By November 13, 2017 0 Comments Read More →

Coal Workforce Transition Fund will support Alberta coal workers, says Bilous

coal workers

Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous joins Mayor Rod Shaigec in Parkland County to announce the new Coal Community Transition Fund for coal workers.

Government will give coal workers third-party retraining programs that provide employment placement

The Government of Alberta is creating a worker transition fund, focusing supports on the ground, and calling on the federal government do its part to support coal workers, according to an Alberta Government press release.

The $40-million Coal Workforce Transition Fund will provide income support to workers transitioning from working in Alberta’s thermal coal mines and coal-fired power plants to new jobs or retirement.

Alberta is requesting that the federal government immediately create new flexibility criteria in the federal Employment Insurance (EI) program that would allow workers to receive these income supports without reducing their EI payments – and to also extend the duration of EI benefits for coal workers.

In 2012, the Harper government approved regulations to end coal-powered electrical generation at Battle River and Sundance in 2019, at Keephills in 2029, and at Sheerness starting in 2036, according to the Alberta government.

clean fuel standard

In 2014, the Harper government introduced regulations that would have prevented all Alberta coal plants from converting to natural gas. The Trudeau government has since shortened Canada’s coal phase-out deadline to Dec. 31, 2029.

“Alberta coal workers have a proud history of helping to power our prosperous and industrious province. I’ve heard first-hand how important it is to make sure we support workers and families as the country transitions away from coal. We’re calling on the federal government to step up and do their part to ensure this fund can help these workers earn a good living for themselves and their families,” said Deron Bilous, Minister of Economic Development and Trade.

The Alberta government ensured coal communities continue to power our province by securing exemptions from the Trudeau government that allow coal plants to continue operating past federally mandated end-dates through conversion to natural gas.

coal

Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. Photo: AFL.

“Workers who have dedicated their careers to keeping the lights on should be supported fairly during Alberta’s energy transition,” said Gil McGowan, chair of the Coal Transition Coalition, a group of unions representing coal workers, said in a press release.

“We are glad to see both the Advisory Panel and provincial government have listened to the voices of workers in developing their transition plan.”

McGowan says that to fully benefit from the province’s planned income top-ups the federal government will need to provide Employment Insurance flexibility to ensuring any provincial top-ups won’t be clawed back.

“Offering bridging supports to workers on EI and extending the benefit period for workers close to retirement are important elements of the plan, but they depend on the federal government doing their part,” said McGowan.

“Many coal-fired units in Alberta are closing due to federal government regulatory changes. They have a responsibility to these workers to help ensure a just transition.”

In addition to the Coal Workforce Transition Fund, the Government of Alberta will provide workers with:

  • Direct support from facilitators with Alberta Labour who will meet with workers, their unions and employers to connect them with the supports that work best for them.
  • Tuition vouchers to help cover costs related to post-secondary education, such as tuition, books and mandatory fees.
  • Third-party retraining programs that provide employment placement, job matching and options for work exposure.
  • A variety of professional certification courses.

The new initiatives for workers are in addition to the recently announced Coal Community Transition Fund, which supports locally led projects that focus on regional partnerships and economic diversification in Alberta’s coal communities.

Both initiatives are part of the Alberta government’s response to recommendations from the Advisory Panel on Coal Communities.

carbon capture

The province commissioned the coal panel’s work following the Coal Transition Report from energy expert Terry Boston, who has worked on complex energy issues for decades on four continents, and overseen the successful transition off coal for one of the world’s largest electricity grids.

Based on his recommendations, the Alberta government reached agreements last year that ensure power companies:

  • fulfil their existing and future legal obligations to affected employees, including severance and pension obligations
  • keep their head offices in Alberta
  • continue to generate power for Alberta’s electricity market

These steps provide options for transitioning to new electricity generation that would see coal workers continue to power Alberta and create new long-term, local economic opportunities.

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