April 2013: Join us at the AFL's 9th Biennial Convention, Unions Stand up for Majority of Albertans, STRIKE! The Musical, Solidarity with Post-Secondary Education
Unions Stand Up for Majority of Albertans
In the lead up to Alberta’s 2013 budget, Alberta’s public sector unions worked together to advance the interests of the majority of Albertans.
The Alberta Federation of Labour, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Alberta Teachers’ Association, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, United Nurses of Alberta and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta presented a united front against austerity policies and draconian cuts.
Polling, conducted by Environics in advance of the provincial budget showed that more than 70 per cent of Albertans reject public service cuts. More than three quarters of those polled agreed that there should be an increase on taxes for wealthy Albertans and for corporations. The majority of Albertans believe that the province should be investing more in health care, education and other services.
“Albertans aren’t as conservative as Alison Redford seems to believe,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “She needs to listen better. Not to the radical tea party Tories, but to the majority of Albertans who are quietly progressive, and who want this province to be healthy and prosperous.”
STRIKE! The Musical
The Alberta Federation of Labour is proud to be bringing STRIKE! The Musical to Edmonton for its Alberta premiere.
This award-winning theatrical production, which tells the story of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, will be at the Timms Centre for the Performing Arts April 24 – April 28.
“When I saw Strike! three years ago in Winnipeg, I knew we needed to bring it to Alberta,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “The 100th anniversary of the AFL was the perfect opportunity to organize this production. It’s an important story about the history of Canadian labour, and it’s one that inspires pride in the activism and work that our member unions do.”
For more information or to order tickets, please visit www.strikemusical.com
Solidarity with Post-Secondary Education
More than 500 students, workers, educators and activists marched on the legislature on March 15.
The rally, which was organized by the Coalition for Action on Post-Secondary Education, was protesting the massive cuts the Alberta Government imposed on universities and colleges throughout the province. The University of Alberta faces a 7.2 per cent cut.
Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan spoke at the rally, noting that the province’s economy depends on having a quality education system.
Join us at the AFL’s 9th Biennial Convention
More than 500 labour activists, leaders and delegates will gather at the Shaw Conference Centre in downtown Edmonton from April 25 – 28 for the Alberta Federation of Labour’s 9th Biennial Convention.
The convention, which has the theme “Unions Stand on Guard for Thee,” will examine how the labour movement has helped create, and protect the prosperous, inclusive society of which Canadians are rightfully proud.
Coming from all corners of Alberta, delegates will celebrate the achievements of unions, hear from dozens of speakers, and help chart the direction of our further growth.
Registration starts Wednesday, April 24 and continues on Thursday, April 25.
2013 AFL Convention runs Thursday, April 25, 2013 - Sunday, April 28, 2013.
Convention Committees meet Wednesday, April 24.
AFL Council meets Tuesday, April 23.
Convention venue is the Shaw Conference Centre
Convention hotel is the Crowne Plaza Chateau Lacombe
Location: Shaw Conference Centre, Edmonton
Contact: Maureen Werlin at [email protected] or 780-483-3021
April 28 – International Day of Mourning for Dead and Injured Workers
May 1 – May Day March
May 3 – Deadline to register for Summer Labour School
June 14 - Deadline to register AFL Kids Camp
Did you know ...
After production and development costs are factored in, Alberta only collects 54 per cent of the the excess profit from heavy oil production. By comparison, Norway collects 80 per cent, Russia collects 73 per cent and Angola collects 71 per cent.
- Once ravaged by debt and war, higher oil royalties have helped Angola turn a budget deficit of 8.6 per cent of GDP in 2009 into a surplus of 12 per cent of GDP in 2012.
- Alberta has the highest pay gap in Canada. Alberta women working full year and full time earn a median 68 per cent of what men earn. The pay gap is reduced for women in unions – to about 85 per cent of what men earn.
- According to Environics polling conducted in February, 77 per cent of Albertans support increased taxes on corporations and those making more than $200,000.
The government saw it coming according to documents
The Alberta Federation of Labour claims the Alberta government was warned in 2010 a cut in energy royalties would result in a budget deficit. A government document titled "Energizing Investment Phase 2: Royalty Curves and Adjustments," demonstrated how royalty reductions would create budget deficits in the 100s of millions of dollars from 2010 to 2013, while without the reductions, the then Stelmach government was predicting a $500 million surplus for 2013. The document was dated May 25, 2010. Two days later, the provincial government reduced royalty rates.
"They've been acting like this year's deficit came as some kind of surprise to them, and they've tried to point fingers at bitumen prices," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said in a press release. "But the deficit was predictable, and was predicted in this report to the minister. Royalty reductions were to blame, and were blamed in this report."
Premier Alison Redford has for several months explained the deficit in this year's budget was an unavoidable result of a "bitumen bubble" — unanticipated low bitumen prices due to an over-supplied market. The AFL points to this document as evidence the deficit is unrelated to supply and demand; rather, it is the foreseeable result of royalty cuts.
Fast Forward News, FFWD, Thursday, Apr. 04, 2013
Byline: Suzy Thompson in News
The impoverished, war-torn African nation of Angola rakes in more oil profits than Alberta, argues the Alberta Federation of Labour.
According to an April 2011 government review obtained by the labour group, the province gains 55% of windfall industry profits, compared to 78% for Angola and 69% in Russia. AFL president Gil McGowan says this proves Alberta's low oil prices are "ripping off" taxpayers, while being asked to endure spending cuts at the provincial and federal level.
"The big argument from industry groups is that we shouldn't worry about our low royalty rates, because the industry generates lots of jobs and that's what we should be concerned about," he says.
Organizations like the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, for instance, boast that the oilsands has provided thousands of jobs across the country, is the largest employer of aboriginals in Canada and offers some of the highest-paying salaries in Canada.
"But other oil producing countries have managed to balance both," says McGowan.
While McGowan acknowledges Alberta's standard of living is significantly better than a country like Angola — that country is still recovering from a decades-long civil war that killed more than 500,000 civilians — he says other developed countries command higher royalties without discouraging investment from the oil industry.
Norway, for instance, demands 81% of windfall energy profits and has a reserve savings account worth $700 billion, despite having smaller oil reserves and neighbouring oil-rich Russia. Alberta's Heritage Trust Fund is worth $16 billion after 37 years.
"Even the United States, where most of the big oil companies doing business are based, charge higher oil rates than Alberta," said McGowan. "Lately, there's been a lot of news about the jobs being generated in North Dakota's oil fields. They charge higher than Alberta."
Both the Tories and Wildrose Party have no interest in raising Alberta's royalty rates, arguing the prices keep the oilsands competitive on the global market and are fair. A 2008 attempt to do so caused massive criticism, but McGowan says the outrage is misguided.
"Royalties are not the same as high taxes that could drive away investment," he says. "They are a price for companies to develop our resources and any business owner knows it doesn't make sense to give away assets for next to nothing. Could you imagine if Ontario's auto industry asked the government to provide discount steel to make cars in exchange for more jobs? Canadians would be up in arms. But if we give away raw bitumen at low prices, that's fine?"
Fort McMurray Today, Wednesday, Apr. 03, 2013
Byline: Vincent McDermott
Internal report in 2010 warned of fiscal consequences from royalty cut
Edmonton – Recently uncovered internal reports show that the Government of Alberta had long predicted this year’s deficits and budget cuts.
The confidential draft document “Energizing Investment Phase 2: Royalty Curves and Adjustments,” shows the government projected a 2012/2013 surplus of $505 million in 2012/2013 without the reductions to royalty rates for unconventional oil and gas production, or a $142 million deficit if the rates were reduced.
On May 27, two days after this document was created, the government went ahead with the royalty reductions.
“They’ve been acting like this year’s deficit came as some kind of surprise to them, and they’ve tried to point fingers at bitumen prices,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “But the deficit was predictable, and was predicted in this report to the minister. Royalty reductions were to blame, and were blamed in this report.”
The document projects that those royalty reductions will have larger revenue impacts in 2013/2014 and 2014/2015, though it does not show adjusted budget surpluses or deficits for those years.
“Royalty rates are part of the adult conversation Albertans need to have about revenue,” McGowan said. “Let’s start with looking at what royalty giveaways have already done to this province.”
The document goes on to show that the low rate on royalties mean that in some cases, oil and gas companies can recoup their capital costs in under a year.
“The decision to lower royalty rates in 2010 was a panic decision,” McGowan said. “And you don’t make good choices when you’re panicking. The royalty rates were unwarranted.”
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-218-9888 (cell)
Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via email [email protected].
Seeds of reform fail to germinate when report omits update to Occupational Health and Safety Act
Edmonton – Workers in Alberta's agriculture sector deserve better says the Alberta Federation of Labour.
The Alberta Farm Safety Advisory (AFSA) Council report, which was released by the government this week, failed to recommend the inclusion of farm workers in Alberta's Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). Farm workers are the only workers in Alberta who are excluded from the Act.
“Alison Redford promised change to Alberta's agricultural workers, but she's letting those promises go fallow.” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “More than 300 farm workers are seriously injured every year. Seventeen die each year. The results of this report will do little to change that.”
The AFSA Council had representatives from industry and government, but only one labour representative. Recommendations included:
Strategic, Province-wide Coordination and Awareness; Enhanced Educational Resources, Training and Certification; Farm-Related Policies and Guidelines; and Strengthening the agriculture workers component of the current Temporary Foreign Worker Advisory Office.
“Many farms in Alberta are already well run. These are the kinds of farms that will follow all the new guidelines, and all the new policies that come out of this report,” McGowan said. “The problem is that there are farms where you see the appalling labour practices. Those are the ones that won't improve their behaviour unless there is regulatory change.”
The report, which began almost two years ago, has been complete for more than a year, but the Alberta Government had been sitting on it. It was only made public on Tuesday. During the lead-up to her selection as Premier, Alison Redford promised to provide OHSA protection for farm workers.
“Alberta's agricultural workers deserve the same protections, same health and safety regulation that every other Albertan enjoys,” McGowan said. “Until the government acts, there will continue to be too many workplace accidents on Alberta's farms and agricultural operations.”-30-
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-218-9888 (cell)
Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via email [email protected].
EDMONTON – There's no denying the public sector took a hit in the 2013 Alberta Budget.
In fact, Gil McGowan, the President of the Alberta Federation of Labour claims Thursday's budget introduces the deepest cuts across the public sector that the province has seen since what he calls "the worst days of the Klein era."
As the province aims to deal with a roughly $2 billion deficit, it has flatlined spending. The budget's hard line applies to teachers, nurses, health sciences workers and civil servants. Many are in bargaining or about to start this spring. The budget also revealed about 80 civil service positions will be lost with more job cuts likely as the Redford government continues to reorganize departments.
So what does this all mean for the every day Albertan?
"It will hurt," McGowan says. "It will mean larger class sizes, it will mean less frontline service, and it's going to be very difficult for us to staff all these schools and hospitals that the government promises to build."
He believes that as the wealthiest province in Canada, if anyone should be able to pay for public service to move their economy forward, it's Alberta.
McGowan also thinks that the province's current fiscal problems date back to the time of Premier Ralph Klein.
"While it's true that he got rid of the deficit and the debt, he actually laid the groundwork for the deficit we're dealing with today – by slashing corporate taxes, introducing a flat tax that benefited the wealthy, and presiding over literally billions of dollars of royalty giveaways. When you give away your revenue source, you can't be surprised that you have a hard time funding things."
Political scientist Chaldeans Mensah of Grant MacEwan University points out that Klein did an "across the board cut."
"This government is using a different approach," he explains. "They want to borrow money, and this is why they've introduced the Fiscal Management Act that will allow them to borrow, and eventually it will create a debt, but they call it 'net financial assets,' so they've come up with a new term to describe the debt situation."
Mensah adds that in addition to trying to sell Albertans on this budget, she also has to sell her party on it.
"I think she needs to convince Tory party members that this new direction is not markedly different from the views in the past. She faces a leadership view in November, and if she's not careful, and doesn't sell this to the membership, there could be trouble politically."
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Doug Horner says he doesn't think public service unions should be surprised that the province did not allow for any salary increase. The government has warned for some months that salaries for teachers, doctors and nurses here are higher than elsewhere, he adds.
"When you look at comparative numbers from across Canada on a market-based perspective, we have the highest paid teachers and highest paid doctors in the country...This is somewhat of a reset for us to get us back to reasonable levels of expenditures."
Global Edmonton, Friday, Mar. 8, 2013
Byline: Trish Kozicka, Global News
Edmonton - Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan will participate in the pre-budget lock-up alongside other stakeholder groups.
McGowan says he has concerns about the direction that budget discussions have taken, and is glad to have an opportunity to look over the document in advance.
“Ralph Klein celebrated getting us out of debt by putting us back on the road to debt,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “The reason that the Redford Government is having problems with budgeting is that they haven’t stopped giving Ralph Bucks to the province’s super rich.”
The lock-up, which allows media and stakeholders to read and analyze the budget before it goes public, is a longstanding parliamentary tradition. This is the first year that the AFL has been allowed to join the lock-up.
“We appreciate the unique role that journalism plays in a democracy, and we therefore have always supported media organizations being granted early access through the lock-up,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “But the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation is not a media organization. They’ve used their exclusion from the lock-up to create unnecessary drama.”
When last-minute collusion with the Wildrose Party allowed some other groups to join the lock-up, the AFL made a formal request to the office of Finance Minister Doug Horner.
“We’re pleased to have been given an advance opportunity to see how this budget will affect the more than 160,000 union members we represent,” McGowan said.
Immediately following release of the provincial budget (Estimated at 3:30 pm)
Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan
For more information, please contact Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via email [email protected].
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour will be available by phone at 780-218-9888 (cell) to out-of-town media following his in-person availability.
Alberta's 2013 budget does little to address the province's chronic revenue problems says the Alberta Federation of Labour
Edmonton – In a province growing as rapidly as Alberta, a zero-per-cent budget increase amounts to a cut says the Alberta Federation of Labour.
Speaking to reporters in the legislature rotunda after having spent hours reviewing budget documents, AFL president Gil McGowan said he was disappointed that the budget did little to address the province's chronic revenue problems.
"The finance minister calls this a 'hold-the-line' budget, but really this is a cut-to-the bone budget," McGowan said.
"In a province that's growing by 100,000 people a year, a 0% increase amounts to a substantial cut."
The budget firmly cements Alberta's miserliness when it comes to public services. Even before the cuts in Budget 2013, no other province spent less on public services as a share of its economy than Alberta. Per person, Alberta has the second fewest public employees of any province.
"If Alberta employed the tax system of any other province, we would raise at least $10.6 billion more each year for public services," McGowan said. "Instead we have just another edition of the old Tory playbook: cuts to vital public services, giveaways to big business."
Even though the economy is running red hot and Alberta has an abundance of resources, provinces like Saskatchewan and Manitoba collect more public revenue per person.
"It's official: the Alberta government has pissed away another oil boom, and ordinary Albertans are going to pay the price through unnecessary cuts," McGowan said. "They promised structural change, but have ignored the obvious structural problem: our broken revenue system."
Since changes to Alberta's income tax laws in 2001, the provincial government has developed a chronic revenue problem, culminating in Budget 2013. This year, the province will not only have sweeping cuts, but also a $451 million deficit.
"Ralph Klein celebrated getting us out of debt by putting us back on the road to debt," McGowan said. "The reason that the Redford Government is having problems with budgeting is that they haven't stopped giving Ralph Bucks to the super rich."
Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via email [email protected]
CALGARY — As the legislature opens today with the provincial budget ready for Thursday delivery, a new poll suggests the government has lost the trust of many Albertans.
Sensing weakness, political wolves from across the spectrum are starting to circle the PC campfire.
A big-sample survey from Marc Henry's ThinkHQ Public Affairs says only 29 per cent of Albertans feel the government can be trusted.
It's a dangerous number for Premier Alison Redford, whose personal approval rating has also dropped 25 points since last August, according to the survey of 1,214 Albertans.
Fifty-eight per cent of Albertans now disapprove of her performance, while only 33 per cent like it, says the poll conducted last month.
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith gets 46 per cent approval, NDP Leader Brian Mason has 40 per cent, and Liberal Leader Raj Sherman scores 37 per cent.
Yes, the leaders of the two smaller opposition parties, with a total of nine seats in the legislature, both have higher popularity ratings than the premier.
If an election were held now, Wildrose would win 38 per cent of the decided popular vote, and the PCs only 26 per cent.
Most of those numbers have little meaning, of course; an election is three years away. Last April taught us all how polls can swing.
But the plunge in public trust is something different — and critical.
Once lost, trust is difficult to regain. A string of polls like this could feed into a serious challenge to Redford's leadership at the party's mandatory review in November.
Her sliding support is already lighting a fire under her former allies in the unions, who seem propelled by a fine rage at what they consider betrayal.
Nurses, teachers and other labour groups met in Edmonton on Monday to condemn the government's "Klein-style cuts." Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said the budget will be "Klein lite."
He was talking about ex-premier Ralph Klein's severe cost-cutting agenda that began in 1993.
At the same time, the right-wing Fraser Institute accuses the government of reckless spending and incompetent saving.
To all this the government responds in its usual fashion — by trying to say two things at once.
Finance Minister Doug Horner, at a party fundraising event last week, said "it's important that government show you we can be lean and we can be mean in what we're doing.
"So we're going to head in that direction in a big way, probably bigger than what's happened in the province in the past 20 to 25 years."
He's saying the budget will be tougher than any of Klein's, right?
But no, the PCs won't engage in Klein-style "hacks and slashes across the board."
So it will be tough; except, don't worry, it won't be so tough.
This is how the government lost trust.
Many Albertans simply can't decipher what they mean, or what they are.
The contrast with Klein is stark. In his worst moments, when he did the most difficult things, everybody knew exactly what he meant. Even his enemies trusted him to do what he said, even if they hated it.
These Redford PCs have lost the art. Now, mistrust leaves all their efforts open to attack.
One medical leader, Calgary's Dr. Lloyd Maybaum, even accused the premier Monday of having a "revenge problem" that prompts her to get back at doctors for past criticism.
And so, the PCs are bleeding support to both the right and left, confining themselves to a shrinking centre where even their backers don't know quite what to make of them.
All this is happening just as the budget is about to formally break many promises from the last election campaign. As Horner said, dating his vocabulary in a mid-Elvis fossil, it will be "hairy."
Maybe he was talking about the wolves.
Don Braid's column appears regularly in the Herald.
The Calgary Herald, Tuesday, Mar. 05, 2013
Byline: Don Braid