Workers demand more rights
Unions say Alberta is far beyond other provinces when it comes to workers' interests
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Albertans rallied at the steps of the legislature on Sunday to demand the government strengthen the labour code and give workers more rights.
The Government of Alberta is currently reviewing both the Employment Standards Code and the Labour Relations Code.
The rally was intended to pressure the government to bolster the legislation so it gives workers more flexibility and makes it easier to unionize and bargain collectively, said Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan.
“The biggest single problem with the Employment Standards Code has to do with enforcement,” McGowan said. “Our Employment Standards Code simply has no teeth.”
He said it’s rare for the government to prosecute employers for Employment Standards Code violations, and that Alberta is “far outside the Canadian mainstream” when it comes to issues such overtime pay, vacation entitlements and job-protected leave.
Unifor union member Don Boucher said he came to the rally because he believes the Labour Relations Code in its current form is too restrictive.
“With the labour law today, we have to jump through so many hoops before we can actually go on strike,” he said. “So if you’re dealing with an unreasonable employer, it’s not a level playing field.
One item the rally took aim at was the practice of ‘double-breasting’, which allows companies to open a spin-off company that operates with non-unionized employees.
Workers in attendance also condemned the card check system to organize a union, because it allows employers to see which workers want to be represented.
“Alberta has the worst labour legislation in the country, bar none … We need to make organizing in this province easier and streamlined with the rest of Canada,” said attendee Sue Pearce, also with Unifor.
United Nurses of Alberta member Jennifer Castro said she was there to stand up for workers' basic rights, such as the ability to take time off to visit a sick loved one without the worry of losing their job.
“We’re not here just for unions. For myself, it’s just for the regular working person.”