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June 15, 2020

Message From President Stephanie Smith - BCGEU

The last several months have been indescribable in so many ways...but the last few weeks have been absolutely devastating.
Like many of you, two weeks ago my social media feeds were completely filled with the video of the senseless murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Mr. Floyd is not alone-Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, the list goes on and seems to grow by the day-but Mr. Floyd has been a flashpoint. The violence and brutality of his death was unspeakable, and the aftermath has been as hard to watch as it is hard to look away from.
These names and images and events are just the latest chapter in our society's generations-long struggle with racism and white supremacy. To win that struggle, we need to start by understanding and accepting that racism and white supremacy are deeply rooted in our communities and our institutions and that those of us who are white have a moral obligation to be part of the work of rooting them out.
To me, that means embracing the work, the hard work, of anti-racism. For white people, like me and many of you, that work includes listening to and supporting our IBPoC (Indigenous, Black and People of Colour) friends and comrades when they share their lived experience; it includes looking for ways to transfer our privilege to those who lack it; it includes unlearning language and behaviour and assumptions that we don't remember learning in the first place; it includes confronting uncomfortable truths about the people, places and institutions that have defined our lives; it includes dismantling systems designed for oppression and building a better world.
The work of anti-racism includes all of this and much more. And that work must happen in every community and every family. I can assure you that work will happen in our union.
A few months ago, our plan had been to spend last week together at convention, debating, voting, socializing and charting our union's course for the next three years. Instead, we spent the time apart, but we must still work on a vision for our union's future and that anti-racism must be part of that vision.
Over the coming days, weeks, and months, I'll be working with your elected leaders and BCGEU staff to build anti-racism into the work of our union and I'm asking you to be part of making that happen: If you have ideas for what our union can do to be anti-racist, to see and support our IBPoC members, I want to hear from you.
Thank you for everything you do every day to make our union, and our movement stronger.
In Solidarity,


June 05, 2020

Hazard Alert: Hand sanitizer at worksites - BCGEU

Hazard Alert: Hand sanitizer at worksites

You are receiving this hazard alert as an OHS representative of BCGEU members. Please inform your colleagues of the following information. 

Due to supply issues, some manufacturers of hand sanitizer are substituting food-grade ethanol with technical-grade ethanol – which contains toxicological properties including carcinogenicity and should NOT be used on broken or damaged skin, while pregnant or breastfeeding, or inhaled in general.

We advise all OHS representatives and workers to:


  1.  Be aware of this potential hazard (full details below).
  2. Check the information about the hand sanitizer product used in your workplace. 

If your workplace is using hand sanitizer containing technical-grade ethanol, we advise JOHS committees or worker representatives to:

  • Recommend that the employer substitute the hand sanitizer with a hand sanitizer that does not contain technical-grade ethanol.
  • Recommend measures and procedures that reinforce handwashing with soap and water as the best hand-hygiene practice and use of hand sanitizer only when soap and water are not available. 

If you have questions about this advice, or the following information, contact [email protected]

About technical-grade ethanol and Health Canada manufacturing requirements:

Hand sanitizer that contains technical-grade ethanol has a stronger or different smell than sanitizer with food-grade ethanol. The ingredient of concern is acetaldehyde with a content of 800-1000 ppm. (Normal content of acetaldehyde in hand sanitizer is 10 ppm.) The following is an example of a label you should expect to see on hand sanitizer containing technical-grade ethanol:

On April 15, 2020, Health Canada issued a time-limited approval for manufacturers of hand sanitizer to use technical-grade ethanol while higher-grade ethanol was in short supply. Health Canada required these manufacturers to notify its customers that their product contained technical-grade ethanol and to label their product containers with the following warnings: "Do not use on broken or damaged skin. Do not use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Do not inhale."

At the end of May, some lots of Microsan Optidose hand sanitizer with technical-grade ethanol were recalled by B.C. health authorities, and by now should have been identified and removed from health authority worksites. However, other non-health authority BCGEU workplaces may be using hand sanitizer with technical-grade ethanol. 

Key concerns about using this product:

  • Information about this change in manufacturing, and the potential harm associated with the new product, may not make it to workers. 
  • Handwashing with soap and water is always the best method for hand hygiene and should be encouraged no matter what type of hand sanitizer is available, but especially because of this issue. 

More information:

British Columbia's Occupational Health and Safety Regulation requires employers to eliminate or minimize exposure to chemicals that are potentially harmful to workers' health (Section 5.2 (b)), and ensure that that labels, Safety Data Sheets and other information are readily available and clearly communicated to the worker (Section 5.2 (a), (c)). 

The Joint Health and Safety (JOHS) committee or worker representative has the power to identify hazards and make recommendations to the Employer to improve the health and safety of workers (Workers' Compensation Act Section 37), and to request information from the employer about hazards in the workplace (Workers' Compensation Act Section 42(2)(a)). 

April 15th Health Canada notice to industry:

List of Health Canada-approved hand sanitizers:

Information on how Health Canada assesses the use of technical use ethanol:


Contact [email protected]


May 28, 2020

Glass Lewis endorses shareholder motion questioning Thomson Reuters’s (NYSE, ...

Burnaby – One of the world's leading independent proxy advisory firms, Glass Lewis, has recommended that Thomson Reuters (NYSE, TSX: TRI) shareholders vote FOR a proposal filed by the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU). The proposal calls on the Thomson Reuters board to produce a human rights report that addresses the impacts of contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Shareholders believe these contracts expose the company to significant legal and reputational risk, as well as the real likelihood of contributing to, or being directly linked to, violations of human rights, including children's rights, due process, equal protection, freedom from persecution and torture, and the rights of asylum seekers.

This endorsement is significant. Glass Lewis's global client base of 1,200+ institutions collectively manages more than $25 trillion in assets.

According to Glass Lewis's analysis of the proposal:

"[W]e do not believe that [Thomson Reuters] has provided sufficiently robust information concerning its human rights considerations, particularly given the controversial nature of its association with ICE. We believe that additional reporting on how the Company is mitigating adverse human rights impacts from its products, and how it ensures it remains in compliance with the UN Global Compact (of which it already is a signatory), would provide shareholders with assurance this is an area that is being thoroughly managed and overseen in a manner that is in the best interests of shareholders".

In response to the endorsement, BCGEU President Stephanie Smith released the following statement:

"The point of our shareholder proposal is simple: we are asking Thomson Reuters to address the troubling human rights issues related to how their software is being used and to make sure they are living up to their obligations as a participant in the United Nations Global Compact. The United Nations considers family separation and detention illegal under international law. We see these contracts a risk to investors, as well as one of the fundamental ethical issues of our time," said Smith.

"We deeply believe in the importance of this proposal and are encouraged that Glass Lewis has recommended shareholders support BCGEU's proposal. We hope to see a strong vote at the June 3 AGM."

BCGEU has also learned that other significant TRI investors have voted FOR the proposal, and the proposal also has also been endorsed by responsible investment funds including Trillium Asset Management ($3.2 billion AUM) and Azzad Asset Management ($812 million AUM), as well as human rights and legal expert Nina Gardner, Adjunct Professor of business and human rights law at John Hopkins SAIS.

Recent reports revealed by Mijente, a US based advocacy non profit, show how Thomson Reuters is not only passively offering data to government agencies like ICE as part of the companies multi-million dollar contracts with the rogue agency; they also play a direct role in reviewing and vetting target lists for which immigrants ICE should deport.

The proposal was submitted by the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) as part of its capital stewardship program. Under BCGEU's capital stewardship strategy, the union has submitted shareholder proposals to companies including Royal Bank of Canada, Brookfield Asset Management and Loblaw on topics like human rights, sexual misconduct, and executive compensation. The union's strategy has succeeded in securing strong commitments on human rights due diligence, vertical pay analysis, food waste and climate disclosure.

The Thomson Reuters shareholder meeting will take place virtually on June 3, 2020.


View the BCGEU shareholder proposal here:

View BCGEU's investor brief here:

View Thomson Reuters's management circular and response to the BCGEU shareholder proposal here:







May 22, 2020

Your union and WorkSafeBC guidance for re-opening - BCGEU

Your union and WorkSafeBC guidance for re-opening 
Over the past 10 days, your union's executive, component vice presidents and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) team provided input to the Workers' Compensation Board (WorkSafeBC) as they developed guidance for sectors that are re-opening, as per the B.C. government's Restart Plan. 
We provided feedback on protocols and best practices to help each industry resume operations (or continue operations) in a safe way during the COVID-19 pandemic. We raised key issues and concerns and made practical suggestions for measures moving forward.
WorkSafeBC has now posted its guidance for some sectors on its website here. We encourage you to review the guidance for your sector. 
We know that the process of reopening will be challenging. As workplaces adapt to a new reality, it is critical that employers take all reasonable steps to protect workers, and that workers are included in the planning and implementation of new procedures, to address the risks associated with COVID-19. 

If you have any concerns or challenges as re-opening plans unfold, please notify your OHS rep, shop steward or email [email protected]. We will take action to help address your issues, and alert WorkSafeBC.


May 20, 2020

BCGEU releases investor brief calling on Thomson Reuters (TSX, NYSE: TRI) to ...

Ahead of the Thomson Reuters (TSX, NYSE: TRI) annual meeting of shareholders on June 3, 2020, the BCGEU has released an investor brief about its shareholder proposal, raising concerns about human rights impacts at the $8-billion software and media company. The Proposal asks the Thomson Reuters board to investigate and disclose whether it has adequately assessed and mitigated the reputational and human rights risks associated with providing its software to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Immigration, Customs and Enforcement agency (ICE).

BCGEU encourages investors to vote for this proposal.

Download a full copy of the investor brief now.


Cover of BCGEU's Thomson Reuters Investor Brief

ICE relies on data and technology provided by Thomson Reuters products such as CLEAR® to track and arrest immigrants on a massive scale, and it is not clear what, if any, assessment of business risks has been carried out relating to Thomson Reuters's contracts with ICE and other agencies. The BCGEU believes this may be indicia of the board's failure to manage the Corporation's salient human rights risks. The failure to manage business risks related to human rights issues could have significant negative consequences for shareholders and stakeholders alike.

The Proposal calls on the Thomson Reuters Board to produce a report addressing (i) how Thomson Reuters assesses and mitigates its role in contributing to and being directly linked to human rights impacts by end users of its products, (ii) whether Thomson Reuters remains in compliance with the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact, and (iii) whether Thomson Reuters's failure to invoke the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights is out of step with market practice.

You can also read BCGEU's shareholder proposal here.

Read the excerpt from Thomson Reuters management circular here.


May 19, 2020

Provincial government announces details of pandemic pay program for essential...

In mid-April the federal government announced it was working with the provinces on a cost-shared, temporary "pandemic pay" program to top up the wages of select essential frontline workers-under the cost-share, the federal government is responsible for 75 per cent of the funding and the provincial governments are responsible for the remaining 25 per cent. 

Ever since the initial announcement, your union has worked with our provincial government to ensure that B.C.'s program would cover the broadest possible group of BCGEU members working on the frontlines during COVID-19.

Today, the B.C. government announced the long-awaited details of the program. This program will impact different members differently and we are working with your component leadership to develop targeted bulletins. However, we wanted to ensure that all members got general information as quickly as possible. Here is what we know about the program based on today's announcement:

  • The program will provide a lump-sum payment calculated at $4 per straight-time hour covering a 16-week period retroactive to March 15, 2020.
  • Eligible workers must have worked straight-time hours during the 16-week period covered by the program.
  • There is no minimum threshold on hours, so casual and on-call hours are eligible.
  • Eligible workers will receive the payment directly from their employer and do not need to apply.
  • Government will be working with your employer on details of the disbursement, which are still being worked out. 

Our union worked hard to make sure the government took a broad approach to this program and, overall, we are happy with the outcome especially compared to other provinces. As a result of that approach, tens of thousands of BCGEU members will be covered including those providing care to our province's most vulnerable citizens in direct government, health services, and social services positions. Please read the full list here.

We applaud the objective of the pandemic pay program, we appreciate the efforts of our provincial government to consult with stakeholders-including our union-as they developed the program, and we are extremely pleased that the broad scope includes some of our lowest wage members doing some of the highest risk work. At the same time, we are disappointed that the government chose to exclude thousands more BCGEU members doing essential work. 

Our feedback to government during the consultation was that the program should be extended to all frontline essential workers and that recognizing some groups of workers while leaving others out would create unnecessary divisions at a moment when unity and solidarity among workers is more important than ever. To be clear, our stance has not changed: We still believe B.C.'s pandemic pay program should cover all frontline essential workers in recognition of the extraordinary stress, additional costs, and higher risks to mental and physical health they are facing right now. 

In the coming days we will be reaching out to the provincial government to vigorously restate our position, seek clarification on their choices, and continue to fight for more BCGEU members to be covered by the program.

In solidarity,
BCGEU Executive Committee


May 19, 2020

BCGEU calls for expansion of B.C.’s pandemic pay program for essential workers

BURNABY, B.C. – Today the B.C. government released long-awaited details of a federal-provincial cost-shared pandemic pay program to temporarily top up the wages of some essential workers. The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) is calling on Victoria to expand the program to cover more essential frontline workers.

"The BCGEU pushed hard for this program to cover the broadest possible range of essential works and, as a result, B.C.'s program is significantly more inclusive than those in other provinces," said Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU. "We're happy that some of our lowest-wage members doing some of the highest-risk frontline jobs will be eligible. But the bottom line for us is that all frontline essential workers are shouldering an incredible burden in terms of increased cost, stress and inconvenience as well as increased risks to their emotional and physical health. All of these workers deserve recognition-not just some of them."

Under the program, which was first announced by the federal government in mid-April, tens of thousands of BCGEU members will be eligible for a lump-sum payment calculated at $4 per straight-time hour retroactive to March 15, 2020. BCGEU members covered by the program include those providing vital services to the province's most vulnerable citizens like corrections officers, social workers, employment assistance workers, and those who work in health care and social services. However, thousands more BCGEU members have been left out of the program including those in public liquor and cannabis stores and warehouses, maintaining supply chains for the restaurant industry as well as a critical revenue stream for the government during the pandemic.

"From the moment this funding was announced by the federal government, our goal as a union was to make sure B.C.'s program covered the broadest possible swath of frontline essential workers," says Stephanie Smith, BCGEU president. "And our goal hasn't changed. This kind of patchwork recognition creates arbitrary divisions at a moment when unity and solidarity among workers is more important than ever. We're grateful for those who are covered, but we will keep fighting for those who aren't."

In addition to pushing for broader eligibility for the program, the BCGEU is continuing to work with partners in the labour movement and the social justice community on leveraging the lessons of the pandemic to improve the lives of working people with a focus on issues like family-supporting wages, universal child care, and enhanced workplace safety-including paid sick leave.

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.

For more information, contact BCGEU Communications, [email protected]


May 07, 2020

The Provincial Spring 2020 - BCGEU

Check out the latest issue of The Provincial 

This issue has updates on our union's Equity, Inclusion & Diversity Strengthen All of Us roundtable, our COVID-19 information hub, the fight against massive rent increases and our union's new Affordable BC podcast. 


May 07, 2020

Restarting B.C. -- your rights and union news - BCGEU

Restarting B.C. -- your rights and union news

Yesterday B.C. was full of cautious anticipation as Premier Horgan announced the steps we'll be taking to restart the province safely.

Throughout the past two months, many BCGEU members have been on the front lines of the pandemic, limiting the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, countless others have been providing vital public services that keep our province's day-to-day work rolling along and protect many of our most vulnerable neighbours. Other BCGEU members have faced layoffs as their employers shut down to protect our communities.

Thank you for your important work and sacrifice. Without all of us pulling together, the impacts of COVID-19 on our province's public health over the last two months would have been far greater.

The premier's briefing touched on a number of sectors of our economy, but in most cases, details specific to where you work were not provided. We're currently analyzing additional documentation that was provided separately, and over the coming days and weeks we'll be working with employers to ensure that appropriate steps are taken to protect workers.

BCGEU members and staff have been extraordinarily creative in finding ways to conduct our day-to-day work administering your union and protecting our rights at work while not being physically present. However, we all know the value of in-person communication and cooperation.

So, as the province restarts, we too will be turning our minds to how your union can return to normal operations as much as possible while doing our part to socially distance and prevent the unnecessary spread of COVID-19. We are aware of the impacts that the ban on large-scale gatherings could have on large membership gatherings – including meetings, activist banquets, and our convention in 2021 – and we will be seeking more details on that matter.

Your union will keep members updated as more details become available, so please keep an eye on your email inbox.

An essential part of keeping the spread of COVID-19 low is protecting the rights of all workers, so we will continue to press for legislation ensuring all workers' right to paid sick time and effective occupational health and safety policies with regard to infectious disease. Ensuring that nobody has to choose between their health and a paycheque will keep all of us safer.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns regarding COVID-19 in your workplace, please:



Click here to read the full details of B.C.'s Restart Plan from the provincial government.