Speech by Gil McGowan, AFL President
March 20th – Day of Action
There are hundreds of people here today – but you’re not alone.
As we speak, thousands of public-sector workers are filling the streets outside hospitals, schools and municipal buildings across the province.
Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Fort McMurray, Medicine Hat, Peace River, Camrose, Hinton … the list goes on.
Public-sector workers are engaging in these protests because they’re sick and tired.
They’re sick and tired of unjustified attacks on the pensions they’ve paid for.
They’re sick and tired of a government that seems determined to bully, not negotiate.
They’re sick and tired of enduring cuts and wage freezes even as our economy booms.
And they’re sick and tired of a Premier who claimed to be our friend, but stabbed us in the back.
Let’s spend a moment talking about our departed Premier.
Some of us had been framing these rallies as Redford retirement rallies because we felt she should be thinking about her own retirement plans instead of attacking the retirement plans of public-sector workers.
Obviously, she beat us to the punch. However, I want to make one thing very clear: Premier Redford may be gone, but the problem still remains.
The provincial government still has a plan to gut your pensions.
And this is still the same government that has been trampling on the collective bargaining rights of public-sector workers and that has threatened to punish and muzzle workers with laws that restrict your constitutional right to free speech.
Perhaps most importantly, Premier Redford may be gone, but, as a result of her bullying, my-way-or-the-highway approach to government, she’s left a trail of broken political relationships and alienated Albertans.
The PC’s have alienated their own supporters; they’ve alienated voters and, of course, they’ve alienated public-sector workers.
If the Progressive Conservatives (PC’s) ever hope to re-build their brand and continue their political dynasty, they’re going to have to rebuild those relationships.
My hope is that the new premier will do what Alison Redford refused to do…and that is to treat public-sector workers with respect … and to negotiate rather than dictate.
That’s why, this morning, I wrote a letter to interim Premier Dave Hancock. I asked him to turn a new page. I asked him to join us in building a new relationship. I asked him to negotiate on wages, pensions and funding for services, instead of making unilateral decisions.
Finally, I reminded him that he and his government don’t have a mandate to gut pensions. Alison Redford never had that mandate and Dave Hancock certainly doesn’t.
That’s where all of you come in. We need to keep the pressure up.
All of us need to get on the phone. We need to write letters, send letters and make visits to MLA offices.
We need to make sure our MLAs understand that Redford’s retirement is not really the issue. The issue is retirement security. The issue is fairness. The issue is respect.
They have to understand that public-sector workers in this province simply won’t stand for unjustified attacks on the pensions they’ve paid for or wages they’ve earned no matter who’s in the Premier’s chair.
So let’s keep up the pressure. We’ve got their attention – now let’s make it clear to all the parties and all the politicians that in a province as wealthy as Alberta, there is simply no justification for us to engage in a race to the bottom!
Alberta Federation of Labour
Rally at the Leg to defend pensions
The Redford Government has proposed costly and irresponsible changes to your pension plan. Make your voice heard on the first day of the new Legislative sessions.
For more information on the proposed government changes visit www.truthaboutalbertapensions.ca.
ACTION: RALLY at the Opening of the Legislative session today (bring your bannners and signs). Let's send a message to the Redford government.
WHEN: Monday, March 3, 2014
4:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
WHERE: Steps of the Alberta Legislature Building
For more information, please contact the Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.483.3021
EDMONTON – Alberta Premier Alison Redford was named the winner of a “Political Academy Award” this afternoon for her remarkable promise-breaking performance persuading so many Albertans she would fight to protect their right to a secure retirement.
“When Ms. Redford said she wanted Alberta seniors to be able to live their lives with dignity and respect, who could have imagined she would attack the modest pensions of her own government’s employees,” asked Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan, speaking on behalf of the Labour Coalition on Pensions.
The mock “Oscar” award ceremony in Churchill Square during which Premier Redford was also nominated for convincing Albertans she would protect their public health care system and for convincing them she would protect their public education system may have been light-hearted, but it had a serious point.
“The point was that the Progressive Conservative government is breaking promises to many groups of Albertans and attacking public services that Albertans value,” McGowan said. “What incredible acting skill it took for them to get elected!”
The judges picked the premier’s broken pension promise because her government is consistently doing the opposite of what it claims to be trying to achieve.
- It says its policy on public sector pensions is designed to make the plans sustainable, while the report of the Auditor General of Alberta says it in fact puts the survival of the plans at risk
- It says it wants to encourage inter-generational fairness while it in fact it intends to treat younger workers much worse in future
- It says it wants to encourage recruitment and retention of the best public employees in government and health care, while it is in fact likely to prompt a serious skill shortage in those fields as workers rush to depart
Premier Redford did not attend the ceremony. Her award was accepted on her behalf of the thousands of Albertans who voted for her party thinking she would deal fairly with public employees, all Albertans and our public services.
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Labour Coalition Advisory:Three promise-breaking Redford performances nominated for political “Oscar”
What: "Oscar" ceremony for political performances at public employees' rally
When: 2 p.m., Sunday, March 2, 2014
Where: Churchill Square, downtown Edmonton
Why: To award the "Political Academy Award" for best acting in a political leadership role
Who: Hundreds of public-sector employees
Three promise-breaking Redford performances nominated for political "Oscar"
EDMONTON – Three promise-breaking performances by Alberta Premier Alison Redford are eligible to win the "Oscar" for "Best Actor in a Political Leadership Role" at a special public ceremony in Edmonton Sunday.
Participants in the March 2 outdoor public "Political Academy Awards" ceremony in Churchill Square will learn which of the premier's starring performances in Alberta political theatre won the award shortly after 2 p.m.
Ms. Redford's performances have been nominated for:
• Convincing Albertans she would protect their public health care system
• Convincing Albertans she would protect their public education system
• Convincing Albertans she would protect their retirement plans
Despite extremely cold temperatures, hundreds of Albertans are expected to attend the event, sponsored by the Labour Coalition on Pensions.
"Yes, it will be cold, but no colder than the hearts of Progressive Conservative politicians who would put valued public services and promises to hard-working employees at risk," said Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan on behalf of coalition members.
Media are encouraged to dress warmly and attend the ceremony.
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail email@example.com
RALLY FOR RETIREMENT FAIRNESS
2:00 PM, SUNDAY, MARCH 2
FIGHT FOR THE PENSION YOU PAID FOR!
The Redford government is trying to dictate pension plan changes without negotiation. If this goes ahead, it will break the pension promise made with thousands of Albertans. On March 2, at 2:00 p.m. join us in Churchill Square in Edmonton to make your voice heard.
Turn out to the RALLY on Sunday, March 2nd at 2:00 p.m.
Stand up and make your voice heard. Hundreds of concerned Albertans will be gathering in Sir Winston Churchill Square for lively and family-friendly rally.
Come for live music, coffee, hot chocolate and popcorn.
Most importantly, come to send a clear message to the Redford Government that pension promises cannot be broken!
When: Sunday, March 2, 2014 from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Where: Sir Winston Churchill Square
Questions: For more information on the proposed government changes, visit www.truthaboutalbertapensions.ca
For more information on the RALLY on SUNDAY, contact the Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-483-3021.
CPP Reform Delayed likely to be CPP Reform Denied – McGowan: Decision to ice CPP expansion in favour of “further study” bodes ill for Canadians' retirement security
Kananaskis - Alberta Federation of Labour Gil McGowan says the federal-provincial finance ministers' decision to put CPP expansion on ice misses an historic opportunity for retirement security for millions of working Canadians.
"Reform delayed is likely to be reform denied," says McGowan.
"It is clear what happened here: the federal government, along with a tiny minority of provinces, bowed to the pressure exerted by the financial services industry and succeeded in delaying improvements to the CPP," says McGowan. "Alberta Finance Minister Ted Morton has called this a good weekend for Alberta. I would say it's more appropriate to call it a great weekend for Canada's big banks," says McGowan.
Speaking from Kananaskis, McGowan notes there was a strong consensus from at least 6 provinces to move ahead with expanding CPP.
"The good news is there remains a strong appetite - from coast to coast to coast - for pension reform, and most provinces are unequivocal in their support of improving CPP," says McGowan, crediting provinces like Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia for exercising leadership in keeping CPP improvements on the table.
"It is crucial that 'further study' doesn't turn into another convenient excuse to do nothing," adds McGowan.
"We have been down this road before. In 1979, Canadian finance ministers began a CPP expansion process. It was quickly scuttled by the financial sector, which exerted enormous pressure on Alberta and Ontario's Conservative governments of the day," says McGowan.
"1979 was a cautionary tale for how vested interests can easily deny millions of Canadians a secure future via the most stable, predictable, and secure vehicle we have - the CPP," says McGowan.
"Canadians need to keep up the pressure on their provincial and federal politicians to make sure history does not repeat itself," says McGowan.
The President of the AFL adds that the agreement to move forward on a so-called "Pooled Retirement Pension Plan" - administered by the big banks - is at best a half-measure.
"At worst, this private-sector retirement savings scheme is a distraction from real reform. The plan is nothing more than glorified RRSPs, which have failed the majority of Canadians for decades. It will not solve the real problem: adequate replacement of pre-retirement income, based on a low-cost, low-risk plan that benefits modest income earners," says McGowan.
The Alberta Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress have an ongoing campaign for improvements to the CPP, with a modest increase to premiums and a doubling of CPP benefits over time. More details are at www.realpensionreform.org
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour @ cell 780-218-9888 or office 780-483-3021