BURNABY, COAST SALISH TERRITORIES – As the second wave of the pandemic intensifies and British Columbians head into the holiday season, B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) members working for the BC Liquor Distribution Branch (BCLDB) are ramping up their campaign to be recognized and compensated as essential workers. BCLDB workers will be wearing Essential Pay for Essential Work buttons to show their solidarity and raise public awareness of their ongoing fight for fair treatment as essential workers.
"I feel it's important to go to work because we were deemed an essential service – we were told we were needed to keep the B.C. economy going," said BCLDB employee Orson Choy, a union steward. "We want the public and government to know we're still here doing our part – and we want to be treated fairly."
BCLDB workers were among thousands who the B.C. government declared essential during the initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring. Liquor and cannabis retail stores have remained open to the public throughout the pandemic-with prevention measures like plexiglass barriers and mandatory masks introduced gradually. The warehouse has also remained fully operational to support increased demand from stores as well as pubs, bars and restaurants.
"Working on the frontlines of a pandemic brings increased stress and genuine risks to emotional and physical health for all essential workers," said BCGEU vice president Kusam Doal. "BCGEU members working for the BCLDB deserve to be compensated for their commitment to doing their part to keep our province running during this crisis."
BCGEU members working for BCLDB will wear the buttons throughout the holiday season-traditionally the busiest time of year for retail stores and warehouse-and are calling on BCLDB General Manager and CEO Blain Lawson to achieve fair pay for the essential work of store and warehouse workers.
The BCGEU is one of the largest, most diverse and fastest growing unions in B.C. with more than 80,000 members working in almost every community and economic sector in the province, including about 4,600 members at the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch.
For more information, contact BCGEU Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org
"We have a young child and four senior parents. We need to be careful for them," said, Cherylene Choy, who is also an BCLDB worker. "Pandemic pay shows we're important to the government, that we are worth something."
"Even with the public health restrictions in place, the crush of the holiday season will be a busy time for liquor and cannabis stores and warehouses," said Stephanie Smith, BCGEU president. "These members have faced financial, emotional and health pressures just to do their jobs during the pandemic and they deserve to be compensated in line with how they are said to be valued and appreciated."
On March 26, the provincial government declared BCLDB workers in retail stores and warehouses to be essential.
Despite their status as essential workers, these workers were not included in the provincial government's Temporary Pandemic Pay program (TPP), which was announced in May.
On May 29, after the TPP was announced, the BCGEU launched a petition and letter-writing campaign calling on the public to tell their MLAs to provide pandemic pay to all frontline workers. The campaign produced 2100 letters.
BCLDB members also wrote to Finance Minister, Carole James, asking to include them. James did not include BCLDB workers in the TPP but publicly encouraged "all businesses who've seen an increase in revenue to ensure that their workers are being properly compensated at this difficult time."
In September, workers then asked their employer, BCLDB General Manager and CEO Blain Lawson, to allocate just 20 per cent of excess revenue generated during Q4 of 2019/2020 to pandemic pay for all BCLDB employees. Lawson ultimately declined, claiming he was an advocate of employees but ultimately didn't have the power to authorize use of BCLDB revenue.
For more information about the workers' campaign, visit http://bcldb.bcgeu.ca/more
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