Alberta’s tumultuous politics and pressures on the province’s public sector pensions were highlights of CUPE Alberta President Marle Roberts’ report kicking off the 2014 Convention.
Roberts recapped the hopes Albertans had for the former Premier Allison Redford.
“She promised increased funding for education, she promised to not cut public services, she promised to stop the Wildrose Party from privatizing health care, and she reached out to public sector workers and asked for their support,” said Roberts. “All those promises have been broken.”
Attack on our pensions
Roberts outlined the biggest threat brought out by the broken promises of the Conservative government – the imposed cuts to pension plans of front line public employees.
“The average pension is $14,500. This is hardly the gold-plated pension conservatives talk about when they sneer at the public sector,” said Roberts. “The proposed changes to our plan will ensure our members retire in poverty. They will simply not have enough to live.”
Roberts did point out an opportunity to push back against the attacks, as the chaos in the Conservative government may buy some time for unions to keep pushing the issue.
“We still have opportunities to fight them on our pensions, and we will continue to fight. We won’t back down, and I know our members across the province stand with us to say no, you will not touch our pensions,” said Roberts.
Roberts urged CUPE members to talk to friends, family, and neighbours about how the pension cuts will hurt communities, not just our members.
“We need individual locals, and individual members to amplify our voices and make Conservative MLAs feel the pressure,” said Roberts.
Anti-union bills and privatization
Other topics in Roberts’ report included growing attempts to privatize health care services, and the Conservative government’s anti-union legislation – Bills 45 and 46 – and the threat they pose to workers in the province.
“These two bills have shown the contempt the Conservative government has for front-line public employees,” said Roberts.
While the threats were many, Roberts also touched on the good news the last year held for CUPE Alberta. This fall, several CUPE members and staff were elected to municipal councils across the province, ensuring a strong voice for workers in municipal politics.
Roberts also congratulated members for our remarkable response to flood relief efforts. CUPE Alberta, CUPE National and other regions, as well as locals contributed over $40,000 for members affected by the flood.
“I look forward to another high energy, busy year,” concluded Roberts. “Even when being attacked by our government – I’m in awe of how those attacks bring out the best in our members, and in our organization.”
Contact: Lou Arab