Concerns of working people ignored in reorganization scheme

EDMONTON - Working people in Alberta are being short-changed by a plan announced earlier today to re-organize government departments, says the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. Audrey Cormack says Premier Klein's plan to establish a new Human Resources and Employment department is "a slap in the face for working people."

"The Premier can go on as much as he likes about stream-lining government and preparing Albertans for the new millennium," says Cormack. "But the bottom line is that the concerns of working people are going to get lost in the shuffle within this new super-department."

According to the plan unveiled by Klein this afternoon, the new Human Resources and Employment department will take responsibility for issues previously handled by the Labour department, the Family and Social Services Department and the Career Development branch of the Economic Development department.

Cormack says the new "super department" will put labour programs in the awkward position of having to compete for resources with programs from the family and social services side of the department.

"There are more than one and half million Albertans who work for a living," says Cormack. "Workplace issues like health and safety and the administration of the Labour Code and the Employment Standards Code are so important that they clearly deserve to be handled in their own separate department."

Cormack says the only rationale given by the Premier to justify the re-organization is that it meshes with the government's promises about putting a higher priority on education and training. But Cormack says there is a lot more to labour issues than training.

"We in the labour movement support efforts to improve training for Albertans - in fact, we've been urging the government to invest more in education and apprenticeships for years," says Cormack.

"But the labour department isn't just about preparing people for work. It's also about promoting health and safety. It's about making sure workers know their rights. It's about protecting those rights in the workplace. And it's about making sure employers know and uphold the law. We're afraid that these issues are not going to get the attention they deserve in the new department."

For more information call:

Audrey Cormack, AFL President   @   483-3021(wk)/499-6530(cell)/428-9367(hm)

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