View Full Version : ‘Unprecedented’ labour campaign gearing up: union head

24-09-2007, 10:27 PM
‘Unprecedented’ labour campaign gearing up: union head
Oil royalties, processing at the fore

Mon, September 24, 2007
By JEREMY LOOME, Legislature Bureau

Labour unrest and random acts of picketing? That’s just for starters, folks.

Alberta’s frustrated trade unions are planning an ‘unprecedented’ election-time publicity campaign that will include regular displays of their unease with provincial labour legislation, the head of the federation of labour said today.

It’s aimed at getting major changes to legislation so that workers can strike effectively — both through increased voting power and protective legislation like banning replacement workers.

And it will tackle the slippery issue of oil royalties head on, with the unions saying they’ll endorse candidates who think jobs processing bitumen should stay in Alberta, said Gil McGowan.

The campaign has a kickoff fund of $200,000 and will be building that over the next few months, he noted. The government is expected to call an election either late this year or early next.

“Our theme at our convention earlier this year was ‘this is our time’ and we really think that this time it is,” said McGowan, whose Alberta Federation of Labour was joined by the Alberta Buildings and Trades Council last week in denouncing approval of a bitumen pipeline to the U.S.

“We’ve committed to an unprecedented political action campaign in advance of the election with a focus on lobbying government members and the other parties to embrace an oilsands policy that keeps jobs in Alberta.”

They’ve already written to Premier Ed Stelmach, telling him that he could follow up on his Tory leadership race promise to fight raw bitumen exports by quickly endorsing in its entirety a report that suggests Alberta double its take in income from the oilsands. The plan also includes tax credit proposals for industries that want to refine bitumen in Alberta.

But they’ll also be going after the provincial Liberals, who have suggested Alberta share the inevitable growth in bitumen upgrading with other provinces.

“It’s nice in theory,” said McGowan, “but how would it work? As it stands right now there are no major east-west pipelines in Canada that would be capable of handling it. So if we wanted to send bitumen to, say, Sarnia – which is already a refining centre – we’d have to pipe it down to the U.S. and then back to Canada again.”

Veteran Tory Denis Herard isn’t running again after 15 years in office, but offered some advice for incoming rookie politicians: take the campaign with a grain of salt.

“I look at Alberta over the last 15 years and we’ve had more or less a peaceful environment for that time,” he said. “I don’t know that labour legislation needs to be fixed if it’s working.”

And if labour legislation is unfair to unions, said Herard, making a lot of noise about it isn’t the way to pursue change, because it turns people off as quickly as strikes or lockouts.

“We’re in the 21st century and I think unions in Alberta have done good job of looking after the interests of their members,” he said. “But maybe it’s time we all found another way to sit down and work these things out without the continual threats of strikes or lockouts.”