I’m a strong supporter of the private sector labour unions. Especially those that support our resource, infrastructure and building sectors.
What? A Conservative supporting the union movement? Absolutely.
It’s in my blood. My grandparents, Ukrainian immigrants who lived just off Whyte Avenue and 99th Street in Edmonton Strathcona, were strong union members, activists and supporters.
My grandfather was a coal miner and union leader in Drumheller, AB in the 1940’s and 50’s. My grandmother marched in solidarity with any union group that was protesting at the Legislature here in Edmonton. They both voted NDP all their lives, would never think of supporting Pierre Trudeau, and were huge fans of former provincial NDP leader Grant Notley, father of former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley. And I have close family who are union members in the healthcare sector.
But more importantly, a healthy economy and a strong private sector labour movement can go hand in hand. It’s when the economy goes in the tank, when revenues dry up, margins shrink and operations are pulled back that things get tense on the labour relations front.
We’re seeing that today right here in Edmonton Strathcona, where the past five years of federal Liberal resource sector policies have seen Alberta’s energy sector contract.
Cessco Fabrication and Engineering is a third generation, family owned business in Edmonton Strathcona, located on 99th Street and 73rd Avenue. Since 1948, when my grandfather was an underground coal miner in Drumheller, Cessco has made large, highly specialized pressure vessels, large containers that hold gases and liquids, for the oil & gas industry.
After decades of peaceful labour relations between Cessco and its unionized employees who are members of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, things took a turn for the worse five years ago.
That’s when the energy sector here took a massive hit. Weak global oil prices of course were part of the reason, but federal Liberal and provincial NDP policies that tied up and thwarted investment in the oil & gas industry were clearly the major driver of the economic wreckage in our economy.
Starting in 2015, and like so many other businesses in the sector, Cessco’s revenue and margins came under intense pressure. That’s when relations with the Boilermakers began going sideways.
After two years of failed negotiations over wages, pensions and seniority, Cessco locked out 30 Boilermaker workers on June 28th.
Casey Worden, pictured with me below, is the local Boilermakers’ business representative for Lodge 146. The union has 3,200 employees across the province.
He’s clear on what the solution is to problems like this one:
“When the economy is good, we’re always able to find room to get things done with management,” he said to me the other day. “What our young members need is a future, a chance to contribute their skills and make a living for their families. As things are going now, we just don’t see the jobs being created – it’s not happening at all.”
No kidding. And as a Conservative MP in Edmonton Strathcona, I’ll be standing up not only for businesses like Cessco in the resource sector, but also for the Boilermakers and other unions like them. We’re in this together, not only to make sure we have a strong energy sector, but to make sure that both sides play a strong role in energy transition.
As I’ve said before, the key to diversifying our economy and creating jobs in the energy sector is to pivot as quickly as we can to nuclear and hydrogen, and push further into carbon capture technology. The Boilermakers can play a huge role in this, as Casey has told me.
Check out this link on the Boilermakers' website and you’ll see how this union can play a key role in providing climate change solutions.
Here’s the bottom line: private sector investment and management can produce amazing things by working in solidarity with unions like the Boilermakers and others who are ready to help build a better economy. What both sides need is a strong economy, more capital and a focus on attracting investment into the economy, instead of pushing it away, like the federal Liberals have clearly done.
We’re in this together. And I can’t wait to take a leading role for both sides here in Edmonton Strathcona.
- Rick Peterson
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