Unions create website urging Albertans to `stand up to Kenney’

Alberta union leaders want the public to sign up to protest actions by Premier Jason Kenney’s government through potential rallies and demonstrations and, if necessary, province-wide general strikes.

Buoyed by Monday’s walkout by some of the province’s health-care support workers, representatives from the Alberta Federation of Labour (ALF), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), United Nurses of Alberta (UNA), Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) and the U of A Non-academic Staff Association (NASA) launched a website asking Albertans to “pledge” online to “stand up to Kenney.”

“By taking the pledge people will be indicating that they’re ready to take part in province-wide protest actions,” said AFL president Gil Mcgowan at a news conference Wednesday.

“These protest actions will include rallies, demonstrations — both in person and online — and they may include work-related protests like workplace strikes and even a province-wide general strike.”

Mcgowan said the unions are not calling for specific actions today but are preparing a list of concerns and will be taking them to the government in an attempt to start negotiations. He said in-person action wouldn’t begin until it can be done safely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The unions’ complaints run the gamut from the government’s decision to cut nearly 11,000 jobs in health care, the privatization of laboratories and cuts to post-secondary education.

“In a nutshell, we’ve come to the conclusion that we have no choice but to fight Jason Kenney. And we’re asking all Albertans to join us,” Mcgowan said.

“The premier wants to frame opposition to his government as a battle between the UCP and so-called union bosses and union NDP surrogates. But the truth is that the UCP has picked fights with an unprecedented number of individual Albertans regardless of their political stripe.”

The move comes after support staff walked off the job at Alberta hospitals on Monday. The job action was declared illegal by the Alberta Labour Relations Board and those workers were ordered back to work.

For his part, UCP house leader Jason Nixon called the unions’ move “outrageous.” He said the government was prepared for illegal strikes and would take “the appropriate action when necessary.”

He called on the NDP and Leader Rachel Notley to denounce the actions of the AFL, which has organizational ties with the party.

“There needs to be clear statement from the official Opposition that they’re not calling for illegal strikes and that they don’t support this behaviour,” he said Wednesday.

Notley did not expressly take a side when it comes to possible future illegal wildcat strikes, saying that she hopes people can find a way to express their opinions safely.

“I don’t want to see the kind of disruption that hurts Albertans as a whole, but I also note that this government is the one that is ultimately responsible for what comes because they are not listening,” she said.