A review of the labour code launched by Alberta employment minister Thomas Lukaszuk is doomed to fail unless the process is changed, says the province’s largest labour group.
“The minister has reacted to a request from a rabidly anti-labour group by embarking on an invitation-only review being held behind closed doors,” says Nancy Furlong, secretary treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), which represents 145,000 workers.
“The minister chose not to announce this review publicly, and only select groups have been invited to make submissions. He has appointed a review panel that does not include a single labour representative. Finally, the lobby group that instigated this review has made biased proposals aimed only at weakening unions,” she says.
“If you start with a biased proposition and appoint a panel that represents only one viewpoint, you are not going to get a balanced result. While this review is said to be aimed at the construction industry, any changes to the labour code will affect all working Albertans,” says Furlong.
She called on the minister to make the review process fully public, open and transparent, for submissions to be sought and accepted from all those wanting to participate and for the review panel to be widened to include labour.
“We are disappointed, once again, to find that the employment minister appears to be showing favouritism. The minister has a history of bowing to industry pressure. Earlier this year, he ignored an all-party committee’s recommendation on minimum wage and decided to impose a two-tier structure after intense lobbying efforts from the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association. He also listened to the farm-industry lobby in ignoring a judge’s recommendation to extend Occupational Health and Safety laws to cover farm workers after the death of Kevan Chandler,” she says.
“In 2008, the Alberta government responded to pressure from the anti-union Merit Contractors Association by passing Bill 26, which put severe restrictions on the ability of unions to operate in the construction industry,” says Furlong.
“This new call for a review is simply an attempt to by the Merit Contractors and the Christian Labour Association of Canada to tilt the laws in their favour – and to lower the wages and working conditions of all Albertans,” she says. “We expect our government to take a balanced approach. It has a responsibility to represent all Albertans. The government needs to fix this process now.”
Nancy Furlong, AFL Secretary Treasurer @ 780.720-8945 (cell) or 780.483-3021 (office)