Kenney has a plan to suppress your wages and weaken your rights at work
CALGARY – Jason Kenney’s proposed “Open for Business Act” should really be called the “I’m Delivering Anti-Worker Rules for My Rich Friends and Donors Act,” says the president of Alberta’s largest worker advocacy group.
“If there was ever any doubt about whose side Jason Kenney is really on, it has been removed,” says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, who is attending a convention of retail workers in Calgary today.
“What Kenney released today wasn’t a blueprint for the economy; it was a wish list for employers who want to keep wages low and workers subservient to employers, both in the workplace and in the political arena. In short, it’s about re-establishing the dominance of the rich, entitled fat cats who think they own this province and who still can’t believe or accept that Albertans showed them the door in 2015.”
McGowan says Alberta needs strong action from government to support the economy and help create good jobs for Albertans. But he says Kenney’s proposed approach would make things worse, not better.
“If you want to get the right cure for what’s ailing our economy, you need the right diagnosis. But Kenney’s diagnosis is way off base and his prescriptions will make the economy sicker, not healthier.”
McGowan says the real problem facing Alberta today is that the global oil and gas economy is in the midst of a profound transformation – one that has serious implications for investment and jobs in oil-producing jurisdictions like Alberta.
This transformation has three dimensions: it starts with the fracking boom in the United States which has lowered global oil prices and turned our biggest customer into our biggest competitor; it continues with the massive wave of automation that is allowing companies to produce more oil and gas with fewer workers; and it culminates in the move away from fossil fuels that is picking up steam around the world.
“Kenney tries to blame everything on Rachel Notley. But the truth is that the unfolding energy transformation has driven down investment and job creation in all oil-producing jurisdictions around the world. When Kenney argues the contrary, he’s stretching the truth to the breaking point, as he so often does,” says McGowan.
In the face of these massive and unprecedented changes, McGowan says Alberta needs to diversify both within and beyond the oil and gas sector. We also need to build resilience in our citizens and businesses by investing in infrastructure and public services like education and health care.
“We’re facing some of the biggest economic challenges in our province’s history. But instead of addressing those challenges, Jason Kenney wants to use the crisis as a pretext to suppress wages and weaken the employment and safety rights of workers, along with their political power. It’s a shameful example of misdirection and political opportunism,” says McGowan.
McGowan also says American-style attacks on wages and unions will shrink the economy when it is already struggling.
“Kenney’s fixation on weakening unions and helping employers keep wages low is a tired right-wing strategy that even traditionally conservative organizations like the OECD, World Bank and Citi Bank are starting to oppose. Consumer spending drives 60 percent of our economy, so wage suppression strategies like the ones championed by Kenney are the opposite of helpful when it comes to supporting economic growth and job creation.”
McGowan concludes with the following: “Make no mistake, the plan that Kenney outlined today isn’t about strengthening the economy: it’s about strengthening the hand of the wealthy fat cats who he serves. It’s also a misguided plan, that would kick our workers when they’re already down. It’s a plan that working Albertans should soundly reject on election day.”
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour