Labour Bytes: June 2015





AFL urges bold action on Minimum Wage

Edmonton — The province’s largest labour organization is urging the government to take bold action in helping the province’s lowest-paid workers. 

Despite the fact that the province is the engine of Canada’s economy, and often has an overheated economy, the minimum wage remains the lowest in the country. Currently, Alberta’s minimum wage is $10.20. Premier Rachel Notley has promised to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour within three years. 

“I’m not convinced that a minimum wage of $15 is enough in Alberta, and I’m certainly not convinced that three years from now is soon enough for Albertans,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “Our lowest-paid workers have been waiting too long for action on the minimum wage. I’ll be pressing the premier for faster and more decisive action.”

While Alberta’s minimum wage remains $10.20, some restaurants are allowed to pay employees who serve liquor as little as $9.20. The Alberta Federation of Labour will ask the premier to close that loophole.

“A two-tiered minimum wage is a terrible idea. It’s a loophole that we’ve seen exploited, and abused,” McGowan said. “A $10.20 minimum wage is bad enough. But if you’re paying a worker $9.20 in this economy … that’s exploitation.”

In today’s dollars, Alberta’s minimum wages were significantly higher in the late 1970s than they are now. Accounting for inflation, the minimum wage of $3.00 in 1977 had the equivalent buying power of more than $12 today.

“Once this higher minimum wage is in place, we need to make sure it keeps up with inflation,” McGowan said. “Although over the past five years, we’ve seen slight annual adjustments to reflect inflation, those increases only started out once we had a minimum wage that was far too low.”

Alberta unions urge action on gas station safety

In the wake of the senseless death of Maryam Rashidi, a gas station attendant in Calgary, the leaders of many of Alberta’s largest unions are calling‎ on Rachel Notley’s NDP government to move quickly to introduce a “pay-before-you-pump” law, similar to the laws in place in BC and other provinces.

At a meeting on June 11, of the Alberta Federation of Labour’s Executive Committee, the presidents of dozens of private and public-sector unions voted unanimously in support of a motion calling on the Notley government to implement a four-part workplace safety plan for gas stations.

“British Columbia enacted pay-before-you-pump legislation after a similar tragedy a decade ago, but Alberta’s Tory premiers didn’t have the guts to stand up to industry lobbyists,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “With a new government, we’re hopeful that there will finally be a willingness on the part of our elected representatives to enact a pay-at-the-pump law in Alberta and other measures designed to ensure the safety of gas station attendants.”

The AFL’s recommendation to the Alberta government includes the following four proposals:

  1. Introduce a “pay-before-you-pump” law that would require customers to pre-pay or pay at the pump before they can pump gas.

  2. Introduce regulations making it mandatory for gas station employers to provide their employees with training about how to deal with robberies and gas-and-dash situations. This training must make it clear that money lost from gas-and-dash robberies (or any other kind of robberies) will not be deducted from an employee’s paycheque.

  3. Introduce regulations that require gas stations to have more than one person on duty on night shifts, when robberies and violent attacks are most likely. If the employer insists on having only one staff member on duty, that staff member must work in a locked area, behind bullet-proof glass.

  4.  Launch an investigation to determine whether or not Centex told Ms. Rashidi that money lost from gas-and-dash robberies would be deducted from her paycheque. If it is determined that Centex, in contravention of Alberta law, gave these instructions, the government should prosecute the company and the local gas station manager under both the Occupation Health and Safety Code and the Criminal Code.

“If a gas station attendant thinks they’re going to be on the hook for the cost of lost fuel, they’re likelier to take risks in chasing down thieves,” McGowan said. “The province should mandate safety training for gas station attendants — so they know they won’t face any penalty for money lost due to robberies.”

Premier pledges democratic reform in throne speech

In her first speech from the throne, Premier Rachel Notley announced legislation to take union and corporate donations out of provincial politics.

The measures were promised during the election campaign, but confirmed Monday in the speech from the throne, which revealed the government’s agenda for the short spring session set to last about two weeks. The legislation will be enacted retroactive to June 15, the day of the throne speech.

“Huge corporate donations have allowed big companies to buy influence and set the agenda under successive PC governments. This was one of the big reasons the PC agenda was so out of step with public opinion,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “Corporate donations always dwarfed union contributions, and corporatist parties were able to outspend other parties by orders of magnitude. This change levels the playing field and makes individual citizens more important – which is as it should be.”

Additionally, it was announced in the Throne speech that Bill 2 would increase corporate taxes from 10 to 12 per cent. This fulfills another NDP campaign promise.

“Alberta has the lowest corporate taxes in the country. We haven’t been asking profitable megacorporations to pay their fair share, and because of that, we have struggled to provide the quality public services Albertans rely on,” McGowan said. “This two per cent increase isn’t some abstract thing; it’s medical professionals for when people are sick, it’s schools for our kids, its wildlife officials, its all the things that make a province a good place to live.” 


Did you know

  • As recently as 2000, Alberta’s corporate taxes were 15 per cent – significantly higher than they will be even after the NDP government’s planned increase.


  • According to Statistics Canada, last year’s low-income cut-off was $23,861 per year for a single person — that’s a threshold where someone earning less than that figure is in dire poverty.


  • At the current minimum wage, someone working full time all year, taking no days off, no vacations, earns $18,564.


Urgent Action

Build: A free concert for jobs, justice and the climate

A free concert featuring The SADIES, the Awesome Hots
, Mat Elias
, Cayley Thomas and Mountain Soul.

Saturday, July 4, 2015
11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Alberta Legislature Band Shelter (10800 97 Ave NW, Edmonton)

To celebrate the power of renewables and demand action on the climate.

Facebook Event:

Link to AFL events calendar


  • July 1: Canada Day
  • July 4: Build Concert
  • August 3-7: AFL Kids' Camp


July 23, 2015

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