The Reason for the Labour Code Amendments: Rewarding Your Friends



    Bill 26 is a "gift" to the Merit Contractors and other Anti-Union Groups,
    says AFL

    EDMONTON, June 3 /CNW/ - A day after the government tabled its
anti-worker Bill 26: The Labour Relations Amendment Act, Albertans are
wondering what would motivate such a blatant attack on
constitutionally-protected rights. The answer, says the AFL, is the Bill is a
reward for the Conservatives' friends in the anti-union Merit Contractors and
Progressive Contractors (PCAC) Associations.
    "Not many Albertans know who the Merit Contractors or the Progressive
Contractors associations are," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "They have a
knack for staying below the radar somewhat. Yet, Albertans need to know they
are the driving forces behind the anti-worker Bill tabled in the Legislature
yesterday."
    "These changes didn't just come out of nowhere, and they weren't cooked
up in the 2 months since the election," observes McGowan. "Merit and PCAC have
been lobbying for these changes for years. And they finally got their
Christmas morning."
    "This Bill is about rewarding your friends in the construction industry
at the expense of fairness and the well-being of thousands of construction
workers."
    Merit and PCAC are both organizations founded on the principle of "open
shop", which is a model of labour relations which downplays unions and
enhances employer rights. Both organizations have a long track record of
taking anti-union stands on policy issues. Many of their members are
well-connected in the Conservative party - including some who were
instrumental in the defeat of MLA David Eggen in Edmonton Calder this spring.
    Merit has been lobbying for restrictions on salting and MERFs for a
decade. In a 2002 report called "Building A Labour Relations Code for the 21st
Century", Merit directly calls for the amendments in the legislation. On
MERFs: "One of the more insidious strategies to emerge in Canada...is
so-called market enhancement recovery funds." (p. 32) On salting: "some unions
are perverting these protections through an organizing tactic...called
'salting'." (p. 27)
    In its explanation for the Bill, Employment and Immigration Minister
Hector Goudreau pointed to a 2004 report examining labour relations in the
construction industry. The report has two recommendations - identical to the
provisions in Bill 26. The committee consisted of three Conservative MLAs, a
representative from the Merit Contractors and a representative from the
Building Trades Council. (The Building Trades representative wrote a
dissenting report opposing both recommendations.)
    One of the MLAs, Brent Rathegeber, went on to become the Director for the
Progressive Contractors Association after his defeat in 2004. PCAC is now
headed by former Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) Director Co
Vanderlaan. CLAC is infamous in construction for its employer-friendly,
collaborationist approach to unionism (so-called "alternative unionism").
    "This bill is not about levelling playing fields, it is about handing a
big stick to the most rabidly anti-union employers in the construction
industry," McGowan concludes.





For further information:

For further information: Gil McGowan, AFL President at (780) 483-3021
(office) or (780) 218-9888 (cell)

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Alberta Federation of Labour

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