What Rachel Notley has done for Steelworkers?

premiernotleySince USW member Rachel Notley became Premier of Alberta in May 2015, there has been tremendous positive change for all working people.

Premier Notley has never forgotten who she is working for. After decades of right-wing, anti-worker governments, Alberta is making progress with a government that is on our side.

So what exactly have Premier Notley and the NDP done for Steelworkers?

Standing Up for Pipelines

USW members in Western Canada make the highest-quality steel pipe in the world, to the highest environmental standards – manufactured with a lower carbon footprint than imported products.

Rachel Notley has stood up to attacks on the Trans Mountain pipeline, standing with workers and calling on the federal government to ensure pipeline projects get built. She toured Tenaris Prudential Steel in Calgary in support of USW Local 7226 members and she supports our members at Evraz, too.

Updating Employment Standards

After decades of Conservative Party attacks on workers, Rachel Notley’s government made major improvements to Alberta’s Employment Standards Code, which had not been updated since 1988.

  • New leaves after 90 days of employment to support workers in unstable jobs.
  • Job protection extended to 27 weeks for workers needing leave to care for a loved one.
  • Parental leave extended to 62 weeks.
  • Workers are entitled to one 30-minute or two 15-minute breaks for every five hours worked. Previously there were no breaks under Alberta law.
  • People with disabilities are no longer treated as second-class workers; they are entitled to the same minimum wage as other workers.

The Alberta Employment Standards Code is now one of the strongest in Canada and will benefit all Albertans for generations to come.

Critical Investments

After decades of underfunding, Notley’s government has made critical investments in infrastructure, hospitals and education that will improve health care and Alberta’s competitive advantage. The government is reviewing procurement policies to ensure Albertans benefit from government spending.

Protecting Workers’ Health and Safety

Occupational Health and Safety Act changes include improvements to joint worksite health and safety committees, harassment and violence measures and strengthening the right to refuse dangerous work.

The purpose of the Workers’ Compensation Act was clarified and improvements made to the Workers’ Compensation Board, including:

  • Restoring a balance of representation at the board.
  • No earnings maximum for WCB benefits.
  • More autonomy for injured workers to choose medical providers.
  • When in doubt, claims are approved in favour of the worker, rather than rejected.

Supporting Unions

Alberta now has the most progressive labour code in Canada, following improvements including:

  • Amending the definition of ‘employee’ to allow contractors to unionize and bargain collectively.
  • Union certification if over 65% of employees sign cards. Employers won’t be given the chance to threaten their employees.
  • Facilitating a union’s ability to communicate with workers in remote or inaccessible locations.

All the progress made for Alberta workers and families will be on the line next May when Albertans go to the polls. Conservative leader Jason Kenney wants to move the province backwards to a time when workers’ issues did not matter. It will be up to Steelworkers to talk to our co-workers, families and friends to make sure Alberta continues to have a government that’s on our side.

This article appears in the November 2018 edition of USW@Work.

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