Labour unrest to be expected if province proceeds with ‘Wisconsin-style’ labour law changes: Union leaders united in condemning biased and secretive process

Alberta is heading for unprecedented workplace unrest if the province proceeds with a biased and secretive review of the Labour Code, union leaders warned today.

"The changes being proposed in the government's review of the code are an unjustified attack on unions and hundreds of thousands of working Albertans," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), which represents 145,000 workers.

The executive council of the AFL meeting today in Calgary issued a joint statement calling on the current premier and the new premier to stop the Labour Code review initiated in the summer by Employment and Immigration Minister Thomas Lukaszuk.

About two dozen union leaders will present a copy of the joint statement to Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Gary Mar's campaign headquarters at 4340 Macleod Trails South, Calgary, at 3:00 p.m. today (Wednesday).

The statement says: "As representatives of many of Alberta's largest unions, we are truly proud of the important role that our members play every day in building the Alberta economy. We consider ourselves partners in the project of building a broadly shared prosperity in Alberta: a prosperity that benefits individuals, families and communities along with businesspeople and investors. We agree that the government should strive for a stable labour relations climate in Alberta. But stability comes from good and productive relations between workers and employers – and good and productive relations are based on respect. Unfortunately, the current review process is neither fair nor respectful. It needs to be scrapped."

Representatives of all the unions on the AFL's executive council unanimously condemned the Labour Code review process as "biased, unfair and perhaps even unconstitutional."

"The review was launched at the behest of a coalition of anti-union employers; the terms of the review were set by this group; all of the changes under consideration are union-busting measures, and the lawyer appointed to lead the review has a long history of acting against unions," says McGowan. "While those who sought the review claim it is under the guise of making the construction industry more competitive, the truth is the complete opposite. They are asking the government to take sides and give an unfair advantage to them in competing against employers who work with traditional unions. The ramifications of these changes would affect all workers in the province, not just construction workers," he says.

"Albertans will not stand idly by while the provincial government embarks on a U.S. Tea-Party inspired, Wisconsin-style attack on workers and the middle class who have built this province. The government should expect a Wisconsin-style response from Alberta workers," says McGowan.

The joint statement says: "The review as currently designed is the very antithesis of a fair and balanced process. We would go so far as to say that it is a 'kangaroo court,' not befitting any government in a country with strong democratic tradition like Canada."


MEDIA CONTACT: Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888

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