Next Election, Workers are demanding better

The United Conservative Party will select its new leader this week, and we are now only a few months away from the next provincial election. As candidates start to test out their vote pitches for the election campaign, one thing is clear – most of them are not really thinking about Alberta workers.

Representing 28 affiliated trade unions and over 170,000 unionized workers across the province, the Alberta Federation of Labour believes this needs to change! As workers, we built this province, and we work hard every day to keep it running. We matter, and we’re tired of politicians taking us for granted.

Working Albertans are fed up with politicians that say one thing but do another and leverage tensions to divide and distract us. We’re done with leaders that pretend to be on the side of workers and families while they make cuts to our community services and roll back our workplace rights.

We Know Better is Possible

Rather than waiting to hear what politicians have to say to us, we need to tell them what WE expect from them.

If they want our votes, they’re going to have to earn them. We know that better is possible, and we’re not going to settle for less.

These are the things Alberta workers are demanding:

We Need Good Jobs in a New Economy

Working people fought hard to protect Albertans throughout the pandemic. We deserve to be at the forefront of Alberta’s economic recovery, and we know that the same old approaches won’t work. Our future prosperity depends on us preparing for the changes we’re seeing in the global economy.

That means making sure investments in infrastructure and incentives for industry actually lead to jobs, not just corporate profits. It means low-carbon projects so workers can build a strong economy and a clean environment. It also means re-tooling our energy economy for a low-carbon future by shifting the focus towards manufacturing and innovation. These approaches can help create thousands of good jobs for Alberta workers in a new and more diversified economy.

Fighting Inflation

Too many workers are struggling to pay for gas, rent, and groceries and are living paycheque to paycheque. The cost of living keeps rising – with increases to insurance premiums, student interest rates, provincial fees, and utilities becoming unmanageable for many Albertans. Our politicians have failed to address the problem. Working families have watched the massive inequality gap in our province grow even wider.

That is why we are demanding better wages and benefits that will make life more affordable for workers. We want to see Alberta’s political parties commit to an excess profits tax that would penalize corporations – especially oil and grocery companies – for price gouging. For too long, companies have been allowed to increase prices above what’s necessary to cover costs and turn a profit. It’s time they pay what they owe and charge only what is fair.

Investing in Alberta’s Public Services

Public services provide immense value to working Albertans. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that quality public services are not a luxury; they’re a necessity.

Unfortunately, the current Alberta government seems to have forgotten the value of public services and in some cases, has even worked to undermine them.

Alberta workers recognize the invaluable contributions that public services make to our economy and society, and we understand the risks of taking them for granted. We are demanding that the brunt of the costs be taken off of working families. Hard working middle class Albertans pay far higher tax rates than profitable corporations. It’s time the wealthy class pays for their share of the infrastructure and quality public services that our province needs.

We demand that public services remain public – both in terms of funding and delivery. We are calling for an end to the fight with doctors, nurses, teachers, and other public sector workers, and to properly compensate the hard-working people who serve the needs of Albertans every day in the care economy.

Strengthening Workers’ Rights

From Lethbridge to Fort McMurray and everywhere in between, working Albertans are standing up to employers and the government to demand better. Even though current provincial labour laws are acting as barriers for workers, Albertans are organizing and joining unions, with young people often leading the way.

Instead of welcoming this momentum, employers and the provincial government have been trying to prevent workers from standing up for fair wages, better working conditions, and more respect on the job.

Alberta’s Employment Standards Code is not well enforced and employers often get away with cheating workers on their paycheques. Similarly, current legislation has given employers the right to force workers to work overtime or face penalties.

These realities show there is a real need for a better deal for workers. To get it, working Albertans are demanding improved access to collective bargaining and union representation for ALL workers. We want to see the next government introduce one-step certification for unionization drives, and we want the government to prosecute employers who are found guilty of wage theft. Alberta workers are also demanding an immediate ban on forced overtime in this province, as well as standardizing the work week at 40 hours – the same as other provinces.

The Time to Deliver is Now

Make no mistake: the time for putting up with less for working class people is over. This is our moment, and we must use it to strengthen our voices and influence in decisions throughout Alberta. Workers demand better, and if politicians want our votes in the upcoming election, they need to show us they can deliver for working Albertans.

In solidarity,

Gil McGowan

President, Alberta Federation of Labour