Statement from Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour
EDMONTON – Under the guise of “red tape reduction,” the UCP has begun their attack on the safety rules that protect Albertans at work. Their first target: workplace health and safety committees, which are designed to make sure workers have a say in their own safety.
Calling these committees “burdensome” for employers, UCP Labour Minister Jason Copping has announced he’s dramatically slashing the number of committees and scaling back training commitments to “reduce time away from work.”
Copping says, he’s “heard that the current rules aren’t working.” What this really means is that employers have told him they don’t like pesky workers having a say in workplace health and safety. It is funny how Kenney and the UCP only hears the complaints of employers, but put their earplugs in for everyone else.
It’s shameful that the Kenney government dismisses rules and protections that make Alberta workplaces safer, as red tape. We elect governments to defend the interests of citizens, not to help employers cut corners at the expense of safety.
Workplace safety committees are the cornerstone of safe workplaces. No one knows the safety issues in a given workplace better than the workers themselves. And no one is better placed to come up with solutions for addressing those concerns. Disbanding and disempowering these committees will undermine safety in Alberta workplaces, not strengthen it. Instead of workers having a mechanism to look after their own safety, they’ll once again be reliant on sporadic enforcement from the government.
To say that we have no confidence in the UCP to do this would be an understatement.
Every other province mandates a robust system of workplace health and safety committees. The Alberta NDP brought our province into the Canadian mainstream. With their weasel-word announcement today, Copping and the UCP are putting us at the back of the pack again. They’ve chosen to put the narrow concerns of employers, who want to cut corners and save a few bucks, over the broader concerns of working people, who just want to get home safely at the end of their shifts. Shameful, but predictable from a party that represents bosses, not workers.
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