EDMONTON - Working people in Alberta are being short-changed by a plan announced earlier today to re-organize government departments, says the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. Audrey Cormack says Premier Klein's plan to establish a new Human Resources and Employment department is "a slap in the face for working people."
"The Premier can go on as much as he likes about stream-lining government and preparing Albertans for the new millennium," says Cormack. "But the bottom line is that the concerns of working people are going to get lost in the shuffle within this new super-department."
According to the plan unveiled by Klein this afternoon, the new Human Resources and Employment department will take responsibility for issues previously handled by the Labour department, the Family and Social Services Department and the Career Development branch of the Economic Development department.
Cormack says the new "super department" will put labour programs in the awkward position of having to compete for resources with programs from the family and social services side of the department.
"There are more than one and half million Albertans who work for a living," says Cormack. "Workplace issues like health and safety and the administration of the Labour Code and the Employment Standards Code are so important that they clearly deserve to be handled in their own separate department."
Cormack says the only rationale given by the Premier to justify the re-organization is that it meshes with the government's promises about putting a higher priority on education and training. But Cormack says there is a lot more to labour issues than training.
"We in the labour movement support efforts to improve training for Albertans - in fact, we've been urging the government to invest more in education and apprenticeships for years," says Cormack.
"But the labour department isn't just about preparing people for work. It's also about promoting health and safety. It's about making sure workers know their rights. It's about protecting those rights in the workplace. And it's about making sure employers know and uphold the law. We're afraid that these issues are not going to get the attention they deserve in the new department."
For more information call:
Audrey Cormack, AFL President @ 483-3021(wk)/499-6530(cell)/428-9367(hm)
On Wednesday, April 28, Alberta workers will be marking the 4th International Day of Mourning in their worksites and at special ceremonies.
The Alberta Federation of Labour, in conjunction with the Edmonton and District Labour Council and the Alberta Building Trades Council, are organizing a ceremony to mark the day:
Wednesday, April 28 - 7:00 pm at City Hall
The event mixes cultural performances with speakers and a candle lighting to commemorate Day of Mourning. Strong visual images make up an important piece of the ceremony. A representative of the City will read out the official proclamation.
"Around the world, a worker is killed every 30 seconds," says Audrey Cormack, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "Here in Alberta, we lose two workers every week to workplace accidents or occupational disease. And that is just the official statistics. The real numbers are likely much higher."
"Even a single death is not tolerable in this day and age," says Cormack. "We need to make the public aware of the scourge of work-related death so we can work together to wipe it out." Raising the profile of the issue is why the International Day of Mourning was created. Across Alberta, tens of thousands of workers will be marking the day at their local worksite. Many workplaces will respect a minute of silence. Others will wear black armbands, or hold a short lunch hour event, or fly flags at half-mast.
"Interest in Day of Mourning is growing," says Cormack. "More Alberta workers are participating this year than ever before." Day of Mourning actually began in Canada, first proclaimed by Parliament in 1986. It became the International Day of Mourning in 1996 and is now commemorated in over 70 countries worldwide.
"This day is as much about a commitment to safer workplaces as it is about remembering those who were killed. We want this day to remind everyone of the need for safe workplaces." Cormack concludes.
For further information contact:
Audrey Cormack, President @ 499-6530 (cell)
Jason Foster, Executive Director @ 483-3021 (work)
The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) accused the Minister of Labour today of misleading the public in his announcement of the Labour Relations Board (LRB) appointments.
In his announcement yesterday of 17 appointments to the LRB, the Minister suggested that a selection committee brought names forward for nomination. However, one of the appointments did not come from the committee and was added later by the Minister himself.
From outside the committee list, the Minister appointed a very controversial figure, Mr. Stephen Kushner. Kushner is a central figure in the "Merit Shop" group of construction companies, who were set up in the 1980s specifically to avoid unionized workers of the construction industry.
"Stephen Kushner is wholly unfit to serve on the Labour Relations Board. He is utterly unacceptable to the labour movement," says Audrey Cormack, President of the AFL and member of the selection committee. "His bias is well-known and so deeply entrenched that it raises serious questions about his ability to serve in good faith on a bi-partite Board."
"Had Stephen Kushner's name come forward as a recommendation, I would have removed myself from the committee in protest," adds Cormack. "The Minister has misled Albertans about who put his name forward."
The LRB hears matters related to unionized workplaces and the collective bargaining process. "Someone with such an anti-union reputation should not be in a position of making decisions about unionized workplaces," says Cormack.
In his release, the Minister crowed that "for the first time in our history, appointments to the LRB have been made after a public competitive process". The release states that a selection committee made up of labour, business and government representatives "reviewed applications, conducted interviews and made recommendations to the Minister of Labour". Mr. Kushner was not recommended from this process.
Until this year, employers and labour provided names to the government to serve as their representatives on the Board. The new selection committee ended this tradition.
"I consider the Minister's actions a betrayal of the process and a blatant attempt to antagonize workers in Alberta," Cormack expresses. "He is attempting to legitimize Kushner's appointment by falsely hiding behind a supposedly open, transparent selection process."
"Kushner was never considered seriously or for any length of time by the committee," adds Cormack. "His obvious and historical bias made him an unacceptable candidate."
Cormack demands that the Minister rescind Stephen Kushner's appointment and select another employer representative from the list of committee recommendations.
For further information, contact:
Audrey M. Cormack, AFL President 499-6530 (cell) / 483-3021 (wk) / 428-9367 (hm)
Gil McGowan, AFL Communications Director 483-3021 (wk)
That's the message that Cormack will deliver to a travelling parliamentary panel when it stops in Edmonton tomorrow.
The panel is chaired by Yvon Godin, a Nova Scotia MP and EI critic for the federal New Democrat caucus. Godin has been travelling the country since before Christmas in order to gather information about the impact of changes made to the EI system in 1996.
"Mr. Godin says he wants to get a clear picture of what effect the changes have had on the lives of ordinary Canadians," says Cormack. "Well, here in Alberta the situation is clear - only a tiny fraction of the unemployed currently qualify benefits under the new rules. The EI system is no longer there for Canadians when they need it."
The EI panel will be meeting between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday, January 12) in Ballroom B of the Howard Johnson Hotel - located at 10010-104 Street in downtown Edmonton.
Cormack is scheduled to give her presentation to the panel at 10 a.m. Godin will be available to answer questions during breaks throughout the day. At 3 p.m., Godin will summarize what he has heard during the day.
For more information call:
Gil McGowan, Communications Director: 483-3021
In the next twenty pages, we will provide an update of the economic "snapshot" presented in Crumbs From the Table. We will re-examine issues like individual and family income, public services and job quality. Most importantly, we will attempt to determine whether or not ordinary Albertans are benefiting any more from their province's ongoing prosperity-
in the form of increased wages, better services or improved job security-than they did last year.