"Are Tories attempting to buy academic endorsement of government policy?" asks McGowan
Edmonton – The Alberta Federation of Labour has released documents that suggest the Redford government has been spending taxpayer money in an effort to buy academic approval for their policies.
In March, 2012, just days after a provincial election was called, the government awarded a secret $500,000 grant to the U of C School of Public Policy and a $1-million grant to the U of C Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy. As reported in today's Calgary Herald, there was no record of an announcement of either grant.
Additional documents, obtained by the AFL under Freedom of Information laws, show U of C School of Public Policy chair Jack Mintz asked the Government of Alberta to vet his paper on imposing a sales tax in Alberta, before it was peer-reviewed or published.
Questions have also been raised about Mintz's seat on the board of Imperial Oil.
"All of our universities are publicly funded, so receiving money from the government is not the problem," AFL president Gil McGowan said. "The problem is the secrecy and the fact that the money was tied to supporting the government's policy agenda."
The contracts for the grants explicitly said the money was for research that "supports the policy agenda of Alberta Energy." Documentation for both grants also includes clauses that the U of C will "not make any public announcement or issue any news release regarding this agreement or the grant, except in consultation with the province and with the approval of the province."
"These secret grants raise concerns that the government is using public money to essentially buy an academic stamp of approval for its policies," McGowan said. "If academics are sitting on the boards of big corporations and receiving secret grants from government that seem to have political strings attached, how can the public trust their independence and objectivity?"
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-218-9888 (cell)
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
or via e-mail [email protected]
December 2013: Anti-worker Bills 45 and 46-FAQs, fact sheets, news releases; Labour leaders stand up for retirement income; did you know-facts on retirement income, AFL Open House
Alberta Federation of Labour Open House
On Tuesday, February 11, the Alberta Federation of Labour invites you to attend our annual open house.
The open house, which is usually held in December each year, was postponed so that we could move into our new offices, which are located at #300, 10408 – 124 Street, Edmonton.
We are looking forward to seeing everyone in the New Year in our new offices.
When: Tuesday, Feb. 11 from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m.
Where: AFL Offices (#300, 10408 – 124 Street, Edmonton)
RSVP: 7 80-483-3021
AFL and allies gearing up to fight unconstitutional anti-worker bills
Alberta's union movement is responding to a new assault on worker rights.
In early December, the province brought in laws impeding the ability of public-sector unions to negotiate with the government, and muzzling anyone who calls for those workers to strike. The unpopular new laws, which are being widely criticized by the media, will be challenged by the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"Workers in Alberta have a fight on their hands. It's not a fight of their choosing, but one forced on us by the reckless, punitive and unconstitutional anti-worker laws that Redford brought in," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said.
The Federation of Labour, affiliated unions and unaffiliated allies will be collaborating to oppose the laws through legal action, but warn that the battle for workers' rights can't be left to the courtrooms.
"We have the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on our side, but the process of challenging these laws in court will take time. It will take years," McGowan said. "In the meantime, we're going to see several unions, and hundreds of thousands of workers facing unfair bargaining tactics and diminished rights. We will have to work together, with direct action and with effective advocacy to ensure these workers are heard."
Fact Sheet 1 – Breaking a Promise and the Law: Rollbacks
Fact Sheet 2 – Breaking a Promise and Breaking the Law: Supreme Court
Fact Sheet 3 – Alberta Economy Booming
Fact Sheet 4 – Breaking a Promise and the Law: Public Sector Wages
Fact Sheet 5 – Breaking a Promise and the Law: Public Services Stretched
Fact Sheet 6 – Alberta has a Revenue Problem
Labour leaders stand up for retirement security
Alberta's labour movement is opposing the scaling back of the province's pension plans, while urging that the Canadian Pension Plan be expanded.
In September, Finance Minister Doug Horner announced the government was planning to bring in sweeping changes to public service pension plans. If the changes are implemented, as Horner indicated he is determined to do, the bottom line is that Alberta public employees will have diminished pensions. Members of Alberta's public service pension plans would have to work longer to retire, and when they retire their benefits will be reduced. In addition, their retirement incomes will more rapidly fall behind inflation.
"There are currently about 300,000 people paying into the plans in question, working in health care, universities, colleges, municipalities and various departments of the provincial government. There are another 90,000 retirees currently receiving benefits from the plans," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. "That means that 15 percent of Alberta's workforce and about 20 percent of Alberta retirees will be potentially be affected by these changes. The retirement plans of thousands of thousands of Albertans will be affected and a majority of Alberta families will be touched in one way or another."
The real crisis in retirement is that so many Albertans have no retirement security – Only one in three Albertans has put anything into an RRSP. Canada needs to expand the highly successful Canadian Pension Plan that has helped so many seniors.
"Minister Horner has said he's disappointed that Ottawa has closed the door on CPP expansion," McGowan said. "Perhaps if he'd presented a united front with all of the other provincial finance ministers who were all calling for CPP expansion, the Federal government would have had to listen."
Read AFL release here
Did you know ...
• 1 in 4 Alberta seniors receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) because they do not have enough income.
• 2 out of every 3 working Albertans don't make RRSP contributions.
• Only 1 in 3 Albertans has an employer-sponsored pension plan of any kind.
• The average income for a woman senior citizen in Alberta is $20,000.
• December 20: Day of International Solidarity
• January 13-18: AFL/CLC Winter Labour School
• February 11 & 12: AFL Executive Committee & Council
• February. 11: AFL Open House
Labour leaders confront anti-democratic legislation
with advertising and legal challenges
Edmonton – Workers in Alberta need to stand up to Alison Redford’s bullying tactics says the province’s largest labour advocacy group.
At a press conference just hours after Bills 45 and 46 were passed, leaders of several unions expressed outrage that the anti-democratic legislation had been rammed through the legislature without any real consultation or analysis.
“Alison Redford has poisoned labour relations in Alberta’s public sector, perhaps for years,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said at the press conference. “If she thinks that threats, bullying and intimidation will stop workers from standing up for themselves and up against her senseless agenda of cuts and rollbacks in the midst of prosperity, she has another thing coming.”
The right to freedom of speech and the right to freedom of assembly are protected under Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court of Canada has repeatedly ruled that Section 2(d) of the Charter inherently includes the right to bargain collectively.
Bill 45 strips some workers of their right to speak freely about labour action. Bill 46 strips some workers of their right to bargain collectively. The Federation, its affiliated unions and allied unions have made no secret of their plans to launch a legal challenge to the legislation.
“It’s clear that we will be going to court and it’s clear that the Redford government will lose,” McGowan said. “The Supreme Court of Canada has been very clear in its recent rulings in labour law: Workers have the right to associate in unions; That right is meaningless without the right to collective bargaining; And governments that use legislation to impose contracts make a mockery of collective bargaining.”
The Federation of Labour also unveiled television advertisements that accuse the premier of abandoning the coalition that helped get her elected in 2012. The advertisements call out Premier Alison Redford for bullying opponents, and encourage Albertans to remember these bills during the next election.
“Alison Redford is not a progressive, she’s a fraud. Despite her history as a human rights lawyer, she is also no defender of rights in a democracy,” McGowan said. “Real democratic leaders understand that they have to respect others and work with others. Bullies use their power to impose their will. Alison Redford is a bully.”-30-
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
or via e-mail [email protected]
Edmonton – The Redford wage freeze breaks promises and breaks laws.
The legislation, which the government tabled on Wednesday, will ignore the bargaining rights of hundreds of thousands of Albertans and impose a wage freeze. This is a government tactic that has been repeatedly struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada.
"Alison Redford was elected on a promise that she wouldn't attack public sector workers. She's broken that promise and almost every other election promise she made just 18 months ago," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. "We will see her in court and we will see her at the ballot box."
Bills 45 and 46 will take away the right of unions to consult their own membership about possible labour action. Additionally, punitive measures can be taken against a whole union for the actions – or even words – of a single member.
The wage freeze will mean that workers wages will fall behind inflation. Over the course of three years, this will mean an effective drop in wages by about six per cent. The government of Alberta forecasts the province's real GDP to expand by 3.3 per cent this year and 3.5% next year. If the economy is growing, we should be able to treat public-sector workers fairly.
Repeatedly over the past decade, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Workers have a constitutional right to make collective representations and to have their collective representations considered in good faith.
"We are simply asking the government to not break the law," McGowan said. "It's one thing for governments to obtain a wage freeze through negotiations with unions and workers, it's another thing to impose those freezes without negotiation. Such legislation is unfair, unnecessarily provocative and almost certainly unconstitutional."
The government has suggested that the wage freeze is being imposed because of the cost of the devastating floods in Calgary and High River last spring and summer.
"They're paying for the flood damage on the backs of the people who cleaned up the mess," McGowan said. "We lauded these people as heroes just a few weeks ago. And now, Alison Redford is picking their pockets."
For more information on these bills and on collective bargaining download the AFL factsheets:
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-218-9888 (cell)
File: G:\Communications\NEWS\AFL\2013\2013-50_Alberta Government breaks promises – and laws – with wage freeze legislation _2013Nov28.docx
June 2013: Free Workshop FOIP; Boycott i-Hotel and Edm Hotel & Conv. Centre; Act now on Bill C-377; Bill C-525: Another Tory attempt to undermine unions; Supreme Court sides with workers ...
Free Workshop on Access to Information on Friday, June 28
The Alberta Federation of Labour will host a "Lunch and Learn" workshop covering the basics of Alberta's Freedom of Information legislation. This workshop, the first in a series, is an opportunity for our members, affiliates, and allies to learn about a subject that is of interest to the labour movement.
This workshop will cover the basics of FOIP in Alberta, including:
- How to navigate the FOIP request system
- Why sometimes it's important to get information the government would rather keep secret
- How to word a request to save time and money
- How to follow up with further requests or judicial review.
When: Friday, June 28 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.
Where: AFL Meeting Hall (10654 – 101 Street Edmonton)
See poster for more details.
Due to flooding in Calgary, all protest events related to the federal Conservative Convention have been postponed until the convention can be rescheduled.
Boycott i-Hotel and Edmonton Hotel and Convention Centre in support of UFCW 401
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 started an organizing drive in March to unionize the i-Hotel in Red Deer, Alberta, which was formerly the Holiday Inn on 67th Street.
During the process owner Amin Suleman was made aware of union activity and interfered with the organizing efforts of Local 401.
3 members have been harassed, intimidated, and terminated for expressing their legal right to join a union. The ALRB issued a consent order that UFCW 401 supports and the employer refuses to honour.
UFCW 401 needs your help. They are asking all labour organizations to help them in the fight against a ruthless employer. Please support UFCW 401 by boycotting this employer until an agreement can be reached between the union and employer. UFCW 401 does not want to cripple business and wants people to advise reservations why they are pulling their business. This employer operates two hotels in Alberta.
i-Hotel at 6500 – 67 Street, Red Deer, AB
Edmonton Hotel and Convention Centre at 4520 – 76th Avenue, Edmonton.
Click here for letter from UFCW 401 to the AFL.
For more information please contact Director of Organizing, Chris O'Halloran at [email protected]
Bill C-377 – Send a message to the Senate
The Senate will be debating C-377 this week. There is a real chance to expose the bill as transparently anti-union, and potentially to amend or defeat it.
The bill has been pilloried by almost everyone who attended the hearings held by the Senate banking committee.
The CLC and other labour organizations are asking for maximum lobbying (calls to your regional senators, etc.). To find the right phone # or e-mail, please go here.
Below is a commentary by Jim Stanford, CAW Researcher (speaker at our convention) on the Senate's deliberations.
Every member that is able to voice their opposition to this bill could make a difference. PLEASE SEND A MESSAGE TO ALL SENATORS, WRITE YOUR MP AND CC ALL MEMBERS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE.
The Alberta CUPE website allows you to send a message to all senators.
Please visit http://cupe.ca/unions/urges-senate-block-anti-union-bill
They're running an online action on an issue that I think will concern you. It takes two minutes and you can make a difference. Other websites:
Bill C-525: Another Conservative attempt to undermine unions
The Harper government is again turning to its backbenchers to make laws designed to weaken unions. Bill C-525, if passed, will interfere in labour relations and the established rights of workers to join and remain in a union.
Currently, workers in federally regulated industries are recognized as a bargaining agent if they can show that they represent the majority of workers. Bill C-525 will require the union to prove that 50% of all employees – not just those that vote – want to remain in a union. If that doesn't happen, the unit will be decertified. This opens the door to all sorts of employer interference, such as anti-union propaganda and threats to shutdown workplaces, in efforts to suppress votes to get rid of unions.
Bill C-525 will apply to federally regulated unions, but make no mistake that this is another Harper Conservative attempt to weaken unions. If this Bill passes, we'll likely see more brazen attacks. Together, we can send a message to Harper and stop Bill C-525.
For a summary on Bill C-525 read the CUPE release and backgrounder.
View Bill C-525.
Please sign and promote the NDP petition
Supreme Court sides with workers right to privacyOn June 14, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a mandatory random alcohol testing policy imposed by Irving Pulp and Paper at a Saint John, N.B., Kraft mill in 2006 was unreasonable.
The case, which stems from a grievance filed by Communications Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) Local 30 in New Brunswick, has implications to similar cases in Alberta's oil sands. The ruling is a major victory in the fight against random and arbitrary privacy violations through drug and alcohol testing.
"This decision is in line with years of jurisprudence, makes sense, and is in the interest of Canadians. Employers can't arbitrarily introduce a random drug or alcohol testing regime by declaring a workplace "dangerous" without proving that there's a problem," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. "There's a direct parallel between this case and what's happening at Suncor: there's no evidence that there's a problem and the employer can't simply impose their will on the worker and strip them of their privacy without proving there's one."
In 15 years before the policy was imposed, there were eight instances in which a worker was found to be under the influence of alcohol and none involved an accident or injury. During the 22 months the policy was in effect, no one tested positive.
"The expected safety gains to the employer in this case were found by the board to range 'from uncertain ... to minimal at best' while the impact on employee privacy was found to be much more severe," Justice Rosalie Abella wrote for the majority. For more information see June 14 release
AFL wraps up its case against job-sucking Northern Gateway pipelineThe Alberta Federation of Labour made its final arguments to the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearings on Tuesday, June 18 in Terrace, B.C. The Federation made the case that the Pipeline is not in the best interests of Canadians.
The pipeline, if approved, will ship some of our country's best potential jobs down the pipeline to China. In its presentation to the National Energy Board, the AFL showed that it makes economic sense to upgrade bitumen in Alberta – or at least in Canada – rather than exporting it raw to foreign markets.
"The proponents of this project have compared the pipeline to the CPR and called it an important piece of Canadian infrastructure. But the Northern Gateway Pipeline is a piece of Chinese infrastructure, not Canadian infrastructure," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. "The ownership structure of the pipeline shows that the project will benefit China's state-owned oil companies, shipping good-paying oil sands jobs to Asia." For more information see June 17 release with links to a backgrounder and AFL final arguments
Did you know...
- the Northern Gateway pipeline will create only 228 permanent jobs in Canada
- During construction of the pipeline, the project will temporarily create 1,500 construction jobs
- At least 26,000 Canadian jobs would be created if we upgraded/refined the bitumen destined for China here at home.
June 28: Alberta Federation of Labour "Lunch & Learn", 12:30 -2:30 PM
July 1: Canada Day
Aug 5: Civic Holiday
Aug 5-9: AFL Kids' Camp
Aug 24: EDLC "Big Splash Open" Golf Tournament
Aug 31: EDLC Labour Day BBQ
Aug 31: Sept 2: Founding UNIFOR Convention
Sept 2: Labour Day
Sept 8: World Literacy Day
Sept 17-18: AFL Executive Committee/Council
Draconian and punitive dues suspension is of concern to workers across Alberta
Edmonton – Elected labour leaders representing more than 160,000 workers throughout Alberta are worried about the implications of draconian punitive measures being taken against the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).
The presidents of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA), the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA), United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 (UFCW 401) and the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) spoke out against the punitive measures being taken against the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. After a four-day-long wildcat strike, the union agreed to pay $450,000 in fines, only to have additional punitive measures brought forward by the province. The province announced on Wednesday that they would have AUPE’s dues withheld as a result of the strike.
“Every crisis presents opportunities and this situation is no different. The government could have addressed the workers’ legitimate safety concerns in a timely and balanced manner. This would have improved the important relationship between a government and these workers,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “But that opportunity has been squandered by threats, intimidation and now specter of punitive measures against the union. As a result, labour relations are worse now than they were before the strike.”
The labour leaders expressed their support of the worker’s health and safety concerns that led to the strike, and the importance of protecting a worker’s right to refuse unsafe work. The unions announced plans to create a fund to help AUPE pay the onerous financial burden of having their members’ dues withheld.
“Going after the entire union’s dues are unwise if the government wants to maintain a good relationship with its workers,” McGowan said “It creates a disincentive for a quick and reasonable resolution of conflicts. If the resolution of these kinds of job action results in punishment, then they’ll never get resolved because it will only mean more fines and more hostility.”-30-
Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via email [email protected].
Well-known Tory pollster criticizes anti-labour Harper government
Edmonton – The defence of reason makes strange bedfellows.
Well-known Canadian pundit and Tory pollster Allan Gregg will speak at the Alberta Federation of Labour’s 48th constitutional convention, delivering a talk titled “1984 in 2013: the Assault on Reason.” The talk, in which Gregg which takes aim at the anti-intellectual policies of the federal government, will take place in Salons 8-11 in the Shaw Conference Centre.
“I have spent my entire professional life as a researcher, dedicated to understanding the relationship between cause and effect. And I have to tell you, I’ve begun to see some troubling trends,” Gregg said. “It seems as though our government’s use of evidence and facts as the bases of policy is declining, and in their place, dogma, whim and political expediency are on the rise.”
The talk is the keynote speech of the AFL’s convention, and will be delivered to a packed convention hall of more than 500 union delegates. At the convention, attendees have debated how best to pace oil sands development, how to protect Alberta’s health care system, and how to fund public services.
“All of these topics depend on rational debate, factual information, and functioning democracy. That’s why the topic Allan Gregg is speaking about is so important,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “We’re big fans of democracy around here. Allan is a great ally in the defence of democracy.”
Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via email [email protected].
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.
The Alberta Federation of Labour says documents obtained through Freedom of Information show that the provincial government has been told that upgrading bitumen in Alberta is a better financial option than sending it elswhere.
"The government's own experts, the government's own analysis, is showing clearly that it makes more sense to upgrade our bitumen rather than send it down the pipeline to places like the United States and China," said AFL president Gil McGowan.
However, multi-billion dollar price tags and labour shortages make upgraders challenging to build in Alberta and there are signs the industry doesn't believe they are economically viable.
Suncor has announced that it is reviewing and may consider indefinitely deferring or cancelling the Voyageur upgrader project in northern Alberta.
"If you want a canary in the mine shaft about the market incentives for upgrading, the decision by Suncor regarding Voyageur is that canary in the mine shaft," said University of Alberta business professor Mike Percy.
Percy thinks Suncor may be taking into account the effect of projects like the proposed East-West, Northern Gateway or Keystone XL pipelines.
He said that margins for upgrading may look good now, but he believes the price differential for western Canadian oil will return to historic levels over the next couple of years.
"It would make it very, very unlikely that an upgrader could be profitable," Percy said.
CBC Post, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013
EDMONTON - The Idle No More movement marked a global day of action Monday with a rally in Churchill Square that saw leaders from a variety of organizations declare solidarity with the movement.
More than 200 people gathered in Churchill Square to hear representatives from nine organizations, including labour and environmental groups, share short messages of support for Idle No More and sign a declaration of solidarity. The speeches were followed by a tea dance with the Dene Tha' Drummers.
"There are exciting moments in history where people stand together, they band together and begin to resist. I believe that we're witnessing that today when we announce Common Causes, a national movement to bring together people of differing passions," said Nancy Furlong with the Alberta Federation of Labour.
On Monday, groups across Canada launched Common Causes, an assembly of social movements dedicated to defending democracy, social justice, the environment and human rights. Common Causes held rallies and marches in co-ordination with Idle No More's global day of action, which came as Canada's MPs returned to the House of Commons.
In Alberta, other Idle No More events included a march in St. Paul and a protest in Little Buffalo.
Garrett Tomlinson, communications co-ordinator with Lubicon Lake Nation, said about 50 people took part in a roadside protest on Highway 986, which began at 1 p.m. and was expected to last until dark.
In Edmonton, Morningstar Mercredi co-hosted the Churchill Square event with Public Interest Alberta's Bill Moore-Kilgannon.
"We will not stand by idly, we will not be silenced, we will unify and that is what you're witnessing today," Mercredi said.
Lori Sigurdson, on behalf of the Alberta College of Social Workers, declared solidarity with Idle No More and made reference to the controversial omnibus Bill C-45.
"We see first-hand the suffering of the aboriginal people and this bill that has gone through will only continue that," she said.
Representatives from the Canadian Labour Congress, the Council of Canadians, Greenpeace, Friends of Medicare, the Sierra Club's prairie chapter and the Memoria Viva Society also signed the declaration.
Kayla Scanie, a member of Cold Lake First Nations, called Monday's rally "awesome." She hopes to see even more people support Idle No More at future events.
Nancy Dodsworth, with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, attended the event and said she has waited a long time for a movement such as Idle No More.
"Our environment has been destroyed for so long, so to have everyone come together and start to be really active is phenomenal. People are waking up and I'm grateful for that," she said.
Edmonton Journal, Monday, Jan 28 2013
Byline: Cailynn Klingbeil