CUPE Alberta President Marle Roberts used her convention report to outline her prescriptions for Alberta’s ailing economy.
Roberts called on the Notley NDP government to continue efforts to diversify Alberta’s economy from its reliance on oil and gas.
“The price of oil goes up and down. It’s a boom and bust industry. And during the busts, Alberta has few other industries to soften the blow,” said Roberts.
Roberts pointed to many opportunities for new industy in Alberta including “development of renewable energy resources like wind and solar and the development of value added industries that turn oil products into gasoline, plastics and other products ready for the market.”
Roberts blasted opposition Conservative and Wildrose politicians for calling for cuts to public services and the wages of people who provide them.
“The Opposition would have you believe that at a time when people are losing their jobs, the government should freeze wages and lay off public sector workers,” said Roberts. “At this time, we need public services now more than ever. Taking thousands of public servants out of employment will make a bad situation much, much worse.”
Roberts indicated that with an NDP government, labour has a more respectful role in the corridors of power, and indicated that while bargaining was going to be hard as long as oil prices were low, “we are bargaining with a government that respects contracts.”
“The NDP government is listening to what CUPE has to say, and respecting our opinions.”
Roberts pointed to a number of long standing CUPE issues that have been addressed since the NDP came to power, including the cancellation of a hospital lab privatization project, an increase to the minimum wage, a freeze on tuition rates, fairer taxes for middle income earners, and better funding for health care and education.
However, Roberts said there was more for CUPE to accomplish, including winning more control over pension plans and better conditions in Alberta’s seniors care homes.
“Alberta seniors care is still a mess after many years of mismanagement,” said Roberts. “There is a desperate need for more public long term care spaces. Seniors are taking up expensive beds in hospitals because of the lack of space. Among the facilities we do have, there needs to be more staff, better paid staff, and better funded facilities.”