Satirical protest parodies Prime Minister’s policy of plutocracy
At a rally at 1:00 p.m. sharp this Halloween, a satirical protest performance will take place outside the BMO Centre in Calgary. At the event, actors and volunteers will pose as extravagantly wealthy multibillionaires, and will thank 2013 Conservative Party of Canada Convention delegates for supporting policies that suppress wages, gut retirement security, and place an unfair burden on middle-class families.
The event is organized by the Alberta Federation of Labour, the province’s largest worker advocacy organization.
When: Thursday, October 31, 1:00 p.m. sharp
Where: BMO Convention Centre, 12th Avenue SE & 3rd Street SE Calgary
Who: Alberta Federation of Labour
(President Gil McGowan will be available for comment)
What: Satirical Protest-30-
Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information, please contact:
Ishani Weera, AFL Organizing and Outreach Director at 780-218-7956 (cell) or via e-mail email@example.com
Redford is wrong when she says “Albertans feel comfortable with where they are” on pensions and retirement security
Polling shows Albertans are just as worried about retirement security as other Canadians and would overwhelming support expansion of CPP
Edmonton – Premier Alison Redford is out of step with the retirement needs of the citizens in her own province, says the president of Alberta’s largest worker organization.
On Friday, the premier told reporters that “Albertans feel comfortable with where they are” on pensions and retirement income. Her comments are contradicted by polling conducted by the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).
Redford made her comments in response to suggestions from Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne that the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) should be expanded to address a looming crisis in retirement income.
“The last time the issue of CPP expansion was on the national agenda, we conducted a province-wide poll that paints a very different picture than the one Premier Redford attempted to paint this weekend,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “The poll was conducted in late 2010 and it showed that many Albertans are worried about their own preparedness for retirement. It also shows that Albertans support the concept of CPP expansion in the same overwhelming numbers as Canadians in other parts of the country.”
High levels of support among Albertans for CPP expansion are not surprising given the fact that Alberta has the lowest percentage (30 per cent) of workers covered by workplace pensions in the country. At the same time, only about 38 per cent of Albertans contribute to RRSPs, and the median contribution is only $3,200 per year.
“A clear majority of working Albertans are facing the prospect of hard times when they retire, if they can retire at all,” McGowan said. “That’s why I was so shocked when Premier Redford was so quick to dismiss Premier Wynne’s proposals last week. When will the Alberta government get out of the way and stop obstructing a pension solution that is supported by every other province and the majority of its own citizens?”
The poll that McGowan referred to was commissioned by the AFL and the CLC. It was conducted in October 2010. Here are a few of the poll’s findings:
- 59.9 per cent of Albertans said they felt insecure about their retirement
- 75.9 per cent of Albertans felt that the CPP’s maximum annual payout of about $11,000 was too low
- 63.5 per cent of Albertans support the concept of expanding CPP
- 71.2 per cent of Albertans said the Alberta government should get out of the way and allow changes to CPP
McGowan says he was also surprised by Redford’s comments because they contradicted statements she made in 2010.
“Back in late 2010, as part of our campaign to support CPP expansion, a group of about 60 of our members and activists met face-to-face with MLAs at the Alberta Legislature,” McGowan recalls.
“One of the MLAs who met with us was Alison Redford, who at the time was Minister of Justice. I remember it clearly because she was the highest-ranking member of the government caucus who agreed to meet with us. At that time, she told our members who visited her office that she knew Albertans were worried about having enough money to retire. We were thrilled because we thought she got it. Now we’re left wondering why the Premier has changed her tune.”-30-
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
October 2013: Parkland Institute Annual Conference; Superstore Workers Win Vastly Improved Offer After Three-Day Strike; Help Defend Alberta Pensions; AFL Makes Final Argument in Favour o...
Parkland Institute Annual Conference
The Parkland Institute is putting Facts, Fictions, and the Politics of Truth under the microscope at their 17th Annual Conference, Nov. 22-24 at the University of Alberta.
The conference will examine how governments have been increasingly limiting the ability of scientists to speak about their research, and how important research has been defunded.
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges will be presenting a keynote speech on his latest book Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. Other speakers will include Arno Kepecky, Katie Gibbs, and internationally syndicated columnist Michael Geist.
For more information, please visit the convention page at http://parklandinstitute.ca/fallconf2013
Superstore Workers Win Vastly Improved Offer After Three-Day Strike
UFCW 401 celebrated a victory in the fight for fair wages after signing a new contract with Loblaws.
More than 8,500 workers returned to work after a three-day strike was resolved with a new collective agreement.
“The new contract is one that the employees can be proud of, and now includes none of the most troubling concessions that were there when they went on strike,” UFCW president Douglas O’Halloran said.
The improvements in the newly ratified deal include wage increases in every year of the Collective Agreement, along with retroactive pay, as well as money for a brand new sick pay plan for part-time workers and significant improvements to the full-time benefits.
“We’re proud of our brothers and sisters at UFCW who stood up to unreasonable employer demands, and won a major victory,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “Many AFL members from a broad cross section of the labour movement are glad to have stood in solidarity with UFCW. The number of our members – and the number of Albertans – who refused to cross the picket line was inspiring.”
Help Defend Alberta Pensions
On Sept. 16, most Alberta public sector unions received word from the Redford Government that it intends to implement major change to public sector pension plans, including the Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP), which includes many of our members.
For now, affected unions are working together to change the government’s mind. The coalition includes the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, Alberta Colleges and Institutes Faculties Association, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Health Sciences Association of Alberta, United Nurses of Alberta and the Alberta Federation of Labour.
Hardworking Alberta workers deserve a decent, predictable and secure retirement income after years of working and contributing to their pension plan. This real retirement security is best and most efficiently provided by a jointly governed defined benefit pension plan. For public-sector workers, the Local Authorities Pension Plan has worked for 50 years and it can continue working into the future without drastic changes so long as workers and employers are given the ability to manage the plan.
The Alberta Federation of Labour urges you to let the government know that you oppose the undermining of Alberta’s public-sector pension plans. Visit the website www.defendalbertapensions.ca to send a letter to Finance Minister Doug Horner.
AFL Makes Final Argument in Favour of Enbridge Line 9 Pipeline
The Alberta Federation of Labour president submitted final arguments to the National Energy Board in favour of the Enbridge Line 9 Project today.
AFL president Gil McGowan said he supports Line 9 because it keeps value-added jobs in Canada, and is good for the people of Alberta and the people of Quebec. Line 9 will expand and reverse the flow of Line 9 and 9B, connecting the Synthetic Crude Oil coming from Alberta's upgraders to refineries in Quebec.
"Line 9 connects Alberta's upgraders, and all the good-paying jobs that go with them, to refineries in Quebec, where thousands of good jobs are also at stake. It provides a market for synthetic crude, and keeps value-added jobs in both our provinces," McGowan said. "Line 9 allows Quebec refineries to stop importing higher-cost crude from Angola, Nigeria, and Algeria, and instead allows them to buy Alberta's upgraded products, which enhances Canadian energy security."
The AFL is a frequent intervener in National Energy Board pipeline proceedings. The Federation has intervened against Keystone, Keystone XL, Southern Lights, Alberta Clipper, and Northern Gateway, on the grounds that these pipelines ship raw bitumen, and therefore value-added jobs, down the pipeline to the United States or China. This is the first time the Federation has intervened in favour of a pipeline project at the National Energy Board.
Download the AFL press release issued Oct 3:“AFL Makes Final Argument in Favour of Enbridge Line 9 Pipeline”: http://www.afl.org/index.php/Press-Release/afl-makes-final-argument-in-favour-of-enbridge-line-9-pipeline.html
Did you know…
- The average LAPP pension is just under $14,958 per year – and only after years of work and pension contributions.
- The LAPP Pension Fund fluctuates in value because of the stock market. It is currently on track to be in surplus within 10 years.
- Almost one in every 10 Albertans has a stake in either the LAPP or the PSPP.
November 1: Alberta NDP Convention in Lethbridge
November 22-24: Parkland Institute Conference in Edmonton
December 10: AFL Open House…in the new Office!
Leaders of five Alberta public employees' unions and the Alberta Federation of Labour are concerned and disappointed by the sweeping changes to public service pension plans proposed this morning by Finance Minister Doug Horner.
If the changes introduced today are implemented, as Horner indicated he is determined to do, the bottom line is that Alberta public employees will have diminished pensions.
Members of Alberta's public service pension plans would have to work longer to retire, and when they retire their benefits will be reduced.
In addition, their retirement incomes will more rapidly fall behind inflation.
The minister himself has conceded, and pension plan actuaries have confirmed, that the pension plans are currently sustainable. There is no need for major cuts to benefits.
Public service union leaders were encouraged that the minister was willing to discuss shared governance of the plan, but believe that any pension benefit changes should be left to the employee and employer representatives to negotiate after shared governance is put in place.
Despite their unhappiness, the leaders of the Alberta Colleges and Institutes Faculties Association, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Health Sciences Association of Alberta, United Nurses of Alberta and AFL are committed to continued discussions with the government and employers.
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail email@example.com
Time: 3:00 PM, Monday, September 16
Place: United Nurses of Alberta
11150 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton (Suite 700 – 7th Floor)
Participants: Elisabeth Ballermann, President, Health Sciences Association of Alberta
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour
Guy Smith, President, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees
Heather Smith, President, United Nurses of Alberta
Marle Roberts, President, Canadian Union of Public Employees-Alberta
Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
File: G:\Communications\NEWS\AFL\2013\Media Advisory-Union Leaders Respond to Pension Announcement_2013 Sept 16.docx
Re: "Premiers must stand up to Ottawa's cheap-labour strategy; Harper Tories have launched stealth attack on middle class," by Gil McGowan and Lana Payne, Opinion, Aug. 3.
This opinion piece criticizing federal reforms misses the mark on several issues.
Pension reform is about fairness and sustaining future pensions for all Canadians. Decisions taken this year will ensure we have a viable Canada Pension Plan into the future. Consider what's happening in Europe.
Employment insurance should be run as an insurance program, not a social welfare program. Its aim is to provide a financial bridge to help able-bodied unemployed Canadians find jobs where their skills are needed.
If the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is all about exploitation, how can you say construction workers making $30 to $40 an hour are being exploited? The assertion that employers will automatically pay temporary foreign workers 15 per cent less than their Canadian workers is also wrong. While federal guidelines permit flexible wage scales, they stipulate that all rates must be comparable to what workers in the company are paid.
It is also wrong to say Bill C-377 will restrict unions from spending. Rather, the proposed legislation calls for unions to account for and disclose how mandatory union dues are spent, in the same way charities and native bands do. Recent surveys suggest unionized workers in Canada support this type of legislation.
While union leaders across Canada are banding together to oppose reforms that are relevant in the 21st century, there are others who believe the Harper government should be applauded.
Edmonton Journal, Tues Aug 7 2012
Letter by: Stephen Kushner, president, Merit Contractors Association, Edmonton
It has become clear that the federal government, supported by a number of employer organizations, has a plan for transforming Canada's labour market in ways that will profoundly hurt Canadians.
It's a four-prong strategy which includes the dramatic expansion of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), the erosion of Employment Insurance, raising the country's retirement age, as well as a systematic effort to undermine the ability of unions to stand up for the rights of working people and improve their standard of living.
Taken together, these policies will suppress the wages and incomes of Canadians, rather than address the real problems in Canada's job market.
As provincial and territorial federation of labour leaders, representing over three million workers from coast to coast to coast, we are calling on the premiers to stand with the workers of Canada against this cheap labour strategy.
Canada's premiers touched on some of these issues when they met in Halifax last week at the Council of the Federation. We think it is critical that the following issues be front and centre when they come together this fall to talk about the economy.
Foreign Workers: The TFWP is not immigration. It's exploitation. These workers, many of whom are desperately seeking a better life, are being used to create an underclass to drive down the wages and working conditions of Canadians. It's not fair or just to them, or to their Canadian co-workers. The recent decision by the Harper Conservatives to allow employers to pay temporary foreign workers 15 per cent less than their Canadian co-workers is a blatant example of their low-wage strategy.
With 1.3 million unemployed, and several hundred thousand more discouraged or underemployed Canadians, our focus should be on providing opportunities for Canada's unemployed and underemployed.
Employment Insurance: Instead of tackling unemployment in many regions of our country, the Harper plan has been to attack the unemployed. The Conservative government's changes to EI are clearly designed to force workers to take low-paying jobs or have their unemployment benefits cut off. This is not about helping the unemployed find jobs — rather, it is about serving them up to low-wage employers.
Old Age Security: Increasing the country's retirement age to 67 has nothing to do with the sustainability of our social programs or with retirement security. It is about forcing older workers who have struggled with low and medium wages throughout their working lives to work two more years. It is about expanding the pool of desperate workers who have no choice but to work for less.
Attacks on unions: Unions are one of the few mechanisms to protect the rights of working people and improve their standard of living. What unions achieve at the collective bargaining table lifts the floor and improves living standards for all workers. Unions also fight for and are instrumental in making gains for all society, like the establishment of medicare, health and safety laws, and fair minimum wages.
But the Harper government has a clear plan to attack unions. The government has undermined collective bargaining in the federal sector, and emboldened employers to drive down wages and attack pensions in the private sector. In addition, through legislation like Bill 377, the Harper Conservatives are attempting to rob unions of the ability to use their resources to defend their members and civil society.
So, what is the solution? Canadians need our country's premiers to denounce this low-wage agenda and stand up for what is in the best interest of working people.
When the premiers meet this fall to discuss the economy, we believe the labour market ought to be front and centre in that discussion. They must denounce the exploitive expansion of the TFWP. They must collectively demand that Ottawa invest more in training to bridge the skills gap, so that unemployed Canadians can fill available jobs.
Premiers should also call for improvements to Canada's EI program, as fewer than 40 per cent of unemployed Canadians are currently eligible for benefits. We need our premiers to challenge the notion that Canada must increase its retirement age to 67. What's really needed is pension reform that will allow all Canadians to retire in dignity, such as improving and enhancing CPP. And finally, the premiers should recognize and defend the important role unions play in our society and our economy.
The provinces have power. Our premiers understand that Canada is more than the sum of its parts.
Canadians need our premiers to push back. And when they do, Canadians, the vast majority of us, will be with them.
Halifax Chronical Herald, 2012 July 26
Submitted by the presidents of the provincial and territorial Federations of Labour: Rick Clarke, Nova Scotia; Lana Payne, Newfoundland and Labrador; Michel Boudreau, New Brunswick; Carl Pursey, Prince Edward Island; Sid Ryan, Ontario; Kevin Rebeck, Manitoba; Larry Hubich, Saskatchewan; Gil McGowan, Alberta; Jim Sinclair, British Columbia; MaryLou Cherwaty, Northern Territories.
NDP opposes environmental rule changes
While Ottawa and the province have clashed in the past, the Conservative federal budget released Thursday received a warm reception from Alberta's two main contenders for the premier's office.
The budget's highlights include raising the age for Old Age Security from 65 to 67 for those currently under the age of 54, the elimination of nearly 20,000 civil service jobs over three years and cuts to program spending, though overall expenditures will continue to climb as the government projects being out of deficit in 2015-2016.
The federal Tories are also promising a new shortened environmental review process for major natural resource industrial projects, including the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to British Columbia, and to put some environmental reviews strictly under the provinces.
With a provincial election underway, both Progressive Conservative Leader Alison Redford and Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith linked themselves to the budget's measures.
Redford said her PC government has been working with the federal government to streamline environmental regulations and is similar to measures undertaken already in Alberta.
"We know that industry thinks this is a better way to be competitive. I think we'll see not just on the Gateway project but on other projects, this will be a tremendous improvement," she told reporters in Edmonton.
Redford praised the federal government's plans to balance the budget in three years without tax increases and noted her government's projection of a balanced budget in 2013, with no tax hikes.
In a news release, Smith - who has slammed the PCs for out-of-control spending - compared the federal financial document to Wildrose's budgetary plans.
She applauded the Tory budget for reducing "wasteful government spending and . . . unnecessary levels of bureaucracy."
Ben Brunnen, chief economist of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, said "this is a good budget for Alberta business."
The changes to OAS include allowing for recipients to defer receiving their payments for up to five years with no penalty.
That's an incentive for those wanting to stay in the workforce to do so, helping to ease the labour shortage that is beginning to bite the province and is expected to get worse.
Raising the eligibility age in 2023 should also have a positive effect in the longer term on the labour pinch, said Brunnen.
While details are lacking, Ottawa has also pledged to make the temporary foreign worker program more aligned with labour market needs and to work with the provinces on improving the recognition of foreign credentials.
"This is just a full-marks budget," said Brunnen.
A spokesman for the Public Service Alliance of Canada said there has been no indication yet where the planned federal job cuts will take place, meaning the impact on Alberta civil servants is uncertain.
Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said the Conservatives are destroying jobs, cutting services and making life harder for seniors for no good reason given the relatively healthy state of the government's books and the Canadian economy.
"These cuts are particularly galling because they're so unnecessary," he said. "This is a road map to a more conservative future where corporations matter more than citizens."
Redford said the government would review the impact on Alberta seniors of raising the age for OAS.
Ted Menzies, the MP for MacLeod and minister of state for finance, said the budget was designed to ensure there was no downloading to provinces.
The federal government will work with the provinces to ensure that changes to OAS don't affect provincial programs that kick in at age 65.
New Democrat Linda Duncan, Alberta's lone Opposition MP, said the federal promise of "one window" for environmental regulation is full of smoke given issues of federal, provincial and aboriginal jurisdiction.
The claim that major projects are hamstrung by red tape is a fallacy, she said.
"Show me one single project that's been denied. Show me an oilsands project that's been denied," said Duncan.
Calgary Herald, Fri Mar 30 2012
Byline: James Wood
Spending cuts, OAS changes and giveaways to corporations are unnecessary and irresponsible, say Alberta unions
Based on the magnitude of the cuts and changes contained in today's federal budget, you'd think that Canada was about to "hit the debt wall."
But the truth is that Canada has weathered the global recession better than almost any other industrialized country – thanks largely to its natural resource wealth, decisions made by previous governments and pressure from opposition parties that stopped the previous minority Harper government from enacting harsh cuts at the height of the recession.
"Given the reality of Canada's current economic situation, there's no good reason why we should even be contemplating cuts on this scale," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"What we see with today's budget is a plan that will turn a rough patch into really tough times. It's the opposite of what this country needs. It's both unnecessary and irresponsible."
If there's a problem, McGowan says it's that the Harper government's various tax cuts have cost the federal treasury more than $200 billion since 2006. For example, the effective federal tax on corporate profits has dropped to its lowest rate since before the Second World War.
"The only reason that the Harper government isn't looking at a balanced budget right now, or at least in the very near future, is because it has given away literally hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue in a very short period of time," says McGowan.
"If there's a crisis, it's a crisis caused by the Harper government's irresponsible tax giveaways, especially to profitable corporations that are no longer being asked to pay their fair share of the cost of keeping this country running. The crime in this budget is that ordinary Canadians – especially seniors – are being forced to pay the price for Stephen Harper's ideologically driven irresponsibility."
Despite Finance Minister Flaherty's argument that the cuts really only amount to "backroom efficiencies," McGowan says ordinary Canadians will feel the bite of this budget in three important ways.
First, there will be a real and noticeable erosion in the quality of service provided by the federal government. With fewer workers, the government simply won't be able to provide the same level of service that Canadians need and expect in everything from handling passport applications to inspecting food.
Second, the Harper government's plans to restrict payments to the provinces and remove the "strings" attached to the remaining dollars will mean it will become even more difficult for provinces to pay for things like health care and more likely that governments like ours in Alberta will resort to increased privatization.
Third, by increasing the age of eligibility for OAS from 65 to 67, the Harper government will be taking thousands and thousands of dollars out of the pockets of seniors. This will force many seniors into poverty or to the brink of poverty.
"As it stands right now, Canadians between age 65 and 67 get an average of 25 per cent of their income from OAS," says McGowan. "By taking that income away, we run the risk of reversing one of the biggest public policy successes of the 20th century: which was the use of GIS and OAS to pull almost all Canadian seniors out of poverty."
McGowan points out that the attack on OAS is particularly galling because the federal government's own Parliamentary Budget Officer has concluded that the current OAS system is affordable and that increasing the eligibility age to 67 is unnecessary and unwarranted.
"The real thread that runs through this budget has to do with gifts and giveaways to Stephen Harper's corporate friends," concludes McGowan.
"The cuts to public-sector jobs and benefits are being made so Harper can finance his tax giveaway to big business. His changes to OAS eligibility rules are being made to address business concerns about a looming labour shortage – just make seniors work longer! And the so-called streamlining of approvals for resource projects is really a gift to oil companies so they no longer have to worry about pesky things like environmental impacts and the public good.
"In many ways, this is more than a budget: it's a road map towards a conservative future in which corporations matter more than citizens. The Harper government should be ashamed of itself ... and ordinary Canadians should be deeply concerned."
CONTACT: Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888
Unions fear attack on jobs will undermine economy, throw seniors into poverty
Labour leaders from across Alberta will be keeping a close eye on the federal budget today to assess the impact it will have on working families in the province.
"The federal government has an opportunity today to make the Canadian economy stronger and to make it work for average Canadians," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), which represents 145,000 workers.
"This budget could be used to help create good jobs – the kind of jobs that support families. We fear, however, that the Harper government will do the opposite and destroy jobs, which will weaken an economy they have described as fragile," he says.
"We also fear that the budget will undermine the retirement security of Canadians by cutting back on Old Age Security benefits to seniors, which risks throwing more elderly citizens into poverty."
Budget Watch 2012 events will be held in Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer this afternoon. McGowan will be among labour leaders at the Edmonton event and will be available for comment. Other labour leaders will be available at the Calgary and Red Deer events.
- BUDGET WATCH 2012, EDMONTON
LOCATION: CUPE 474 Meeting Hall, 10989 – 124 Street, Edmonton.
- BUDGET WATCH 2012, CALGARY
LOCATION: Greenwood Inn, 3515 – 26 Street N.E., Calgary.
- BUDGET WATCH 2012, RED DEER
TIME: 2 p.m. - 4 p.m.
LOCATION: Unit 4, 7464 – 50 Avenue, Red Deer.
Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888
Amanda Freistadt, CLC Prairie Representative, 780-904-0517