EDMONTON – Moves to improve the enforcement of Alberta’s Employment Standards code are welcome, but the government approach is wrong and doesn’t go far enough in protecting workers, says the province’s largest labour group, the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL).
“Once again, Minister of Employment and Immigration Thomas Lukaszuk has chosen to focus on responding to complaints, instead of being proactive in preventing unfair and abusive workplace practices,” says Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasurer of the AFL, which represents 145,000 workers. “Waiting for complaints to come in is an abdication of the responsibility the province has to enforce Employment Standards. Many employees, particularly vulnerable Temporary Foreign Workers, young workers, or people newly hired may be unaware of their rights or afraid to complain,” she says.
“The government’s hiring of six new officers is too little to have any serious effect on ensuring Employment Standards are enforced at the thousands worksites all over the province. The AFL is also concerned at the increased use of third-party auditors. Enforcing standards is a provincial responsibility and can only be done effectively by provincial inspectors. Third-party auditors will simply not have the same authority or impact as government officers when dealing with problem employers. We are not sure why it is appropriate to go to third parties. Enforcement is an obligation of the province and as such audit should be an integral part of the operation,” she says.
“At the root of the problem is that the minister is focused on the needs of employers over the needs of Albertans. For example, he has chosen to produce a toolkit for employers to remind them of their responsibilities, but not one for workers to remind them of their rights.”
“What Albertans really need and deserve are stronger Employment Standards, more proactive investigations to ensure standards are being maintained, real enforcement of those standards and more prosecutions of violators. Alberta must also act to end the unfair discrimination against farm workers and domestic workers, who are excluded from the Employment Standards that protect other workers and from Occupational Health and Safety laws and Workers Compensation,” says Furlong.
MEDIA CONTACT: Nancy Furlong, AFL Secretary Treasurer @ 780 720-8945