Oilsands construction unions vote to strike; 'Historic' walkout as early as next week would be first under tough Alberta law
CALGARY -- Five oilsands construction unions have voted overwhelmingly to strike, in a move that could halt work at oil-sands projects in Fort McMurray, Alta., as early as next week.
The results of the July 4 votes were presented to the Alberta Labour Relations board on Monday. Once certified, 72-hour strike notice could be served as early as Friday, said Barry Salmon, a spokesman for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 424, based in Edmonton.
"These are rather overwhelming mandates," he said. "Historic is a word that's used far too often, but that's what this is -- historic."
The five unions -- boilermakers, plumbers and pipe fitters, electrical workers, millwrights and refrigerator mechanics - held simultaneous ballots in Calgary, Edmonton and Fort McMurray earlier this month, the first such votes in almost three decades.
The electrical workers voted 94 per cent in favour of strike action, while the boilermakers and plumbers voted 99 per cent and 97 per cent, respectively, in favour. Millwrights were 90-per- cent supportive, while refrigeration mechanics came in at 85 per cent.
At issue are quality-of-life issues as opposed to wages, Salmon said. Journeyman electricians make about $35 an hour, for example.
"It just shows the level of frustration among trades," Salmon said. "We want a contract, not a strike. This is all about getting back to the table."
In addition to oilsands projects, a walkout could threaten big public-works projects that use union labour.
The unions have been without a contract since May 1. Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan described the votes as "unprecedented," in light of the province's existing labour law, which critics have complained is overwhelmingly biased in favour of contractors.
Consequently, there have been no strike votes under the legislation since it was enacted in the early 1980s.
"Alberta's labour code was deliberately written to make it impossible for construction unions to go on strike," McGowan said. "These workers are sending a very strong message, and employers ignore it at their peril."
Mark Friesen, an oilsands analyst at FirstEnergy Capital Corp., said the labour unrest is another layer of ambiguity in an oilpatch already grappling with a government-sponsored royalty review and skyrocketing capital costs.
He's not surprised the unions would vote in favour of walking off the job. However, he held out hope strike action could be averted.
Vancouver Sun, Page D9, Tues July 24 2007
Byline: Shaun Polczer
How smart are the suits at silly hall? Just wise enough to play stupid! In the ambulance labour war it's really all the pinstripes have to do.
The suits of silly hall are often silly, but not as often stupid.
They know they don't have to actually negotiate with our world-class paramedics any more than they wish. And they don't.
They know the game, they know the rules and they know the city can't lose, no matter how boneheaded they act.
In fact, they can take a make-believe stand with the paramedics and spin a story about how they're holding the line and cast themselves as principled, fearless guardians of the public purse.
But it's all sizzle and no steak.
The city acts as it does because they know how all the cards will be dealt.
They play their role, they know the paramedics won't suck it up and take chump change in a hotly inflated economy. They know the paramedics will come to the end of the road and vote for a strike.
But it's a strike vote for a strike existing only in theory, but not in practice.
The union takes the vote, will give strike notice and the province will step into the fray, declare an emergency and everything stops with the hit of the Easy Button. The province names an arbitrator who imposes a deal.
And what happens if the provincially appointed arbitrator hands down something better and therefore costlier than the city offers, as is very likely?
The city pinstripes will just shrug their shoulders. Oh well, it's not our fault the paramedics get what they're getting, it's the arbitrator's fault, the all-powerful one named by the province.
And, here's the best part, since it's the provincial arbitrator's fault ... golly gee, turn pockets inside out here ... we need more money to pay the paramedics. We don't have the cash in our budget. Oh me, oh my, the province will have to pony up the loonies.
Dear us, dear us, this is all so out of our control. Victim, victim.
Of course, the province could do the washing-of-hands routine and let the strike go ahead but, if anything happens, if some poor soul dies and somebody kicks up a stink about the response time of the ambulance or the quality of the crew, the city can say, yes this is beautiful, it's the province's fault because they could have declared an emergency.
And, the logic is so stunning, the city cooks up some phony baloney back-up service, a Plan B the province can't possibly accept.
With a normal level of ambulances on duty and lots of calls and units tied up at overcrowded hospitals there are yellow alerts.
With sub-par service ...
"They will have yellow alerts and red alerts in the first hour," says Bruce Robb, the paramedic union president who has been the definition of mild-mannered throughout this city's version of water torture.
The headline writers would be working overtime.
But, of course, it's not happening. The province won't hitch their wagon to some Band-Aid solution.
Just to make sure the public is completely spun into senselessness and confusion, AFTER the paramedics vote 354-4 for a strike, the city then offers last-minute voluntary arbitration as if to say, gee willakers, we tried our darndest to stop a strike.
Of course, they only offer this ersatz olive branch once the paramedics already decide on their final stand.
So strike notice could be as early as Monday. Sometime in the 72 hours following the notice the province will force the paramedics to stay on the job and both sides will go to binding arbitration.
Bruce and his people know the script as well as anybody.
It is all more than a bit surreal. Gil McGowan of the Alberta Federation of Labour paints the picture in a letter to Iris Evans, the province's minister responsible for labour.
"If the City of Calgary is assured you will instantly step in to prohibit strike action by the paramedics, they have little reason to alter bargaining to a more realistic position since they will not be facing any consequences."
And does the city care if our world-class paramedics are unhappy, a fact sure to be reflected in how many stay on in a boom economy with high inflation? Does the city really wonder why their mouthpieces couldn't bring two sides in a marble game together? No worries. The city can always pass the buck. And do.
At least, the paramedics are allowed to vent in a vote.
"It's important our members get to say how angry they are," says Bruce.
Hopefully, at least the soon-to-be-appointed arbitrator will be listening.
The Calgary Sun, Page 5, Sat July 21 2007
Byline: Rick Bell
The city's paramedics are moving ahead with strike preparations after again rejecting an offer to enter into binding arbitration to settle their contract dispute.
And while they won't be specific about when strike notice will be given, only allowing that it will be sometime next week, an information picket is planned for Monday.
"It's just to shed some light on what our issues are, clear up any misconceptions that might be out there," paramedics spokeswoman Rina Campus said.
Without a contract for more than a year, the paramedics have taken a strike vote and rejected overtures from the city to enter into binding arbitration.
EMS staff this week voted 99 per cent in favour of walking off the job. Unlike police and fire, which are considered essential services, paramedics can go on strike.
However, the province has indicated it will step in and halt any strike action, either by putting in place a disputes inquiry board or an emergency resolution tribunal. It can't act until the union issues the required 72-hour notice.
That won't happen until sometime next week, Campus said, adding the union is still working out some details.
"We're trying to get all our logistics for a strike organized," she said.
The Alberta Federation of Labour has also jumped into the debate, asking the province to leave well enough alone and not interfere with the bargaining process.
President Gil McGowan said in a news release the right to strike is the only way workers can gain a fair contract. If the province does halt strike action, the AFL will scrutinize any deal to make sure it takes into account Calgary's labour market conditions and cost-of-living increases, he said.
Campus said the 440 people employed by EMS "just want a fair contract, whether that's by going out on strike or binding arbitration."
She added that although it seems unlikely they will ever hoist a strike sign, paramedics are willing to take that step.
"Ninety-nine per cent of us are willing to walk out of our jobs and not get paid," she said. "People are willing to do whatever means necessary to get the contract we want."
City spokeswoman Vickie Megrath said they were officially notified Friday that the union won't enter into binding arbitration to settle the lone remaining issue -- money.
"We have to see what the union is going to do next," she said. "We'll continue with our contingency plans and continue to be available to continue discussions."
The city has offered paramedics 12 per cent over three years. The paramedics want 18 per cent, plus a retroactive market adjustment they feel is necessary to bring salaries in line with other city employees.
The union says an EMT makes $21.96 an hour to start, with a top wage of $26.70 an hour. The hourly wages for paramedics range from $23.74 to $30.26, while crew chiefs make $30.26 to $33.54.
Calgary paramedics last went on strike in 1991.
Calgary Herald, Page B2, Sat July 21 2007
Byline: Kim Guttormson
Edmonton Journal, Page B5, Sat July 21 2007
Byline: Kim Guttormson
CALGARY - Calgary's paramedics are moving ahead with what are likely futile strike preparations, after rejecting an offer to enter into binding arbitration with the city.
The union for 440 emergency medical personnel isn't saying when it will give its 72-hour strike notice, only allowing that it will be sometime next week.
"We're trying to get all our logistics for a strike organized," paramedics spokeswoman Rina Campus said Friday after the union rejected overtures from the city to enter into binding arbitration.
However, a strike isn't expected to happen.
The provincial government has indicated it will step in and halt any strike action either by putting in place a disputes inquiry board or an emergency resolution tribunal.
However, the province can't act until the union issues its strike notice.
The paramedics have been without a contract for more than a year. Earlier this week, they voted 99 per cent in favour of walking off the job.
City spokeswoman Vickie Megrath said they were officially notified Friday that the union won't enter into binding arbitration to settle the lone remaining issue -- money.
"We'll continue with our contingency plans and continue to be available to continue discussions," she said.
The Alberta Federation of Labour also jumped into the debate, asking the province not to interfere with the bargaining process.
President Gil McGowan said in a news release the right to strike is the only way workers can gain a fair contract.
The city has offered paramedics 12 per cent over three years. The paramedics want 18 per cent, plus a retroactive market adjustment they feels is necessary to bring salaries in line with other city employees.
The union said an EMT worker makes $21.96 an hour to start, with a top wage of $26.70 an hour.
The hourly wages for paramedics range from $23.74 to $30.26, while crew chiefs make $30.26 to $33.54.
Striking workers at Palace Casino in West Edmonton Mall have won a major victory in arbitration, one that imposes a stinging penalty for flagrant employer misconduct. In an award issued yesterday regarding a grievance filed before the strike began, an arbitrator has awarded monetary damages to UFCW Local 401, and to the individual members at Palace Casino.
The ruling found that an employer ban on the wearing of union pins was discriminatory, and a deprivation of employee rights to freedom of expression and the union's ability to represent its members. The arbitrator therefore awarded $10,000 to the union, $500 to each employee, and a further $1,000 to employees who were confronted in the workplace and ordered to remove their union pins.
The grievance stems from UFCW's campaign to become certified as the union representing workers at Palace Casino, after the employer withdrew an existing voluntary recognition of the union. The fact that a collective agreement was already in place, however, meant that employee rights were already protected by a contract. After hearing argument from both sides, the arbitrator ruled that:
"I find that the company's breach was committed intentionally to prevent employees from exhibiting support for UFCW. I believe that this was done in the hope that it would discourage Union membership and increase the likelihood that the Union's certification bid would fail."
Doug O'Halloran, president of UFCW 401 said: the award provides a big boost to the morale of the striking workers. "We've won an important victory with this grievance, and by sticking together we can win an even bigger one in this strike."
AFL President Gil McGowan agrees. "This ruling shows that employers can't get away with trampling over the Charter rights of their employees, at least not when there's a union in the workplace to defend those rights."
For more information contact:
Gil McGowan Cell: (780) 218-9888
The labour movement has escalated its efforts to resolve the Palace Casino strike by sending letters to 300 charities who are scheduled to volunteer for casinos at Palace in the coming months. The letter, sent on October 13 from Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan, asks charities to contact the Minister of Gaming and the casino owners to urge them to settle the dispute quickly. It also asks them to consider canceling their scheduled casino if the strike continues.
"The intransigence of Palace Casino and the government's willful neglect of this issue have put charities in a difficult spot," notes McGowan. "Either they make their volunteers cross a picket line, or they forfeit their coveted casino spot. It is not a great situation. It is in everyone's interest to end this strike quickly."
"Our letter is to acknowledge the difficult spot they are in, and ask them to be a part of resolving the conflict as quickly as possible," says McGowan. "We are asking them to put pressure on the casino owners to come back to the negotiating table. We are also asking them to demand that the government take a more active role in resolving this conflict."
"We want to start a conversation with the charities about why the workers are on strike, and why it is important they respect the picket line."
The letter also outlines options available to charities if they choose to not cross the picket line. It indicates that if they cancel ahead of time, the government will attempt to reschedule the casino as soon as possible. However, if they fail to produce the required number of volunteers at the time of their casino, they risk forfeiting their spot in the rotation.
"The government could assist the charities by guaranteeing that any charity that chooses to cancel their casino due to the strike would be guaranteed a replacement once the dispute is resolved. So far they refuse to do that, which makes them part of the problem," McGowan observes.
McGowan notes that business at the casino is down substantially. "The strike is having a serious effect on the casino's business. They are losing tens of thousands of dollars a day due to lost customers. It is in Palace's financial interest to agree to a fair deal and end this strike. Why they don't is beyond comprehension."
McGowan is hopeful the charities will appreciate the information in the letter and will contact the union to discuss how the workers and the charities can work together to end the strike. "These charities do important work for the community. They are decent people. Hopefully the combined efforts of the workers and these volunteers will bring the government and Palace Casino to their senses."
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For More Information
Gil McGowan, AFL President Cell: (780) 218-9888
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), announced today they have a tentative agreement with Finning Canada. The 1,000 workers at Finning in Alberta have been on strike since October 20 to fight against further contracting out of their jobs.
"The new agreement includes language to protect our jobs and discourage the kind of contracting out Finning has been aggressively pursuing the past few years," says IAM Lodge 99 President Bob MacKinnon. "It is a testament to the determination of our members."
"Going into this strike, Finning said it would never agree to limits on contracting out, and after five weeks, they have done just that," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "I think this is due to the creative way the union approached the strike."
"The company probably heard about the labour movement's plans for the strike, including large actions in Fort McMurray, radio ads, a leaflet and other strategies. The labour movement was mobilizing to support the Finning workers, and it played a role in the settlement."
"I'm convinced that what we were calling 'the Dinning Pursuit' was an effective tool," says McGowan. "The union and the labour movement made a decision to show up at every public event that Jim Dinning attended. That kind of pressure made a difference."
The labour movement set up information pickets everytime Jim Dinning made a public appearance. Dinning is a Conservative leadership hopeful, but also sits on Finning's Board of Directors. His position offered a unique opportunity to IAM to place extra pressure on the company.
"The labour movement was ramping up," says McGowan. "Radio ads targeting Dinning were slated to start running next week in Calgary, a leaflet was being distributed and actions were being planned for Fort McMurray and other key sites in the dispute."
The script of the ads was used at the bargaining table, and the union suspects that Finning caught wind of other labour plans, and this prompted them to give in to the union's key demand.
"This victory is an example of what happens when the labour movements stands together. Employers should take note - this is not an employers market anymore." McGowan concludes.
For more information contact:
Gil McGowan, AFL President at 780.915-4599 (cell) or 780.483-3021 (wk) or
Bob MacKinnon, IAM 99 President at 780.483-4103 (wk)
EDMONTON-In the aftermath of the rejection of a tentative agreement by Telus workers, the AFL sent a letter to Telus CEO Darren Entwistle urging the company to return quickly to the bargaining table. While the vote was a setback, the AFL says, the parties need to use it to make one last push for an agreement.
"The closeness of the result tells us the two parties are not very far apart," writes AFL President Gil McGowan in his letter to Entwistle. "I strongly believe that one more honest attempt to find a deal will result in an agreement that would garner majority support from TWU members."
"It is time to put egos aside," says McGowan. "Set aside the personal acrimony from this dispute and know that an agreement is in sight. It is time to get it done."
McGowan indicates that attempting to "punish" TWU members for voting no will only prolong and deepen the crisis at Telus. "Saying that the time for talking is over is exactly the wrong message to send right now."
McGowan also renewed the promise from the labour movement to support the TWU members on the picket line. We need to respect the choice of the members. Our job in the labour movement is to continue to offer whatever support we can to help them through this lock out and to help them get a fair deal."
"Alberta's labour movement continues to stand with TWU," McGowan concludes.
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For more information contact:
Gil McGowan, AFL President at 780.915-4599 (cell) or 780.483-3021 (wk)
Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour, October 28, 2005
Hello and welcome.
As many of you know, my name is Gil McGowan, and I'm president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
I'd like to begin this afternoon by thanking all of you for taking the time to attend this reception.
I know we have a jammed packed agenda and every spare minute is precious; so we appreciate you making the effort to squeeze us in.
I'd particularly like to welcome all the delegates from the government and business communities.
Some people joke that we come here first for the food and the scenery and only second for the discussion.
But for me, there simply aren't enough opportunities for dialog between our two solitudes.
I sincerely believe that by meeting like this and getting to know each other face-to-face we can more effectively make strides towards that elusive goal of workplace harmony.
Of course, harmony is not the word that many would use to describe what's going on in Alberta today.
And that's why I've arranged to have this talk this afternoon.
In many ways, what we're seeing around the province right now is a story of stark contrasts.
On one hand, here in Alberta in 2005, we have it all.
Our economy is literally floating on a sea of oil dollars. Demand for what we produce is strong and getting stronger. Profits are up, unemployment is down and our provincial treasury is bursting at the seams. It's hard to imagine how our economic prospects could be brighter.
During times like these, Albertans should be comfortable and confident. We should be looking to the future with hope. We should be dreaming big. We should building schools and hospitals. We should not only be maintaining the social programs we have, we should be enhancing them.
Many around us are indeed living the Alberta dream. But for many others, it's a different story.
Instead of comfort and confidence we get picket lines. And instead of enhancing the programs we have, we get 12-year-olds at work and Premier's Klein's Third Way for private health care.
That's the face of the other Alberta; and it's the face that many of our members are struggling to deal with today.
Military metaphors are often over-used by leaders & but it's hard for those of us in the labour community not to describe what's been happening over the last six months as a war.
It's a war with many fronts.
Telus. CBC. Lakeside. Finning. Casino Calgary.
Never before in Alberta history have so many workers, from so many different unions and so many different sectors of the economy been on the picket line at the same time.
It would be one thing if all these strikes were simply about wages; about workers trying to get a bigger piece of Alberta's expanding economic pie.
But they're not. Each one of these labour disputes are about much more fundamental issues.
In the case of both Telus and Finning, for example, it's about contracting out and job security.
In both cases we have companies that are hugely successful. Telus dominates the telecommunications market in western Canada. And Finning is the leading supplier of heavy equipment to Alberta's booming oil industry. These are companies that measure their profits, not in millions, not in tens of millions, but in hundreds of millions.
And yet, despite their market dominance and despite their profits, many of the people working at these companies feel insecure.
And they feel insecure with good reason: Telus has laid off thousands and they've been dipping their toe in pool of foreign outsourcing. And Finning has already contracted out or spun off whole divisions at the expense of hundreds of jobs.
So the fight at Finning and Telus and the CBC has not been about nickels and dimes: it has been about fighting for careers rather than contracts; and about stopping the disappearance of stable, family-sustaining jobs.
The strike at Lakeside Packers in Brooks and Casino Calgary are also about bedrock issues of fairness.
Just last weekend I spoke with a women on the Casino Calgary picket line who has worked as a dealer at the Casino for 25 years. When she started in 1980, she made $7.00 and hour. Today, 25 years later, she makes $7.80 and hour. 80 cents in 25 years.
To make matters worse, while I was standing there, the casino owner's son pulled up in his Hummer and sneered at the picketers.
It was one of those moments of clarity. Here, on one hand was a group of struggling minimum wage workers, and there, on the other hand, was some driving a vehicle that costs more than any of the workers could make in ten years.
It's a similar situation in Brooks.
You've already heard from the Lakeside workers themselves last night, so I won't belabour the point. But I'll say this.
This is a strike about the most basic issues. It's about right most Albertans take for granted: like the right to go to the bathroom when you need to; like the right to see a doctor when you're injured; like the right to actually get paid for all the time you work.
To illustrate how bad things are there, I'll tell you two quick stories.
First, one of the strikers told me about an incident when one of the beef carcasses, weighing hundreds of pounds, fell off the assembly line on top of a worker. The managers rushed in quickly: but not to help the injured worker. They were there to pick up the meat.
The second, story I'll tell you is about a practice that sounds like it comes right out of some south Asian sweat shop. It's called gang time and it happens every day at Lakeside. Basically what happens is that Lakeside stops paying people when they stop slaughtering cattle.
The only problem is that it's an assembly line operation, so it takes some time for the last animal to make it's way from the killing floor to the end of the line. And for all that time, as much as an hour at the end of each shift, the workers along the line are not getting paid.
Lakeside's parent company Tyson Foods has been brought up on charges and convicted of this practice in the states. But it's also happening here.
This is why some of the workers talk about how working at Lakeside is like slavery. Many of them have come from desperate war-torn countries & they come to Canada full of hope and this is how they are greeted.
Now, I don't want to paint all of Alberta business with the same brush. The truth is that the vast majority of employers in the province are good employers and the vast majority of business people in the province are people of good conscience.
But, in the spirit of openness, I have to tell you, when we in the labour movement look at what's going on, we come away feeling deeply troubled.
We're fighting for job security during strong economic times when insecurity should be the last thing on our minds.
And we're fighting battles for basic fairness and respect that most people thought were won a generation ago.
As president of the AFL, I'm often asked: what's going on? And why is all of this happening now.
In nutshell, I think it's a problem of limits, or more precisely, the lack of limits.
Think of it this way. Ours is an individualistic society, where we are generally free to choose how we live our lives and that's a good thing.
But even in this free society we have limits, we have boundaries.
Some of them are legally codified: you can't steal, you can't speed, you can't break into your neighbour's house and help your self to his new plasma TV. But some of our boundaries are strictly social. For example, it may not be illegal to make a pass at your best friend's wife, but generally speaking, we know it's something we shouldn't do.
In the same vein, here in Alberta - when it comes to the way employers deal with their workers - I would make the argument that there is a problem with limits. Specifically, I think there is a problem with both the codified rules and the less formal cultural and social limits that put boundaries on what is acceptable and what isn't.
On the legal side, we have a weak labour code that makes it hard for unions to organize and bargain and which fails to give our labour board the powers that other provincial labour boards have to promote fair bargaining and discourage unfair practices.
We also have a weak employment standards system that sometimes sounds good on paper but is not backed up with an effective enforcement mechanism.
These weak laws open the door for some businesses to behave badly, and, as we seen, some of them do exactly that.
On the social side, we also have a business culture that too often says "anything goes."
We all know that some companies are behaving badly. But too often our leaders in other business and government circles turn the other way.
As someone once said to on the picket line in Brooks: It's like someone is getting beaten up in the alley and instead of helping, people close the blinds and turn up the stereo."
That's what happens when you don't have appropriate limits. In the broader society, when limits break down, we end up with people behaving badly; maybe not everybody, but some people.
In the same way, without appropriate limits in the business world, some businesses cross over the line of what's acceptable.
In nutshell, that's what I think explains the explosion of labour unrest in the province this year. It's a story of weak limits. And it's a story about corporations behaving badly.
The thing about weak limits is that they are really in no ones best interests. Our members don't want to be on the picket line. It's costly, it's disruptive and, especially when it comes to things like the situation in Brooks, it gives the entire Alberta business community a black eye.
So I have a modest proposal. I would like to see the labour movement and the responsible majority of the business community work together at promoting a package of more appropriate labour standards.
We're not asking for the moon.
On the legal side, what we need is first contract arbitration, so that employers can't simply ignore the democratically expressed will of their employees.
Dozens of strikes were avoided in other provinces last year because of first contract arbitration. If we had it here, there would be no strike at Brooks. The time for first contract arbitration in Alberta has come.
We also think that the Labour Board needs some of the powers that were stripped from it in 1988. In particular, we think they need the big stick of automatic certification. Charges of bad faith bargaining mean nothing if there is no effective deterrent.
When it comes to employment standards, we could go on all day. But at the very least, we need a more aggressive approach to enforcement. Giving employment standards officers the power to issue tickets, as opposed to always having to go through the courts would be an important first step.
On the social side, we'd like to see is leadership from government and the business community & we need to identify standards of what's acceptable and what's not.
We talk about promoting best practices - that's great - but I think we should also be talking about identifying and actively discouraging worst practices.
So, when some corporation behaves badly - when something dark slithers out from under a rock - we don't want them to be greeted by silence. Instead we want them to be greeted by the law, and the full blown and actively expressed disapproval of not only the labour movment and civil society, but also the Alberta corporate community.
Finally, on the subject of contracting out and job security, which is at the heart of so many of our disputes, we'd like to see some movement from the business community.
Providing employees with decent working conditions and some measure of job security should not be seen as a straight jacket that undermines profit, but as a cost of doing business.
To conclude, I'd just like to remind you of what we all know. We are living through a period of great prosperity. We can make the argument that Alberta today is one of the most prosperous jurisdictions, not just in Canada, but the entire world.
But, and here's the really important point: the only real way that most ordinary Albertans share in the Alberta Advantage is through their jobs and the wages they earn. If those wages are stagnant or declining, if those jobs are insecure, then those people are not sharing in the Alberta Advantage.
And the implications are serious; if our companies in Alberta can't provide some measure of security; if careers are really being replaced by contracts, if job security has become a quaint notion from the past, then where does that leave us?
Without being too melodramatic, I think that what's at stake is nothing less that the future of our middle class.
If even here in Alberta the Wealthy people don't have security, can't take mortgages, can't save for kids education, then we really have a problem.
It's not enough to think, some one else will provide the good jobs; if we all think that the next guy is doing it, one day we'll wake up and wonder where the middle class went.
The fact that so many people are not being treated better, the fact that we're allowing some corporations to behave badly even during a time of unprecedented prosperity, is a black mark on Alberta.
I think we can do better. Given prosperity, I know we can do better. Maybe, by working together, we can get the ball rolling.
Edmonton: A number of well known community, labour, academic, arts and municipal leaders have signed an open letter to Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, urging her to use her influence to end the lock-out of the 5500 employees of the CBC and to commit to provide the financial support CBC needs to fulfill its mandate.
"This open letter is a strong message from a number of Edmontonians saying that Minister McLellan has an important responsibly and the influence to bring an end to the lock-out," says Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "When you see a list of Edmontonians ranging from City Councillor Mike Nickel to the Managing Director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Elaine Calder, the Minister needs to pay attention to the message."
"We feel very strongly that the lock-out of the CBC workers and support for CBC programming is an urgent public interest issue that requires political action," says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. "Albertans need to speak out and say that it is unacceptable that the federal government has failed to end the lock-out and that they must commit to support CBC's mandate to deliver local programming."
The open letter will be published in the Edmonton Journal on Friday, September 30th and Vue Weekly. Albertans are also being asked to go to www.pialberta.org to sign-on to the letter and send an automatic e-mail to the Deputy Prime Minister and their Member of Parliament.
For further information contact:
Executive Director, PIA @ (780) 420-0471
President, AFL @ (780) 483-3021 / (780) 915-4599 (cell)