2014 - No. 53
Alberta Government Forced to
Retreat on Anti-Labour Bills
No Means No! Hands Off Our
Pensions! Time to Step Up the Fight!
Hundreds of workers rally
at the Alberta Legislature May 1, 2014 for May Day, calling on the
government to stop attacks on workers' rights and pensions, while
celebrating the Alberta Union of Public Employee’s recent tentative
agreement for government workers. Speakers also expressed solidarity
with the many migrant workers at the rally, who have been affected by
recent changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
to Retreat on Anti-Labour Bills
• No Means No! Hands Off Our Pensions! Time to
Step Up the Fight!
• Government Stands
Down on Bill 46 Attacking Public Sector Bargaining Rights
Big Gains for Energy Monopolies,
Austerity Demanded of Workers
• Defeat the Anti-Social Agenda! -
Harper Henchman Vies for
Leadership of Alberta PCs
• Harper's New
Fifth Column Strategy in Alberta? - Dougal MacDonald
Albertans Pay Their Respects on
• Step Up Organizing to Enforce the Right to
Safe and Healthy Working Conditions!
• Tell the Alberta
Government That Farm Workers Count - Devin Yeager, Speech at
Edmonton Day of Mourning
• Federation of
Labour Calls for Action on Worker Safety
Alberta Government Forced to Retreat on
No Means No! Hands Off Our Pensions!
Time to Step Up the Fight!
May Day at Alberta
Public sector workers and their allies have forced the
make a retreat in their assault on security in retirement. Bills 9 and
10 -- which respectively target public-sector and private-sector
defined-benefit plans -- will not be passed by the Legislature during
its current sitting. Both bills will be referred
to the Standing Committee on Alberta's Economic Future. Public hearings
will be held during the summer and the Committee will report back to
the Legislature during the fall sitting which is scheduled to begin on
October 27. At that time the PCs will have elected a new leader who
will have been sworn in as Premier.
Congratulations to all the workers, unions and their
waging this fight to defend security in retirement. The government has
been forced to make a retreat in the face of months of opposition
including rallies and pickets, a deluge of letters, calls and meetings
with MLAs, petitions and other actions.
"It's clear that Albertans are making themselves heard.
stood up for their pensions. They've let their MLAs know that these
Bills are unacceptable," Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil
McGowan said. "Together, the hundreds of thousands of people who depend
on these plans have made the government
pause. Now we have to keep working together to stop the attack on
The announcement that the bill would be
referred to committee and
that public hearings would take place came after the PCs reached an
agreement with the opposition parties. Alberta New Democrat leader
Brian Mason said in a statement that the opposition parties agreed to
end their filibuster which would allow
Bill 9 to pass second reading. In return, the government agreed to
refer the bill and hold public hearings.
The fight is far from over. No doubt the PCs want to get
Bills 9 and
10 off the radar while they fight it out over who will be the next PC
Leader. Nominations begin May 15 and at that time any cabinet members
running for leader will be expected to step down. This likely put
pressure on the PCs to get legislation
passed before that time. Imposing closure was an option, but not
consistent with the bleating currently coming from the PC caucus about
how they are "poor little lambs who've lost our way." But like the
proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing, they have not abandoned their
anti-social, anti-worker agenda for one minute,
and will try to find another way to impose it.
Once again, stepping up the resistance is what is
hearings provide the opportunity to broaden the fight to defend the
pensions we have and fight for pensions for all, and to bring many more
Albertans into the fight. The Alberta government must be forced not
only to withdrawn Bills 9 and 10 but
also to support expansion of the Canada Pension Plan.
Government Stands Down on Bill 46 Attacking
Public Sector Bargaining Rights
The Alberta Union of
Provincial Employees (AUPE) announced on April 28, that a tentative
agreement covering 22,000 government service workers had been signed.
These workers were
the direct target of the government's anti-worker Bill 46, the Public Service Salary Restraint Act.
the courts that
it would not be proceeding with the appeal of the injunction AUPE was
against Bill 46. As Bill 46 applied only to AUPE and only for the
four-year period covered by the tentative agreement, it is effectively
dead once an agreement has been ratified.
now have a tentative agreement that
we can recommend to our members for ratification with our heads held
high," said AUPE President Guy Smith.
always preferred a negotiated
settlement to arbitration. A negotiated settlement allows our members
to exercise their right to vote on the terms of the agreement that will
directly affect their working lives for years to come," he said.
union's work is not finished. We
will be continuing our strong advocacy on the pension changes proposed
in Bill 9, and to undo the restrictions on members' freedoms in Bill
45, and more," said Smith.
9 still poses a significant threat
to our members' retirement security. [...] Similarly, Bill 45 [the Public Sector Services Continuation Act]
of expression and
association," Smith said.
are prepared to rebuild the
relationship with the government that's needed to ensure Albertans get
the quality services they deserve. Our members will be judging the
government on their actions, not their words," Smith emphasized.
to AUPE for defending
the rights of workers to decide, and refusing to accept the use of
force and violence by the state! Congratulations to all the workers and
their allies who have participated in this fight and who continue to
demand that Bills 45, 9 and 10 be withdrawn.
Workers and their allies have shown very clearly that
they are not going to stand for the use of force and violence in place
of good-faith negotiations. They have forced the government to back
down from its arrogant stand that it can abuse its power whenever it
pleases and no one can hold it to account.
the terms of Bill
46, the Public Service Salary
Restraint Act (PSSRA) the option of compulsory arbitration was
removed and the government
decreed that the 2011 agreement would remain in place until 2017 with
no increases for wages and benefits in the first two years and
a 1 per cent increase in each of the last two years, plus a lump sum
payment of $875.00 for eligible employees prorated for part-time
union challenged the
legislation and won an injunction. Justice Thomas gave a scathing
indictment of the legislation, concluding that "Alberta" did not meet
its obligation to bargain in good faith. The PSSRA, he writes, creates
a monologue where salaries are
negotiations and government unilaterally dictates the employment terms
of its members. Changes to the 2011 agreement, which were agreed upon
during negotiations for a new collective agreement, are erased by
imposing the 2011 collective agreement.
Thomas writes, "What
is particularly concerning is the uncontested fact that Alberta and
AUPE had come to meaningful agreements on certain issues during
collective bargaining, but rather than respecting those points of
common ground, Alberta has by legislation 'wiped the slate clean' when
imposed all terms from the 2011 Collective Agreement. This raises the
question of whether those negotiations were ever conducted in good
faith, or were merely camouflage for a different agenda."
injunction meant that AUPE
could proceed to arbitration but the resulting settlement would not be
enforced until after all legal proceedings were concluded. The Alberta
Court of Appeals was set to hear arguments from the government and the
union when the government gave notice that it would adjourn
provides a lump sum payment of $1,850 to eligible employees as of
ratification (pro-rated for part-time) covering April 1, 2013 to April
1, 2014 and on-the-grid
salary increases of
6.75% over the next three years as follows:
1 2014 = 2% to wage grids
1 2015 = 2.25% to wage
1 2016 = 2.5% to wage
on leave are not
eligible for the lump sum payment.
informs, "Other key
changes improve shift and weekend differentials, weekend premium and
overtime for Subsidiary Agreements #2, #3, and #6 to match provisions
in the other Subsidiary Agreements."
18, Shift Differential
- Upon ratification:
to 11:00 pm = $2.75
to 7:00 am = $5.00
18A, Weekend Premiums
- Upon ratification the weekend will start Friday at 3:00 pm and end
Monday at 7:00 am; the rate will be increased to $3.25.
29, Grievance Procedure
- Members will now be able to pursue harassment and discrimination
issues to level 3.
36A, Christmas Closure
- additional days off due to closure of government offices and
non-essential operations when Christmas falls on:
or Monday -- 2 days
to Saturday -- 3 days
37, Annual Vacation
- Improvements to the accrual rates for annual vacation as
- All newly hired employees receive 5 days
vacation on hire;
- After 5 years of service get 20 days;
- After 13 years of service get 25
- After 21 years of service get 30 days;
- After 30 years of
entitlement is now
earned monthly and can be utilized as earned.
Another notable change involves improvements
clothing and high rigging allowances.
Big Gains for Energy Monopolies, More
Demanded of Workers
Defeat the Anti-Social Agenda!
government keeps claiming a need for "austerity" due to the "struggles"
of the energy monopolies to make profits. It uses this disinformation
as an excuse to underfund health care, education and other social
programs and to put pressure on workers to agree to concessions on
benefits, and pensions.
the 2013 provincial budget,
the amount of revenue the government claimed from the energy sector
generally, and on the specific monopolies allowed to operate in
Alberta, was reduced by about $4 billion or more than 35 per cent
to the previous year.
of austerity in the
economy and the struggles of monopolies for profit were excuses to
lower government claims on what it calls "non-renewable resource
revenue." The amount the government claimed in budget 2014 on
non-renewable resource revenue was increased but is still almost 20 per
the 2012 amount.
found in the business
pages expose the self-serving lies that the energy monopolies are
struggling. A blatant example is the continually improving
profitability of the oil sands' monopoly, Suncor. Suncor has just
reported a first quarter 2014 financial result (January-March), which
is its best on record. Revenue
jumped 5 per cent compared to the same period in 2013 and 3 per cent
compared to the previous quarter (October-December
2013). Cash flow from
Suncor operations, a broad measure of an energy company's financial and
operating performance, shot up 26 per cent compared to last year and 23
per cent compared to the previous quarter.
was left with a
declared equity profit of $1.5 billion or $1.01 per common share, an
increase of 36 percent year over year, and a massive 250 per cent
increase quarter over quarter. These results were achieved despite
daily overall crude production falling by
8.5 per cent for the first quarter 2014 when
compared to the first quarter 2013 and by 2.3 per cent compared to
the previous quarter. Even though its oil sands production declined,
profits increased. This indicates how the fortunes of energy monopolies
are closely tied to the realized prices of their commodities and how
much individual Canadians and businesses
eventually have to pay. It shows also the necessity for conscious
intervention and control of a public authority on the setting of prices
and selling of energy resources domestically and abroad. Public control
over the wholesale distribution of natural resources and their prices
of production is necessary and in the
public interest. This would stabilize the resource extraction economy
and open some space in the fight to humanize it. Public control over
the wholesale market would also put an end to such excuses for
austerity such as the government's cries of a "bitumen bubble" for
which Albertans are supposed to suffer.
also reported specific
improved earnings from its oil sands and refining business sectors for
the quarter. It set a daily production record for synthetic crude of
312,200 barrels. On the open market at this time, synthetic crude has a
lower price differential to West Texas Intermediate than heavy crude
bitumen, making its production an important source of revenue for the
Suncor increased its
return on capital employed (ROCE) for the fifth successive quarter to
12.6 per cent, a 5.5 per cent increase over the same period in 2013 and
a 1.1 per cent increase compared to the previous quarter. ROCE
indicates the performance of a company's capital investments in
which declines over time as productivity innovations become widespread
in a sector amongst all competitors. Higher realized prices, for
whatever reason, play a leading role in countering the tendency of the
rate of return on capital employed to fall.
is in no way unique in
reporting such lucrative first quarter 2014 results. Other Alberta
energy monopolies including Imperial Oil, Cenovus, Nexen, and so on are
also showing gains in profit, according to their own just-released
Harper Henchman Vies for Leadership of
Harper's New Fifth Column Strategy in Alberta?
Prentice, member of the ruling elite and a former Harper government
Cabinet Minister, announced on
April 28 that he would run for leadership of the ruling Alberta
Progressive Conservative Party. The PCs will choose their new leader in
September. A long-time Harperite, Prentice supported the
Harper-led Reform/Canadian Alliance takeover of the old Conservative
was elected in the
Calgary Centre-North riding in the federal election of 2004. He has
been, in succession, Harper's Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs,
Minister of Industry, and Minister of the Environment. He is also Chair
of Harper's Advisory Committee on the Public Service, which has as
its main aims to reduce funding, cut services, downsize the work force,
and privatize and sell off public assets. As Minister of Industry, he
stonewalled anyone who questioned his position on digital rights
management, which was widely described as a blatant sellout to U.S.
is a key member of
the ruling corporate elite. He resigned his post as Harper's Minister
of Environment in January 2011 to become vice-president of the Canadian
Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC). CIBC financed Alberta oil sands giant
Husky Oil. At one time, Husky's owner, Li Ka Shing, was CIBC's
biggest shareholder. John Manley, CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief
Executives, is a board member of CIBC.
currently being promoted
as a "friend" of the Aboriginal peoples, Prentice, as Minister of
Indian Affairs, opposed the Tlicho land agreement
in the Northwest Territories. In March 2014, energy monopoly Enbridge
hired Prentice with the mission to try to gain Aboriginal support for
Northern Gateway Pipeline. Harper's National Energy Board agreed to the
$6.5-billion pipeline plan last year and the Prime Minister, who has
the final say, is slated to make a yes-or-no decision in June.
is also a director of
the monopolies Canadian Pacific, Bell Canada, and the Calgary-based
billionaire Mannix family's Coril Holdings, which operates in
railroads, oil and gas services and other industries. Prentice is a
member of the influential U.S.-based Trilateral Commission, founded by
banking oligarch David Rockefeller in 1973, which regularly brings
together leading capitalists from North America, Western Europe and
the previous Alberta
election, Prime Minister Harper appeared to ally himself with the
opposition Wildrose Party. Many politicians moved back and forth
between the two political parties. The Wildrose's campaign chairman was
U.S.-born Tom Flanagan, Harper's former number one political advisor,
has now fallen into disrepute. Vitor Marciano, a Wildrose candidate in
Alberta's so-called Senate election, was Chair of the National
Conservative Policy Committee from 2006-08, as well as campaign manager
for two of Harper's federal candidates, and a volunteer for the 2004
Harper leadership campaign. Two
former members of federal Conservative MP Rob Anders' advisory group,
Andrew Constantinidis and Tim Dyck were Wildrose election candidates.
Anders supported Harper's 2002 bid for leadership of the Canadian
Alliance Party. James Johnson, the former Alberta regional organizer
for the Harper Conservatives
became chief researcher for the Wildrose Legislative caucus, while
Candice Malcolm, once Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's
communications aide, tweeted for Wildrose.
the sudden resignation of
Alberta PC Premier Alison Redford, Harper seems to have changed his
strategy. Instead of linking up with Wildrose, he is now trying to put
his own man, Jim Prentice, directly at the head of the Alberta PCs. His
aim is still the same, to have a party in power in Alberta closely
allied to him to consolidate his dictatorship. This would be very
advantageous for Harper. Under Canada's Constitution, the federal and
provincial governments have exclusive jurisdiction over certain areas.
This division of powers can block the federal government from carrying
out certain policies because such
actions would violate the Constitution.
exercise control over the key area of social programs, e.g., health
care, education and social welfare. Should the Harper dictatorship wish
to privatize health care systems across the country, an allied Alberta
government could help in leading the way by enacting necessary
legislation. Another key area of provincial jurisdiction is Crown lands
and natural resources while the federal government holds jurisdiction
over interprovincial trade and transportation. This has a number of
important ramifications. One example relates to Alberta's abundant
water. Should the Harper dictatorship
wish to open the door to the inclusion of water in the NAFTA Agreement,
an allied Alberta government could establish that precedent by
authorizing Canada's first shipment of bulk water to the U.S. Besides
fresh water, the Alberta provincial government has jurisdiction over a
great deal of Canada's petroleum resources,
including the oil sands. Behind all the politicians vying for power and
influence in Alberta, the energy monopolies pull key strings.
dictatorship is more and more bringing Canada under U.S. control.
Although claiming that tough economic times mean restricting government
spending on the services Canadians require, Harper is handing over tens
of billions of dollars to monopolies involved in war of which energy
is closely related. Many federal projects are aimed at establishing an
integrated military system under the command of U.S. imperialism. Oil
is the world's most strategic military resource and the U.S. is
manoeuvring for a secure oil supply during periods not only of small
predatory wars but in preparation for a
major conflict with a big power. Canada is a primary option for a
secure source of oil.
The Alberta PCs are already known for their willingness
to sell-out the province to foreign and private interests, especially
in the U.S. However, it seems the Harper dictatorship would like a
provincial government more closely allied with it and the private
interests it represents to help streamline
the process of guaranteeing oil to U.S. imperialism, and in particular,
to the U.S. military to fuel their aggressive wars. With so much at
stake, it should surprise no one that the Harper dictatorship is
trying to establish a fifth column that it can more directly control in
Alberta by any means necessary.
Albertans Pay Their Respects on April 28
Step Up Organizing to Enforce
the Right to Safe and Healthy Working Conditions!
Alberta along with the rest of Canada paid its
respects on April 28, to workers killed and injured on the job. Local
labour councils organized ceremonies to mourn the dead and defend the
living in Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Hinton and Lethbridge.
Monument to Injured
Grant Notley Park, Edmonton.
April 28 is also an occasion to renew the
commitment of workers' collectives to organize all workers in the fight
to enforce the right to safe and healthy workplaces. Within this fight
to defend the rights of workers, the Workers' Opposition vows to hold
governments to account to take up their social responsibility
to end employer impunity with regard to working
conditions that endanger workers' lives and well-being.
During the past year, the Alberta government reports
that 188 workers died from workplace accidents or
occupational disease. As of April 28, 2014 not one charge has been laid
against employers for these deaths. In the last year, 99 workers died
from occupational disease,
52 from workplace incidents and 37 deaths from motor
vehicle collisions. The figure of 188 deaths does not include deaths of
farm workers since the government has irresponsibly stopped counting
As workers in Fort McMurray held ceremonies to
commemorate the Day of Mourning, the death of a second Suncor employee
this year brought renewed urgency to the call to make workplaces safe.
Forty-year-old Jerry Cooper, a tailings operator at Suncor was found
dead and submerged in
a pool of sand and water after he had
gone to investigate a pipeline leak this past January. Electrician
Shane Daye, 27-years-old, was killed April 20 in an area that contained
A focus of the Day of Mourning was the complete
lack of protection for Alberta farm workers. Then Premier Alison
Redford promised to include farm workers in Occupational Health and
Safety standards in 2011. Instead, in 2012 the Alberta
government simply stopped reporting farm worker deaths,
implying agricultural death, injury and illness is acceptable,
necessary and outside the purview of any public authority. In this
where an entire sector of the working class is condemned to civil
death, the PC government refuses to take up its social responsibility
to guarantee the right of Alberta's approximately
12,000 farm workers to safe and healthy working conditions. The
Workers' Opposition refuses to accept this retrogression and is
determined to change the situation.
Farm workers are denied even the most minimum
protections of a public authority. Alberta is the only province that
excludes industrial feedlots, grain operations, and other farm
workplaces from occupational health and safety laws, including the
right to refuse unsafe work. Alberta farm workers are also excluded
from mandatory Workers' Compensation Board coverage. They are also
excluded from employment standards regarding child labour, hours of
work, overtime, statutory holidays, and vacation pay. Within this
unjust situation, farm workers are denied the right to organize
themselves, such as in a union, to defend
life and limb, wages, benefits and general working conditions. These
medieval exclusions from civil society extend to migrant farm workers
who are amongst the most vulnerable. Federal government figures show
that in 2013 more than 3,000 temporary foreign workers worked on the
The ceremony organized by the Edmonton and
District Labour Council (EDLC) highlighted the plight of farm workers.
In 2006, farm worker Kevan Chandler was killed near High River,
Alberta. He was cleaning out a grain silo when the grain collapsed and
smothered him. His widow Lorna read a touching letter to
Kevan speaking of the family's life and loss after his death.
Kevan Chandler's death led to a Public Fatality
Inquiry conducted by Justice Peter Barley in 2008 but farm workers are
still denied their basic rights. Devin Yeager, a national
representative for United Food and Commercial Workers Union spoke of
Chandler's death and how the Alberta government has
permitted the agricultural monopolies to block any action to provide
protection for farm workers and prevent further deaths. Yeager's
remarks are posted below.
Tell the Alberta Government That Farm Workers
In 2006 I was working at Alberta
Calgary and one of my primary duties was working inside grain silos. I
also went to school in High River, so I remember hearing about Kevan
Chandler's death. We had a lot of discussion at work about the
different rules around going into grain
silos. In the non-agricultural sector we had a long list of rules under
Occupational Health and Safety [OH&S] that we had to follow. We had
to have a
lifeline, we had to have a spotter, we had to have oxygen testers, and
we had to have someone watching us the entire time. We had to have a
to us the entire time, and someone was on the other end of that rope,
so if anything happened he had to pull us out. There was a long
training we had to go through over a number of days about confined
space entry, and these are the things we had to go through to go into a
grain silo that if you
worked on a farm you would never have to do because those laws don't
Following the Fatality
Inquiry for Kevan Chandler,
Justice Barley made two recommendations. First, that the Alberta
government should include farm workers under the Occupational Health
and Safety legislation and second, that a farm safety committee should
be established to look at how
to make Alberta farms safe.
I was lucky enough to be the token labour
representative on that committee [the Farm Safety Advisory Council] and
I voiced my concerns and
labour's concerns on this important issue. Unfortunately, the heads of
large farming corporations like Agrium and
others were not very much interested in the rights of farm workers. I
was able to convince a number of people on the committee that the
legislation should be changed, and we had a lot of support on the
committee. Unfortunately, the way the Alberta government had to set it
up, it had to be unanimous.
So the recommendations which went to the Alberta
government were about voluntary programs, education. They sound great
and they are -- educating people about how to make farms safer is a
great thing. Unfortunately, there are people out there who willfully
disregard this and continue to
do so. I have dealt with a number of those situations through the
Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program down in southern Alberta. There
are a lot of small towns with a lot of migrant workers that do not have
any rights at all, are foreign to Canada and are only here for a
limited amount of time.
I went down to investigate a complaint that workers working in the
fields were eating lunch in the field and the farmer drove by in the
pesticide truck and sprayed the workers along with the crops. When we
called the Alberta government to complain, we were told that, "I'm
sorry, no law has been
broken because there is no law."
So how do we continue to run a program of
education about what is right and wrong when someone would willfully
know that that is wrong and they continue to do it. This is a problem
of the system that without some sort of stick, without some sort of
enforcement program, the best education
program in the world does not mean anything.
Just because the Alberta government stopped
counting [deaths, injuries and illnesses of farm workers], does not
mean that these workers do not count. These workers absolutely count
and we must tell the Alberta government that they absolutely must
continue to count. Alberta is the only province
in Canada where farm workers are excluded from four pieces of
legislation -- the Occupational Health and Safety Act
(OH&S), the Workers' Compensation Act,
aspects of the Employment Standards Act and the
right to join unions. It is disgusting, and I would
like to call on the Alberta government to change these laws -- make
OH&S is extended to include farm workers because this should no
longer happen. We are here to talk about the 188 workers that died, but
the government is no longer counting deaths of farm workers.
We must make sure all workers count. An injury to
one is an injury to all! Just because farm workers work in the fields
does not mean they are dirt!
Federation of Labour Calls for
Action on Worker Safety
Alberta Federation of
Labour (AFL) President Gil
took part in the
Edmonton District Labour Council's Day of Mourning ceremony on April
28. During the proceedings, McGowan
urged the government to use the current Employment Standards Review
to make the province's workplaces safer.
"Alberta is the only place
where we find so many exemptions and lack of safety inspections,
enforcement, or prosecutions. There is more impunity in this province
than anywhere else in Canada. It is the best place in Canada for
employers to get away with unsafe work, and remains one of the most
dangerous places in Canada to be a worker," McGowan said.
The AFL has a ten-point
plan for worker
safety, which includes more resources for prosecutions,
administrative fines with teeth, posting safety records online, joint
worker-employer health and safety committees, eliminating child labour
in mainstream workplaces, covering farm workers under occupational
health and safety standards, an inquiry into workplace carcinogens and
occupational disease, more resources for targeted inspections and
enforcement in dangerous industries, ending bonuses to WCB workers for
denying claims, and increasing WCB premiums in dangerous industries.
The AFL pointed out that Alberta is the
only province where children from 12 - 14 can work in restaurant and
retail jobs, where industrial feedlots, grain operations, and other
farm workplaces are excluded from Occupational Health and Safety
Standards, and without mandatory joint worker-employer health
and safety committees.