June 2012: Party of the Century; Harper attacks workers' wages; AB government low-wage agenda; oil-sands debate

Thousands of union supporters to gather for Centennial celebration

  • More than 3,000 supporters of the labour movement will converge on Fort Edmonton Park tomorrow (Saturday, June 16) to celebrate 100 years of union victories in Alberta. "Much of what makes this province a great place to work, to live and to raise our families has been brought to us by union members," says Gil McGowan, president of the AFL, which celebrates its centennial this year. For more about the day, click here. Click here to see the lineup of events.

Harper government launches attacks on workers' wages

  • A number of federal government initiatives revealed the Harper government has embarked on a campaign to drive down wages in Canada. These include new rules that would make it easier for employers to hire temporary foreign workers and to pay them 15 per cent less than the prevailing wage rate in the area. For more information ... The federal Tories will also change Employment Insurance rules to force Canadians to accept low-wage jobs - for more information ...

Alberta government's low-wage agenda continues

  • The federal Tory government is not alone in its low-wage policies. Despite announcing a raise in the province's minimum wage, the Alberta government kept its rate as the second lowest in Canada, despite the wealth in the province and the high cost of living here. To make matters worse, in a blatant case of spin-doctoring, the Alberta Tories tried to make the small raise look better than it really was. For more information ...

AFL president praises Mulcair for igniting oil-sands debate

  • While right-wing media went into attack mode against federal NDP Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair after he talked about the dangers posed to the Canadian economy by an overheated oil-sands industry, the AFL came to his defence. AFL president Gil McGowan said Mulcair should be thanked for igniting a long-overdue debate about the appropriate pace of development in the oil sands. "The oil sands are crucially important to the economy. That's why we can't afford to get it wrong. And we are getting it wrong," says McGowan. The wild-west pace of development in the oil sands is driving up the Canadian dollar, creating a labour shortage, driving up costs for business, and creating an unbalanced economy. Government failure to capture appropriate royalties makes the situation worse. For more information ...

Urgent Action

$5 tickets for Party of the Century still available!- After 100 years of fighting for workers' rights, tomorrow (Saturday, June 16) we party, party, party! Thanks to generosity of our affiliated unions and the City of Edmonton, there are still some tickets available at the greatly reduced price of only $5. That's right – only $5 per person for a while day of fun at Fort Edmonton Park, from the parade in the morning, musical performances by award-winning singers and musicians throughout the day, kids' games, crafts and the AFL's undelegated convention. Tickets are available at the park. Free shuttle buses are also available.


June 21: National Aboriginal Day

July 1: Canada Day

July 2: International Day of Co-operatives

July 10: World Population Day

July 18: Nelson Mandela International Day

August 6-10: AFL Kids' Camp

August 6: Civic Day

August 8: International Day of the World's Indigenous People

August 11: International Youth Day

Did you know ...

Top 10 Ways a Wild West pace of oil-sands development hurts Alberta workers, families and the economy.

  1. The Three Stooges problem: When everybody rushes to get through a door at the same time, they all get stuck. That's what's happening with the oil sands.
  2. Cost escalation: A recent report showed oil-sands construction projects went over budget by an average of 100 per cent, but most of that increase was not due to rising wages, but to the rising cost of steel and productivity losses.
  3.  Temporary foreign workers: New rules allowing employers to pay TFWs 15 per cent less than the prevailing wage in the area will drive down wages for all workers. Relying too heavily on TFWs will mean we are squandering the opportunity to train a whole generation of skilled Canadian tradespeople.
  4. Remaking labour relations: Non-union employers are exploiting the oil-sands situation to push for changes to rules governing labour that include repealing the Fair Wages Act, changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program, changes to Employment Insurance and using back-to-work legislation to undermine collective bargaining.
  5. Shipping good jobs down the pipeline: We upgrade only 60 per cent of our raw bitumen in Alberta, but that level is set to fall to less than 50 per cent in the next few years. This means that the good, value-added upgrading jobs are being shipped down the pipeline to other jurisdictions, instead of being kept here.
  6. Manufacturing jobs take yet another beating: Cost escalation means more manufacturing for the oil sands will be "off-shored," meaning more good jobs lost in Alberta. Imperial Oil has already tried it at its Kearl Lake project and several big construction firms have already been approached by manufacturing outfits in Mexico.
  7. Albertans are being fleeced on royalties: Royalties are paid after energy companies pay their costs. So if costs are going up, it means that royalties will go down.
  8. The Wild Wes stampede to the oil sands hurts other sectors of the economy: The high Canadian dollar hurts Alberta manufacturers, as well as those in Ontario and Quebec. According to Alberta Finance's Monthly Economic Review, we lost 18,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector in the last year.
  9. We are an international embarrassment: If we allow the Wild West pace of development to continue, we will continue to be an international laughingstock on our environmental commitments. The only way to get serious about climate change, environmental monitoring, and enforcement is to appropriately pace development.
  10. We are failing the rest of the country: There are only three ways ordinary Canadians get their share of our collectively owned resource wealth jobs, wages and royalties. But as a result of the current model for development, increasing numbers of the short-term jobs are going to guest workers and more and more of the long-term jobs are going down the pipeline. Wages are being suppressed and royalties are being given away – all because the government doesn't want to take a leadership role in managing the pace of development.

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