Cuts would weaken public services and deliver a significant blow to the provincial economy
Edmonton – Proposed nine per cent cuts to government spending will drop Alberta to near the back of the pack among Canadian provinces in terms of per-capita spending on public services.
If the cuts proposed yesterday by Premier Jim Prentice are enacted, Alberta will move down to eighth-place amongst Canada’s ten provinces in terms of per-capita spending on health care, education and other public services. At present, the province is in sixth place.
“Premier Prentice’s plan to lop nine per cent off the province’s spending on public services is wildly irresponsible,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “What the so-called Klein revolution taught us is that deep cuts don’t end recessions, they make them deeper and longer.”
According to figures published by the Royal Bank of Canada, Alberta currently spends about $9,786 per person on public services, slightly less than the average for other provinces. If the proposed cuts are enacted, this would be reduced to $8,905, ahead of only Ontario and Quebec, whose more urbanized populations allow them to deliver services more cheaply.
“Obviously, the declining price of oil is a big concern. But the effect of low-priced oil on the provincial budget has been magnified by irresponsible choices made by successive PC governments. Specifically, things like the flat tax, corporate tax cuts and royalty cuts have blown a hole in the revenue base that we need to fund important public services like education and health care,” McGowan said. “The solution is to fix the holes, not sacrifice the services that our growing population needs.”
The RBC figures also show that no other province spends less on public services as a proportion of its economy than Alberta. In Alberta, the government spends only 11.3 percent of the provincial economy on public services, while the Canadian average is 18.7 percent. The next-lowest spending province is Saskatchewan, where they use 16.1 percent of their economy to fund public services.
“Premier Prentice wants to leave the impression that we have no choice but to cut spending, even on core services like health care and education,” McGowan said. “But the truth is that we have many options. If we collected revenue at a rate that was closer to the national average we’d be able to weather this storm more easily. The Tories themselves admit that we could raise taxes by $11 billion a year and still be the lowest tax jurisdiction in the country. And it’s important to remember that we still have no debt. The point is that cuts are not the only alternative.”-30-
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell)
or via e-mail email@example.com
Reckless PC spending cuts will make oil downturn worse for Albertans
Edmonton – The nine per cent budget cuts proposed by finance minister Robin Campbell and Premier Jim Prentice will plunge Alberta into a downward economic spiral, harm Albertans who rely on public services, and further threaten to push Alberta toward recession.
On Wednesday, February 11, the finance minister joined Premier Jim Prentice in a press conference updating Albertans on their plan to tackle government deficits caused by low oil prices and an irresponsible tax system. In the conference, the premier cited the languishing price of oil as a pretext for austerity measures and spending cuts.
“Jim Prentice has an opportunity here to show some leadership and political courage. Today’s press conference is an indication that he isn’t going to take that opportunity. This is terrible news for all Albertans,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “The premier knows that we’re facing a possible recessionary period – and every credible economist will tell you that slashing spending at this time will only deepen that recession.”
Despite the Premier saying he has heard that Albertans want a measured and reasoned response to the current fiscal reality, the PC government announced up to a nine per cent cut in government spending across the board. This will mean billions of dollars less each year for the front-line services on which Albertans rely, without addressing the underlying problem that the province’s budgets are too dependent on fluctuating resource revenues.
“When you cut spending this drastically, you put people out of work. When you put more people out of work, they stop spending. And when that many people stop spending, the economy grinds to a halt,” McGowan said. “Unless Premier Prentice can step up and provide leadership on royalties and taxes, Alberta could be heading for some very dark times.”
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell)
or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Edmonton – The Redford wage freeze breaks promises and breaks laws.
The legislation, which the government tabled on Wednesday, will ignore the bargaining rights of hundreds of thousands of Albertans and impose a wage freeze. This is a government tactic that has been repeatedly struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada.
"Alison Redford was elected on a promise that she wouldn't attack public sector workers. She's broken that promise and almost every other election promise she made just 18 months ago," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. "We will see her in court and we will see her at the ballot box."
Bills 45 and 46 will take away the right of unions to consult their own membership about possible labour action. Additionally, punitive measures can be taken against a whole union for the actions – or even words – of a single member.
The wage freeze will mean that workers wages will fall behind inflation. Over the course of three years, this will mean an effective drop in wages by about six per cent. The government of Alberta forecasts the province's real GDP to expand by 3.3 per cent this year and 3.5% next year. If the economy is growing, we should be able to treat public-sector workers fairly.
Repeatedly over the past decade, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Workers have a constitutional right to make collective representations and to have their collective representations considered in good faith.
"We are simply asking the government to not break the law," McGowan said. "It's one thing for governments to obtain a wage freeze through negotiations with unions and workers, it's another thing to impose those freezes without negotiation. Such legislation is unfair, unnecessarily provocative and almost certainly unconstitutional."
The government has suggested that the wage freeze is being imposed because of the cost of the devastating floods in Calgary and High River last spring and summer.
"They're paying for the flood damage on the backs of the people who cleaned up the mess," McGowan said. "We lauded these people as heroes just a few weeks ago. And now, Alison Redford is picking their pockets."
For more information on these bills and on collective bargaining download the AFL factsheets:
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-218-9888 (cell)
File: G:\Communications\NEWS\AFL\2013\2013-50_Alberta Government breaks promises – and laws – with wage freeze legislation _2013Nov28.docx
2 of 6 fact sheets issued
3 0f 6 fact sheets issued
Aid must cover lost wages as well as damaged property
HIGH RIVER, AB – As flood rebuilding gets under way in earnest, and property owners begin to apply for compensation, Southern Alberta’s small businesses and employees are on the outside looking in. Many businesses have been forced to close, leaving some employees without an income for the foreseeable future.
“A loss of livelihood, even a temporary loss, can multiply the damage of a disaster like this, and make it more difficult for employees and employers to recover even long after the waters have receded,” Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) President Gil McGowan said. “The Alberta government has responded quickly to help many touched by the flood, but so far workers have fallen through the cracks because the federal government is not doing its part.”
The AFL is asking the federal government to modify Employment Insurance (EI) to better serve working people in this and future disasters. EI must be flexible in times of crisis if it is to be an effective safety net. The federal government should:
- Waive the EI waiting period for all workers who have lost income during the flood
- Streamline the EI Work-Sharing program to work for employers and employees as they slowly ramp up production to pre-flood levels
Small businesses across the flood-hit regions are struggling with an EI program too rigid to respond in a disaster. “I had to take our employees to the EI offices yesterday and I worry about how they’ll pay their bills since we’ve had to shut down. That’s been the hardest part for us,” local business owner Jane Miller said.
The AFL is also asking the Alberta government to expand the flood-relief debit card program to workers who have lost income due to business closures.
“Workers are worrying about buying groceries, and employers are worried about losing qualified staff who are forced to find another job,” McGowan said. “Expanding the debit card program to employees who’ve lost income will help both employees and employers get through this difficult time and focus on getting back to work as soon as possible.”
Workers at large and small businesses alike are hurting in the pocketbook from flood-related closures. A lack of potable water has kept Cargill’s High River meat-processing facility offline since the flood, leaving 2,000 employees without an income. “Cargill wants to hold on to its employees and we want to stay, but some workers may need to look for other sources of income if the plant doesn’t get back to full capacity soon,” said Albert Johnson, President of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1118, the union that represents 1,500 workers at the Cargill plant.
“Workers in flood-affected areas have been instrumental in stemming the losses and beginning to repair the damage,” McGowan said. “Government at all levels must make sure they receive the support they need.”-30-
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.9888 (cell)
The provincial government's demand that Northern Gateway conduct full-scale unannounced marine emergency response drills is not practical, the pipeline company said in its final argument on Monday.
Northern Gateway lawyer Richard Neufeld told the National Energy Board's Joint Review Panel that the number of people that need to be mobilized for a full-scale drill makes them difficult to co-ordinate logistically. He said it would be unfair to mobilize so many provincial and federal officials with no advance warning.
"[The full-scale drills are] beyond industry best practice," Neufeld said, noting that the company supports having unannounced drills for elements of its response plan.
B.C.'s chief legal strategist Geoff Plant said last week that the drills are necessary because at this point in time the province isn't sure if the plans the pipeline company has announced are feasible.
"The general concern all along has been that a lot of what has been put forward by Northern Gateway as evidence of their spill response capacity is more like plans than actual programs and some of the questions asked today is we actually wanted to test drive spill response plans to make sure they actually work," Plant said.
Twice during his final argument, Neufeld called on provincial officials to get together with the federal government and industry so the three groups can get on the same page regarding what's needed to make the marine response "world class."
Neufeld broke his nearly two-hour final argument into four themes: economic need for the pipeline; respect; the need for good science and balancing the public interest with regional effects.
He said the construction phase will generate 62,000 person years of employment and disputed claims by the Alberta Federation of Labour that those jobs were inconsequential in the long run.
"Those jobs will do more than provide a paycheque," Neufeld said. "It will provide income, enduring skills and more than that, hope."
In his section on respect, Neufeld said it was unfair that intervener groups had called Northern Gateway "dismissive, insulting and arrogant" during their final argument. Yet at the same time he consistently failed to identify Skeena-Bulkey Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen by name, referring to the pipeline opponent as "the politician who called in from Ottawa" on more than one occassion. Neufeld named all other interveners directly.
The good science category was taken up by rebuttals on the fate of diluted bitumen in water, the threat posed by geohazards along the proposed right of way and the effects of routine marine operations on wildlife.
"The Internet is full of publications not supported by science," Neufeld said.
In his final section, Neufeld took on the request made by some intervener groups that Northern Gateway use tougher pipe and apply multi-layer coatings to reduce the risk of a rupture.
Neufeld said the company is sticking to its plan to use category one pipe for most of the route and category two on certain areas where it's required. He didn't mention category three pipe at all.
Earlier Monday, Prince George engineer Chris Peter told the panel that Northern Gateway is saying one thing in its filing and saying something different to the media when Ray Doering, the company's manager of engineering, speculated to the Citizen last week that category three pipe is being considered.
"Would a trial lawyer be able to try his case in the press without making the same case in court?" Peter asked.
The three members of the panel, Hans Matthews, Kenneth Bateman and chairwoman Sheila Leggett concluded the hearings by offering their thanks to everyone who participated in the process.
"Everyone has worked to provide the panel with the best evidence possible and we thank you for that," Leggett said.
They will begin their deliberations shortly and provide recommendations to the federal cabinet by the end of the year.
The Prince George Citizen, Wednesday, June 27, 2013
Byline: Peter James
Edmonton – Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan has called on the federal government to extend EI coverage for all those affected by floods in Southern Alberta.
Only about 22% of unemployed Albertans are eligible for EI and the waiting period is 2 weeks.
McGowan wrote to Minister Diane Finley today and asked her to immediately undertake the following:
- Waive all waiting periods for those who qualify for benefits.
- Extend EI benefits to small business owners affected by the flood. Many of the establishments under water in Inglewood/Mission, downtown Calgary, Bragg Creek, Medicine Hat, Banff/Canmore, Kananaskis and High River are in fact small businesses. Establish a special benefits class for small business owners whose businesses are not operational for up to (at least) four weeks and waive all waiting periods.
- Extend EI coverage to workers on commission and others – such as those who work for tips – who rarely qualify for EI. Many of the workers affected by the floods are employed by small business and work on commission or for tips. Extend EI coverage to those workers for their commission/tips income as reported to the CRA for the 2012 tax year.
"Almost all of Alberta's first responders are union members and they're working hard in health care and emergency services delivery, remediation and restoration to help deal with the aftermath of the flood," says McGowan.
"We're hoping the federal government recognizes that not all workers have access to EI benefits. Extending them in these circumstances is the right thing to do for the people of Southern Alberta."
Read letter to Minister Finley
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-218-9888 (cell)
June 2013: Free Workshop FOIP; Boycott i-Hotel and Edm Hotel & Conv. Centre; Act now on Bill C-377; Bill C-525: Another Tory attempt to undermine unions; Supreme Court sides with workers ...
Free Workshop on Access to Information on Friday, June 28
The Alberta Federation of Labour will host a "Lunch and Learn" workshop covering the basics of Alberta's Freedom of Information legislation. This workshop, the first in a series, is an opportunity for our members, affiliates, and allies to learn about a subject that is of interest to the labour movement.
This workshop will cover the basics of FOIP in Alberta, including:
- How to navigate the FOIP request system
- Why sometimes it's important to get information the government would rather keep secret
- How to word a request to save time and money
- How to follow up with further requests or judicial review.
When: Friday, June 28 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.
Where: AFL Meeting Hall (10654 – 101 Street Edmonton)
See poster for more details.
Due to flooding in Calgary, all protest events related to the federal Conservative Convention have been postponed until the convention can be rescheduled.
Boycott i-Hotel and Edmonton Hotel and Convention Centre in support of UFCW 401
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 started an organizing drive in March to unionize the i-Hotel in Red Deer, Alberta, which was formerly the Holiday Inn on 67th Street.
During the process owner Amin Suleman was made aware of union activity and interfered with the organizing efforts of Local 401.
3 members have been harassed, intimidated, and terminated for expressing their legal right to join a union. The ALRB issued a consent order that UFCW 401 supports and the employer refuses to honour.
UFCW 401 needs your help. They are asking all labour organizations to help them in the fight against a ruthless employer. Please support UFCW 401 by boycotting this employer until an agreement can be reached between the union and employer. UFCW 401 does not want to cripple business and wants people to advise reservations why they are pulling their business. This employer operates two hotels in Alberta.
i-Hotel at 6500 – 67 Street, Red Deer, AB
Edmonton Hotel and Convention Centre at 4520 – 76th Avenue, Edmonton.
Click here for letter from UFCW 401 to the AFL.
For more information please contact Director of Organizing, Chris O'Halloran at email@example.com
Bill C-377 – Send a message to the Senate
The Senate will be debating C-377 this week. There is a real chance to expose the bill as transparently anti-union, and potentially to amend or defeat it.
The bill has been pilloried by almost everyone who attended the hearings held by the Senate banking committee.
The CLC and other labour organizations are asking for maximum lobbying (calls to your regional senators, etc.). To find the right phone # or e-mail, please go here.
Below is a commentary by Jim Stanford, CAW Researcher (speaker at our convention) on the Senate's deliberations.
Every member that is able to voice their opposition to this bill could make a difference. PLEASE SEND A MESSAGE TO ALL SENATORS, WRITE YOUR MP AND CC ALL MEMBERS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE.
The Alberta CUPE website allows you to send a message to all senators.
Please visit http://cupe.ca/unions/urges-senate-block-anti-union-bill
They're running an online action on an issue that I think will concern you. It takes two minutes and you can make a difference. Other websites:
Bill C-525: Another Conservative attempt to undermine unions
The Harper government is again turning to its backbenchers to make laws designed to weaken unions. Bill C-525, if passed, will interfere in labour relations and the established rights of workers to join and remain in a union.
Currently, workers in federally regulated industries are recognized as a bargaining agent if they can show that they represent the majority of workers. Bill C-525 will require the union to prove that 50% of all employees – not just those that vote – want to remain in a union. If that doesn't happen, the unit will be decertified. This opens the door to all sorts of employer interference, such as anti-union propaganda and threats to shutdown workplaces, in efforts to suppress votes to get rid of unions.
Bill C-525 will apply to federally regulated unions, but make no mistake that this is another Harper Conservative attempt to weaken unions. If this Bill passes, we'll likely see more brazen attacks. Together, we can send a message to Harper and stop Bill C-525.
For a summary on Bill C-525 read the CUPE release and backgrounder.
View Bill C-525.
Please sign and promote the NDP petition
Supreme Court sides with workers right to privacyOn June 14, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a mandatory random alcohol testing policy imposed by Irving Pulp and Paper at a Saint John, N.B., Kraft mill in 2006 was unreasonable.
The case, which stems from a grievance filed by Communications Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) Local 30 in New Brunswick, has implications to similar cases in Alberta's oil sands. The ruling is a major victory in the fight against random and arbitrary privacy violations through drug and alcohol testing.
"This decision is in line with years of jurisprudence, makes sense, and is in the interest of Canadians. Employers can't arbitrarily introduce a random drug or alcohol testing regime by declaring a workplace "dangerous" without proving that there's a problem," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. "There's a direct parallel between this case and what's happening at Suncor: there's no evidence that there's a problem and the employer can't simply impose their will on the worker and strip them of their privacy without proving there's one."
In 15 years before the policy was imposed, there were eight instances in which a worker was found to be under the influence of alcohol and none involved an accident or injury. During the 22 months the policy was in effect, no one tested positive.
"The expected safety gains to the employer in this case were found by the board to range 'from uncertain ... to minimal at best' while the impact on employee privacy was found to be much more severe," Justice Rosalie Abella wrote for the majority. For more information see June 14 release
AFL wraps up its case against job-sucking Northern Gateway pipelineThe Alberta Federation of Labour made its final arguments to the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearings on Tuesday, June 18 in Terrace, B.C. The Federation made the case that the Pipeline is not in the best interests of Canadians.
The pipeline, if approved, will ship some of our country's best potential jobs down the pipeline to China. In its presentation to the National Energy Board, the AFL showed that it makes economic sense to upgrade bitumen in Alberta – or at least in Canada – rather than exporting it raw to foreign markets.
"The proponents of this project have compared the pipeline to the CPR and called it an important piece of Canadian infrastructure. But the Northern Gateway Pipeline is a piece of Chinese infrastructure, not Canadian infrastructure," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. "The ownership structure of the pipeline shows that the project will benefit China's state-owned oil companies, shipping good-paying oil sands jobs to Asia." For more information see June 17 release with links to a backgrounder and AFL final arguments
Did you know...
- the Northern Gateway pipeline will create only 228 permanent jobs in Canada
- During construction of the pipeline, the project will temporarily create 1,500 construction jobs
- At least 26,000 Canadian jobs would be created if we upgraded/refined the bitumen destined for China here at home.
June 28: Alberta Federation of Labour "Lunch & Learn", 12:30 -2:30 PM
July 1: Canada Day
Aug 5: Civic Holiday
Aug 5-9: AFL Kids' Camp
Aug 24: EDLC "Big Splash Open" Golf Tournament
Aug 31: EDLC Labour Day BBQ
Aug 31: Sept 2: Founding UNIFOR Convention
Sept 2: Labour Day
Sept 8: World Literacy Day
Sept 17-18: AFL Executive Committee/Council