EDMONTON - The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) is calling upon Mike Cardinal, the Minister of Human Resources and Employment, to make sure that Tyson Foods, Inc, the giant American corporation that operates the Lakeside Packing plant in Brooks, respects the Dispute Inquiry Board recommendations released today.
"It was the Minister, himself, who appointed the one-person Disputes Inquiry Board," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "He chose John Moreau, a well-respected industrial relations professional, to deal with this volatile issue and write a report recommending the basis for a fair settlement."
"Mike Cardinal cannot now simply allow the company to ignore Mr. Moreau's recommendations. If the continued operation of the Lakeside plant was critical enough to the Alberta beef industry and ranchers to call a Disputes Inquiry Board to prevent a work stoppage in the first place, then it is too important to allow an American employer to hold the province's agricultural industry hostage," says McGowan.
"The beef industry in Alberta has been severely affected in recent years by both droughts and export restrictions due to mad cow disease and by the current high cost of energy. The last thing that Alberta ranchers and farmers need now is a work stoppage at the largest beef packing plant in Canada."
"I think this situation falls well within the definition of an emergency under Division 18 Section 110 (1.b) of the Labour Relations Code which would allow the Minister to impose a settlement recommended by Mr. Moreau on the two parties," says McGowan. "The procedures for imposing a settlement are also contained within Section 18 of the Code."
"The Minister has an unbiased set of recommendations from the mediator he appointed; he has a beef industry in crisis; and he has a company that has so far refused to provide a fair contract to Alberta workers. The workers, despite reservations about some of the recommendations in the report, have voted by 90% to accept it as a new collective agreement. Now it's up to Mike Cardinal to settle this dispute. He has the power to make the mediator's report binding - all he needs now is the will to make it happen," concludes McGowan.
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For more information contact:
Gil McGowan, AFL President at 780.915-4599 (cell)
EDMONTON-The Alberta government decision to delay the strike for two months at the Lakeside Packers in Brooks by calling a Disputes Inquiry Board (DIB) is a step in the right direction - but may not be enough, says the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, Alberta's largest union organization.
"Tyson Foods, Inc, the American mega-corporation that owns the hugely profitable Lakeside plant, could simply use the two months during which workers are legally prohibited from striking to undermine the union and intimidate workers," says Gil McGowan. "At the end of the day, a Disputes Inquiry Board recommendation is just that - a recommendation that the employer can ignore as it chooses. This just isn't good enough. Only if the government uses the DIB recommendation as the basis for a mandatory settlement will the exercise have been worthwhile."
"The government needs to enforce a compulsory binding arbitration on the two parties to produce a fair and just settlement," says McGowan. "That would protect all of the parties involved in this dispute - the workers, the cattle producers and the beef industry. It would also recognize that it is the government's own weak and ineffective labour laws that have allowed the employer to bring things to this crisis anyway."
"Tyson resisted certification for years and years despite being repeatedly found guilty of unfair labour practices. During that time, they created a workplace that was so unbearable that there have been 100,000 workers in and out of that plant in the last decade. Lakeside has one of the highest injury rates of any industrial plant in Canada and they do not even pay the industry standard wages."
"If there was ever a workplace crying out for union protection of workers, it's the Tyson Lakeside operation. The workers desperately need a union and a collective agreement to help create a safer, healthier workplace and to secure decent wages and benefits for the hard, dangerous work they do every day."
But Alberta labour laws have stymied the workers' desire for a union, and allowed the company to run roughshod over its workers, according to McGowan. "Most provinces have first contract arbitration to prevent companies from avoiding unionization be stalling bargaining," he notes, "but Alberta laws don't have that provision nor any significant penalty for not bargaining a collective agreement. Tyson is simply doing what the Government is allowing them to do."
McGowan, who is in Brooks today, demands that the government act decisively to end this dispute. "We need immediate action to resolve this crisis - not delays. The government should act more decisively for the good of the provincial economy and to prevent further economic hardship to Alberta's beef industry."
The antics of the Calgary Herald this past weekend demonstrate that Southam newspaper magnate Conrad Black is not interested in finding a mutually-acceptable agreement, but out to bust the newly-certified unions, says the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"From the beginning, Conrad Black has made it clear he has no intention of accepting the democratic decision of his workers," says Audrey Cormack. "In classic southern-U.S. style, he is out to bust the union rather than negotiate a fair deal."
Cormack points to the lock-out of Herald employees this past Sunday as evidence that the Southam paper has no intentions of bargaining fairly. The workers were sent home two days before they were in a legal strike position. Southam has already begun using replacement workers.
"Conrad Black is not in the habit of giving his workers two days off with pay," observes Cormack. "Sending his workers home had one goal and one goal only. To clear the plant out so he can start bringing in replacement workers."
"In any other province, this act of provocation would have been met with severe penalties from the Labour Relations Board," adds Cormack. Cormack criticized the Alberta Labour Relations Board for its poor decision on the legality of the lock-out. "The Board decision flies in the face of common sense."
The Alberta Federation of Labour is throwing its support behind the striking workers, members of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union and the Graphic Communications International Union. These unions were recently certified and are attempting to negotiate their first agreement.
"This is a fight about the fundamental democratic right to join a union. These workers followed the rules and decided they wanted union representation. Southam has an obligation to respect that decision," Cormack concludes.
For further information, contact:
Audrey M. Cormack, President @ 499-6530(cell)/483-3021(wk)/428-9367(hm)