Workers' Mass Resistance Against Provincial Government Attacks on the Rights of All

Students rally at Alberta Legislature, November 18, 2019, against cuts to investments
in education.

Alberta workers and their allies came out in force during the week of November 18-23 with rallies and protests being organized almost every day. On Monday, November 18, about 300 students from the University of Alberta and about 200 students from MacEwan University marched to the Legislature and joined forces to protest the United Conservative Party (UCP) government's vicious cuts to post-secondary education. Many students carried signs beginning with, "I am not silent because." The cuts, which will seriously affect student learning conditions and instructor working conditions, include slashing already inadequate base funding, seven per cent tuition increases each year, student loan rate increases, and threats of a "performance-based" funding model which no doubt will be based on how well the universities serve the needs of the monopolies.

On Wednesday, November 20, United Nurses of Alberta, which represents 30,000 nurses, organized a protest of about 1,000 nurses at the Legislature to affirm their collective rights and the right of all to health care. Two specific issues of focus were the right to collective bargaining without threatened government interference and the right of public workers to control their own pensions, which will soon be administered by the UCP government instead of by the workers themselves. In February 1988, nurses across Alberta heroically struck for 19 days, defying cease and desist orders, criminal charges, firings, and threats of government seizure of their assets to win an improved collective agreement.

Nurses rally at the Alberta Legislature, November 20, 2019.

On Thursday, November 21 about 1,000 people rallied at the University of Calgary to protest the UCP government's funding cuts and the lifting of the previous government's tuition fee freeze. The picket, hosted by the Alberta Union of Public Employees (AUPE), was held during the noon hour on the main quad. The rally followed the November 18 announcement that University of Calgary would cut 250 jobs, a move prompted by the province's grants reduction and the funding cuts for the university's infrastructure maintenance program. The budget cuts amount to over $54 million. Guy Smith, AUPE president, stated: "When you're trying to rebuild an economy, the best way to do that is to have an educated and well-skilled workforce. If you take away the ability of Albertans to become educated then that's going to hurt the economy even more."

Rally, November 21, 2019, at the University of Calgary.

On Friday, November 22, CUPE Alberta, which represents 36,000 Alberta workers, organized a rally of about 100 non-teaching staff and their allies in front of the Edmonton Public School Board building in downtown Edmonton to protest UCP cuts to K-12 education. After promising to maintain existing funding, the UCP government's budget for 2019 will reduce overall funding by about $275 million, with no additional funding for enrollment growth.

"We're going to see larger class sizes, kids less supported," Canadian Union of Public Employees Alberta President Rory Gill said. "There's going to be devastating impacts to the kids here in Edmonton."

A salient feature of all four rallies was that at each one many people stepped forward to speak in their own name. For example, at the Edmonton Public School Board rally, people heard from support workers, parents, students, teacher aides, teachers, and union leaders. It was pointed out at all the rallies that the UCP decisions on education and health care are being arbitrarily made without any serious consultation with any workers. This highlighted once again that the real issue facing Canadians is the need for democratic renewal so that people can become decision-makers on all matters that affect their lives and can secure the future for themselves and the coming generation. This is a problem for today, not tomorrow.

(Photos: TML, AUPE, CUPE, UNA)

This article was published in

Volume 49 Number 29 - November 30, 2019

Article Link:
Workers' Mass Resistance Against Provincial Government Attacks on the Rights of All


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