Friday, October 19, 2007

AFL Demo Falls Flat On Its Face

Ouch. Suppose we called a demonstration and no one came?

The majority of the 15 workers that did show up were probably Wobblies who have been active on every wildcat picket line over this last month. Dual carders, folks who belong to both the IWW and their regular trade union. The IWW has been gaining support amongst the building trades union rank and file pissed off at their union's lack of democracy.

While the union bosses couldn't organize a rally, demo, or meeting bigger than a gathering in a phone booth, cause they are pork choppers, far removed from the rank and file. And when they do organize rallies its the paid union staff that show up.

This is not only disappointing but shows that the real resistance of the workers in Alberta not only to our bad labour laws, but to the Oil royalty rip off will be led by rank and file militants not the labour bureaucracy. That was what made last months wildcat actions successful. But as soon as the labour bureaucrats joined in well it died.

While the Oil Bosses bused in their workers and paid them to attend their Anti-Royalty Rally at the Leg on Wednesday the AFL's excuse is that their demo was poorly attended cause it was payday. Well that was a brilliant move wasn't it. The pork choppers don't even know when pay day is up in Fort McMurray. Or when shift changes occur. Talk about being out of touch. They should have just organized a counter demo in Edmonton instead.

Unions drive message home despite poor turnout

Fort McMurray Today staff
Friday October 19, 2007

It may have been a tiny crowd at a royalty rally for oilsands workers Thursday night but that didn’t undermine their support for changes to the current royalty system.
About 15 people attended the rally hosted by the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL). Gil McGowan, AFL president, wasn’t really surprised at the turnout given it was payday, and shift change day so many workers had already left town.
He explained the AFL went ahead with the meeting because of concerns Premier Ed Stelmach was going to announce his decision on the royalty panel recommendations today. That didn’t happen at press time; the premier is rumoured to have television airtime booked next Wednesday.
McGowan presented his top 10 reasons why big business won’t leave Alberta even though companies are “rattling their sabres” and threatening to pull out of the province.
“The oil is here. They’re going to stay here because there’s money to be made and there’s nowhere else to go,” stated McGowan. Other reasons included that oil companies have always known the government has the right to unilaterally raise royalties and companies are not going to turn their backs on billions of dollars of investments already made here.
He mentioned other jurisdictions like Alaska and Britain have increased royalty rates by as much as 80 per cent yet it hasn’t scared off investment. The royalty review panel is recommending a 20 per cent increase for Alberta.
McGowan pointed out some of the same companies threatening to leave Alberta continue to invest in Venezuela where royalties are higher than here and profit margins lower.
“We don’t have to be intimidated by the scare tactics being employed by big oil,” said McGowan.

While the premier is talking tough, there’s still a concern about closed door meetings between government and big oil companies, he said. Believing the companies are trying to intimate the government McGowan is urging workers and Albertans to tell their MLAs not to lose their nerve.
“We have to help them get the backbone they need to stand up to big oil,” he stated. “The time for accepting bargain basement royalties is over.” If government cows to oil companies, McGowan added Albertans can show their displeasure at the ballot box.
Petition letters to the premier available at the rally said the royalty report should be seen as a bare minimum for action. Anything less than that is a failure by government to stand up for the best interests of Albertans.
“Any effort to water down the recommendations would be a unnecessary capitulation to big oil,” said McGowan.
The local rally was held for workers in contrast to the one the day before at the legislature in Edmonton organized by business. Referring to that rally as a “paid political commercial brought to you by ownership,” Barry Salmon, an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) official, said owners are more interested in their own bottom line than the best interests of Albertans.
Salmon said the panel came up with a mediocre report that was already a compromise favouring big oil.
This was intended to set a marker so when government introduces its decision, it will be seen as a compromise. “Albertans will believe its acceptable because they will be told it’s a compromise between the royalty recommendations and big oil demands.
“We’re being had,” he said, adding Albertans are now involved in a shell game with the government and big oil.
As part of their scare tactics, oil companies are threatening some 19,000 jobs, said Mel Kraley, IBEW assistant business manager. Yet, he noted, there some 21,000 temporary foreign workers in Alberta. McGowan believes the number of workers is closer to 60,000.
Several workers in attendance took the opportunity to express their concerns.
Ron Davidovich said the government should “feel ashamed” for finally asking for royalty review. “We’ve got billions of dollars lost in this province,” he added at a time when seniors can’t get the care they need and are struggling on fixed incomes. The extra $2 billion from increased royalties could help seniors among other things, he said.
“As soon as we encroach on them (oil companies) ... we hear some nice stories,” said Roland Lefort, an official with the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers union.
He added when the Kyoto Accord was first introduced, oil companies bemoaned the financial hardship it would cause. As a result, “Albertans believed Kyoto was going to destroy the economy.” The royalty review is no different, Lefort said.
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