Alberta unions launch ‘resistance’ campaign against provincial budget cuts

Click to play video 'Alberta unions launch campaign against provincial budget cuts' Alberta unions launch campaign against provincial budget cuts
WATCH: The Alberta Federation of Labour launched a campaign on Tuesday, targeting the budget cuts proposed in the latest provincial budget. Michael King reports.

A collection of Alberta’s largest unions have launched an online campaign targeting the budget cuts put forward by the provincial government.

Union leaders and dozens of public sector workers gathered at the Engineered Air Theater in downtown Calgary Tuesday evening to kick off the campaign.

The main centrepiece is, a website that takes aim at Premier Jason Kenney.

The phrases “Join the Resistance” and “Resist Kenny’s Cuts” are featured on the site.

READ MORE: Alberta UCP asking arbitrators to cut public service pay by 2%

Along with signing up for the campaign, people can send a pre-written tweet to the premier.

“Jason Kenney, your cuts are bad for Alberta’s economy. #KenneysCuts  #Resistance #FightBack #ABleg,” reads the tweet.

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There are also several videos that speak directly to the premier and asking Albertans to stand up for public sector workers.

Visitors to the site are also urged to RSVP to several town halls and rallies planned for November and early December.

Who is behind the resistance?

The website is authorized by the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), but the organization said 29 unions have backed the campaign.

Gil McGowan, AFL’s president, said the campaign is essential in communicating union workers’ concerns with upcoming budget cuts.

“Cuts of the magnitude that Jason Kenney and the UCP are planning will take a weak economy that we have here in Alberta and knock it into recession,” McGowan said. “We think that the cut that they’re planning will result in the loss of more than 115,000 jobs in both the public and private sector.”

READ MORE: Alberta budget 2019 includes cuts to cities, civil servants, universities

McGowan said the goal of the campaign is to inform Albertan’s about the impacts of what he calls an austerity budget.

“We want to encourage people to actually look at what they bought when they voted for the UCP promises,” McGowan said.

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We will be encouraging people through our campaign to mobilize against what we would describe as an economy destroying agenda.

Kenney’s response

In an emailed response to Global News, spokesperson for the office of the premier Christine Myatt said “the AFL — a group legally entangled with the Alberta NDP and led by a failed NDP candidate — is wrong.”

“The budget speaks to reductions, which are nowhere near what the AFL is citing: ‘The size of Alberta’s public sector will be reduced by about 7.7 per cent over four years,'” Myatt said, referring to page 13 of the budget document.

Click to play video 'How does the Alberta budget impact you?' How does the Alberta budget impact you?
How does the Alberta budget impact you?

Myatt said the UCP received an “overwhelming mandate” from Albertans to “implement a clear agenda for job creation and economic growth, while also getting our fiscal house in order.”

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“Our Job Creation Tax Cut alone is estimated to create at least 55,000 new full-time jobs over the next four years,” Myatt said.

Political fallout

Mount Royal University political analyst Duane Bratt said both the unions and the provincial government are gearing up for a labour fight.

“I think what you’re going to see is coordination occurring between [Alberta Union of Provincial Employees], between the United Nurses of Alberta, with the Alberta Teacher’s Association and the Alberta Federation of Labour,” Bratt said.

“I think they’re all going to coordinate but I can’t see the government blinking on this.”

Click to play video 'Provincial government engaged in ‘wage war’ with nurses, public sector workers: NDP' Provincial government engaged in ‘wage war’ with nurses, public sector workers: NDP
Provincial government engaged in ‘wage war’ with nurses, public sector workers: NDP

Bratt added that any labour action that comes from the unions supporting the campaign would affect all services across Alberta.