 11 a.m., the AFL will present a research paper entitled "Losing Ground: The Slow Decline of Workers' Rights and Privileges in Alberta 1975-2000." The report shows in detail how conditions for most working people in the province have actually declined over the past 25 years, despite strong growth in the economy and business profits. Former B.C. Premier Dave Barrett will speak to the convention at 11:30 a.m. Barrett will talk about the important role unions have to play in promoting democracy and protecting working people from the negative impacts of corporate globalization. Michael Fraser, Canadian Director of the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW) will address the convention at 2:30 p.m. Fraser will talk about his union's highly successful efforts to organize young workers in the service industry. UFCW is one of North America's largest private sector unions. In addition to hearing from speakers and receiving reports, delegates will discuss resolutions on a wide range of issues. All of Thursday's convention activities will take place in the hotel's main ballroom. All reporters and media personnel are asked to register at the AFL Convention office, located in the Lacombe Room. No one will be allowed on the convention floor without a formal media credential. For more information call: Gil McGowan, AFL Communications at (780) 990-2650

Union activists and leaders gather in Edmonton for AFL Convention

EDMONTON - Union leaders and activists from around the province will gather in Edmonton this week to attend the biennial convention of the Alberta Federation of Labour.This year, the AFL has borrowed a slogan from the Quebec City anti-globalization protests to act as the convention's theme. The slogan is "This is What Democracy Looks Like!""We'll be talking about democracy both inside our unions and in the broader Canadian society," says AFL President Audrey Cormack. "In particular, we'll be talking about the need for unions to get involved in the democratic process in order to better protect and promote the interests of working people."The convention will take place May 3-6 in Edmonton. It will be held in the Crowne Plaza-Chateau Lacombe Hotel, which is located at 10111 Bellamy Hill.Delegates to the convention will hear from a number of high-profile speakers including, Dave Barrett, former Premier of British Columbia. Barrett will address the convention on Thursday, May 3 at 11:30 a.m.In addition, a panel will be held Saturday morning at 10 a.m. to discuss the threat to democracy and workers rights posed by international trade agreements like NAFTA and the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).The panel will include former Edmonton Journal columnist Linda Goyette, health care researcher and author Colleen Fuller, anti-globalization activist Scott Harris and native activist Rodney Bobiwash.Convention delegates will also discuss a wide range of resolutions and policy documents, including papers on human rights, drug testing in the workplace and strategies for political action by the labour movement in Alberta.This will be the last convention for Audrey Cormack, who is stepping down as AFL president after serving in that position for six years. A new president and Executive Council will be elected by delegates on Sunday morning."The past six years have been eventful for the labour movement and we have had our fair share of victories," says Cormack. "I'm confident that this convention will lay the groundwork for even more success for working people over the next two years." For more information call: Gil McGowan, AFL Communications at (780) 483-3021 Read more