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March 13, 2020

BCGEU calls for suspension of rent and mortgage payments for sick/self-isolat...

Burnaby, B.C. – In response to the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a "pandemic" and public health experts recommending social distancing including self-isolation for exposed or symptomatic people, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) is calling on federal and provincial governments to immediately suspend all mortgage and rent payments until the pandemic is over.

"The BCGEU has said from the beginning of this outbreak that protection of workers must be a central plank of government response-that's why we called for an end to doctors' notes as well as paid sick leave and a host of other worker-focused measures," said Stephanie Smith. "The BCGEU is urging our members and all working people to trust the science and follow public health recommendations. The federal and provincial governments could support our message by suspending mortgage and rent payments during the COVID-19 pandemic to make sure working people can afford to do the right thing."

Recent research from the 2019 annual BDO Affordability Index shows that more than half of Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque. The public health measures already announced-such as cancellation of large gatherings, travel advisories, and social distancing measures-mean some British Columbians are working less or not at all. As the pandemic evolves those impacts are expected to get worse, and more working people will be unable to make mortgage and rent payments.

"We all have a part to play in flattening the curve-workers, employers, and governments," said Smith. "Our federal and provincial governments have an opportunity right now to mitigate one of the major economic pressures that force people to choose to keep working even if they have been exposed to COVID-19 or are symptomatic."

Two days after announcing the $1-billion fund to address the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters he empathized with Canadians' worries and assured that the federal government would assist financially but has yet to suggest what that assistance will look like. More details are expected after the First Ministers' Meeting with the Prime Minister later today.

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.



March 11, 2020

COVID-19 Pandemic Response - BCGEU

Today, the WHO declared that COVID-19 has escalated from public health crisis to pandemic. In plain language this means the public health priority has shifted from preventing the spread of the virus to slowing it down so that our healthcare system doesn't get overwhelmed by too many infections happening concurrently. In light of this, the Provincial Executive of the BCGEU unanimously passed the following motion:

The Provincial Executive approves that, effective immediately and until at least May 2nd:

  • All non-essential BCGEU gatherings over 10 people will be postponed;
  • Where possible, essential gatherings will be conducted remotely; and,
  • The Executive Committee will monitor the situation and reassess as new information on the pandemic becomes available.

Our union's senior leadership has been monitoring the emergence and evolution of COVID-19 from regional outbreak to general public health crisis to global pandemic and has been taking appropriate action at every stage to protect the physical and financial health of our staff and members while minimizing disruption to core union business.

This was not an easy decision, but it is absolutely the right decision for our union. Pandemic response is a collective responsibility and we all have a part to play in "flattening the curve". Though I understand this decision will inconvenience some members your provincial executive is unanimous that cancelling non-essential gatherings is the best course of action.

Immediate impacts include postponement of:

  • Local Chairs' Assembly scheduled to begin Friday, March 13th at the Metrotown Hilton.
  • Women's Health and Safety Course scheduled for Thursday, March 12th at Fraser Valley Area Office.
  • Area 10 (Fort St. John) and Area 02 (Nanaimo) steward appreciation events scheduled for April 18th and May 2nd respectively.

Every effort will be made to find alternate ways of "meeting"-for example, conference calls, video conferencing, and telephone town halls-to support core union business and to maintain solidarity between and among members.

Members with questions about whether an upcoming meeting not listed above is essential or non-essential should contact their Component VP or their Area Office. Members with questions about how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact any aspect of their workplace should contact their Area Office. I will update you as the situation evolves.

In the meantime, here are two things can you do:

  • Do your part to "flatten the curve". Even if you are in a low-risk group, I urge you to take precautions not just to avoid getting infected with or spreading COVID-19, but also to avoid burdening our healthcare system during the pandemic.
  • Listen to experts. The rumours about COVID-19-from transmission to prevention to treatment-are spreading faster than the virus itself. I urge you to rely on the Office of the Provincial Health Officer and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) for reliable and up-to-date COVID-19 information as it affects British Columbians:

In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith


March 11, 2020

Strike action: stand with IBEW members on strike against Ledcor tomorrow - BCGEU

Our union encourages members in the Vancouver area to stand in solidarity with members of IBEW Local 213 on Thursday, March 12 at 3 pm in front of Ledcor's office at 1055 West Hastings Street downtown.
These workers are fighting for their first contract with Ledcor. The strike began on Sept. 30, 2019. Their battle for a contract began more than two full years earlier on Aug. 31, 2017, when their bargaining unit of 238 technicians was certified. Already low piece-rate wages were cut, workers were fired, and working hours were extended.
Read more about this fight in this month's Trade Talk magazine:


March 11, 2020

BCGEU calls on all employers to drop doctor’s note requirement amid COVID-19 ...

The B.C. Government Employees' Union (BCGEU) is encouraging employers to waive the requirement for employees to produce a sick note to access sick leave.

The B.C. government announced last week employees no longer have to produce a sick note amidst concerns over the coronavirus.

Read full article here


March 10, 2020

B.C. employers must drop doctor’s note requirements to limit COVID-19 spread,...

B.C. employers must drop doctor's note requirements to limit COVID-19 spread, says BCGEU
Burnaby, B.C.- 
In light of the ongoing concern regarding the COVID-19 virus, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union is calling on all B.C. employers to waive the requirement for employees to provide a note from a doctor to access their sick leave.
"We all must take appropriate steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, and B.C. workers need to do so without barriers or additional risk of infecting others," said Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU. "Our provincial government has made the responsible decision to waive their employees' need for doctor's notes for COVID-19-related illness, and our union urges all employers in B.C. follow suit."
"We all have a part to play in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and the message from public health experts is clear-one critically important thing we all need to do is stay home if we feel sick," said Smith. "Right now many employers require workers to produce a doctor's note to access their sick leave, which creates a needless administrative hurdle for workers, an additional strain on our health care system, and an increased risk of spreading the infection."
On Friday, the B.C. government notified public service employees they will not need a doctor's note to begin receiving sick pay for COVID-19 related absences.
"Our provincial government's response to COVID-19 has been exceptional," said Smith. "They have shown tremendous leadership by waiving the need for doctor's notes for their employees and our union is calling on all employers in B.C. follow suit. It's a seemingly small decision that would have an enormous impact as we navigate this public health crisis."
The BCGEU joins the broader labour movement in concern for the financial impacts that prolonged illness and quarantine periods will have on working families in our communities - particularly those with precarious employment. The union joins the BC Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress in their calls for enhanced sick leave protections and the elimination of the one-week Employment Insurance waiting period respectively. It is essential that all levels of government take swift, decisive and coordinated action to ensure that workers are not forced to risk exacerbating the spread of COVID-19 for fear of losing their paycheque or their job.
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 at 604-291-9611 or [email protected]


March 06, 2020

BCGEU celebrates International Women’s Day for an Equal and Enabled world

March 8th is International Women's Day (IWD), a time to recognize the remarkable achievements by women across the globe and stand in solidarity with calls for decisive action to promote gender justice and end gender-based violence and discrimination. The global theme this year is #EachforEqual An EQUAL World is an ENABLED World.

"As an out and proud feminist who has the privilege to be surrounded by legions of like-minded activists, advocates and allies, I see every day as a fresh opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women and advance the fight for gender equality," said Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President. "International Women's Day is a reminder of the power of collective action to end harassment, discrimination, bullying, and gender-based violence in our workplaces, and our communities. Every day I see so much great work being done and so much progress being made. And every day I see heart-breaking examples of how much further we have to go to build the world we want."

In 1911, International Women's Day was honoured for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. In New York City, the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire took the lives of 146 workers most of them women immigrants in their teens and twenties. This disastrous event drew significant attention to working conditions and labour legislation that became a focus of subsequent International Women's Day events.

"Unions have always had a unique perspective and a unique voice in the fight for gender justice," said Smith. "As union activists, our goals are simple but never easy. We can build an equal and enabled world only by fighting in solidarity for and with all women regardless of their race, physical or mental ability, socio-economic class, where they live, who they love or what sex they were assigned at birth. We must lift as we climb to get where we want to go."

The BCGEU's commitment to end gender-based violence includes being the only union in Canada to submit a report to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). Our submission Naut'sa mawt sqwaluwun: Working together with one mind and one heart was based on the perspectives of our front-line workers.

Our union also lobbied provincial and federal decision-makers on a range of issues that would improve the lives of all women including investment for quality, affordable child care; equal pay for work of equal value; and, paid leave for survivors of sexual and domestic violence, which prompted the provincial government to introduce a bill to provide five days of paid leave for survivors and their families on March 3, 2020.

This International Women's Day we hope you will take time to connect with your families, your communities and your union locals and take action in support of gender equity in your community. Join one of the IWD events listed below or organize your own. Please contact your local labour council or women's organizations to locate events in your area.

Period Promise (March 9 – March 23)

BCGEU is proud to once again support the United Way’s campaign Period Promise to end period poverty. The BCGEU is a proud signatory to the United Way Period Promise campaign and we now have free menstrual products available in all of our area offices for our members and guests.  But we want to do more! From March 9 to March 23rd, we’ll be part of a province-wide drive for menstrual products to help end period poverty. All BCGEU area offices and HQ will have donation boxes for you to bring your donations of menstrual products during the month of March

International Women's Day 2020 Events


March 6 - Capilano Student's Union Women's Day Political Panel 6 p.m. Reception, 6:30 p.m. Women in Politics Panel, CapU Lonsdale at The Shipyards, 125 Victory Ship Way #250, North Vancouver. Political panel discussing challenges, intricacies and opportunities of being a woman in B.C. politics, municipalities, and the legislature. Speakers: Libby Davies, Jane Thornthwaite, Bowinn Ma, Megan Curren.

March 8 - VDLC International Women's Day Dinner 5:15 p.m. – 10 p.m., Fraserview Banquet Hall, 8240 Fraser Street, Vancouver.

The theme of the evening will be 'Joy & Justice' with guest speaker April Sims, Secretary Treasurer for the Washington State Labour Council, AFL-CIO.

March 8 - City of Vancouver Archives, 1150 Chestnut, Vancouver. Celebrate International Women's Day (March 8) at the opening of An Army of Lovers, a retrospective look at lesbian activism in the '70s & '80s. A retrospective on lesbians, two spirit, and trans folks who gave their heart and soul to building a better world.

New Westminster

March 10 – Period, Politics & Beyond! 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Douglas College, 700 Royal Avenue, New Westminster. Hear from advocates, community organizers and entrepreneurs about advancing menstrual equity in British Columbia. Please bring tampons, pads and/or other menstrual supplies for donation to the Period Promise Campaign, which will be distributed to local women's shelters.


March 8 - International Women's Day 1:20 p.m. Library Strawberry Hills, 7399 122nd Street, Surrey Speakers include: Nilda Copa - Movement Towards Socialism (MAS - Bolivia), Aishe Ghosh (JNU Students' Union - India), Oscar Ortiz (FMLN - El Salvador).


March 8 - International Women's Day: Women & Girls Making a Difference for the Environment  

1 p.m. – 3 p.m., St. Margaret's School, 1080 Lucas Avenue, Victoria
Join keynote speaker Elizabeth May and four other dynamic women as they offer their perspectives on what we can do as individuals to address the urgency of climate change.


March 6 - Wikipedia Editathon in celebration of International Women's Day 12 p.m.- 3 p.m., Nanaimo Museum, 100 Museum Way, Nanaimo As Wikipedia contributors and editors we can make positive change and help to create a gender equal world by challenging stereotypes, fighting bias, broadening perceptions, and celebrating women's achievements, and by doing this work informed by feminist ethics such as ethics of care. No previous editing skills or Wikipedia knowledge required

Prince George

March 7 - International Woman's Day Breakfast  8:30 a.m. Coast Inn of the North, 770 Brunswick St, Prince George

North Central Woman's Committee will be hosting our annual breakfast to celebrate woman. Breakfast will be served at 9 a.m. Tickets are $30 each. Please contact Natalie @250-613-9408 for tickets. Once again we will have a delicious breakfast, amazing speakers and door prizes!


March 05, 2020

BCGEU calls on LRB to bring Retirement Concepts members under one bargaining ...

The B.C. Government & Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) has filed a common employer application at the BC Labour Relations Board (LRB) seeking to consolidate all nine of the union's bargaining units with Well Being Services/Retirement Concepts (WBS/RC) into a single bargaining unit. The move to a single bargaining unit would position the union and its members to address many of the issues that have plagued the for-profit facilities operated by WBS/RC – four of which are now under health authority administration due to a failure to meet provincial care standards – including substandard care for seniors, chronic under-staffing, high rates of staff burnout and injury, and a crisis in recruitment and retention. 
"Going from nine bargaining units to one would be a great first step towards fixing the failures of the for-profit seniors care system, and holding the operators accountable for the dismal conditions they've created for their staff and their clients," says Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU. "The bottom line for our union is that for-profit seniors' care should not exist-we believe all seniors' care should be publicly funded and publicly delivered. But as long as for-profit care does exist, our members and the seniors they care for deserve the confidence that there is some transparency and accountability built into the system."
The erosion of both working conditions and standards of care in for-profit seniors' care was set in motion in the early 2000s when the previous BC Liberal government passed laws allowing contract flipping in the sector. Those laws weakened workers' rights, created a race to the bottom for wages and working conditions, and allowed operators to maximize profit at the expense of people. With these laws now repealed by the BC NDP, unions are able to push for stronger bargaining rights without the threat of contract flipping and workers losing their jobs. 
"For years, contract-flipping was a knife at the throat of workers and the unions that represent them-operators could, and did, respond to pressure for improved working conditions by flipping contracts," said Smith. "Now that the knife has been removed, we are making up for lost time. A common employer designation would be a major step in the right direction. Our members, and seniors, deserve it." 
While consolidating bargaining units can bring greater stability to the for-profit side of B.C. seniors' care, as a long-term solution the BCGEU continues to call for the sector to be publicly funded and publicly delivered. 
8,000 BCGEU members are employed in seniors' care with 3,000 of those working in long-term care facilities. 
For more information contact: BCGEU Communications [email protected] 


March 05, 2020

BC union shareholder proposal prompts RBC to confirm screening of U.S. privat...

(Burnaby, BC)Following a shareholder proposal by the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU), Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has confirmed that it will not provide lending or financing services to companies including GEO Group (NYSE: GEO) and Core Civic (NYSE: CXW). These U.S. private prison companies operate the majority of U.S. detention facilities currently detaining migrant families and children.

Following productive negotiations and in exchange for withdrawing the shareholder proposal, RBC has also agreed to: 

  • Confirm in its shareholder meeting circular that RBC does not do business with the private prison industry in the U.S. 
  • Develop and publish a human rights position informed primarily by the requirements of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights by October 31, 2020
  • Commit to improving stakeholder engagement on human rights matters

"Shareholder advocacy is a major priority for the BCGEU-we invest our members' dues to grow our union and we make sure to leverage those investments to demand action from companies on the issues that matter to our members and all working people," says Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President. "Private prison companies have been at the centre of the appalling human rights crisis at the U.S. border, and as investors, we had the power to take action. And that action has delivered fantastic results: Not only has RBC committed not do business with U.S. private prison companies, they've also committed to greater human rights disclosure and engagement."

The detention of undocumented immigrants and asylum-seekers, especially the separation of minor children from their parents entering the U.S. outside of ports of entry, has spurred global criticism. Reports detail inhumane conditions in detention centers with children sleeping on cement floors and suffering from hunger, inadequate health care, and abuse. There have been numerous deaths inside these facilities. 

Through its general fund and defence fund investments, the BCGEU is a shareholder in Royal Bank of Canada and, as such, is entitled to file proposals for consideration at the bank's 2020 Annual General Meeting of Shareholders. 

"RBC's decision is proof that doing the right thing for human rights is also good for the bottom line," said Smith. "We couldn't be happier with this outcome but that doesn't mean we're finished. We applaud RBC's leadership on this issue, and we will be monitoring progress closely while we decide what issues to tackle next."

This week, BCGEU will send letters to Canada's largest banks asking them to assess the risks of doing business with U.S. private prison companies and to publicly announce the results of those assessments.

Over the past three years, the BCGEU's push for human rights and labour rights reforms in the companies in which they invest has established the union as a leader in Canada. Recently, the union has filed proposals calling for policies on greenhouse gas emissions, supply chain transparency, enhanced corporate governance and human rights policies, among others.

RBC's AGM will take place on April 8, 2020 in Toronto.

Read the excerpt from RBC's management circular here.


February 27, 2020

BCGEU analysis of provincial Budget 2020 - BCGEU

The BCGEU has prepared a detailed analysis of Budget 2020 to help members understand how the targeted investments in programs, infrastructure and affordability will impact members:

Although prudent and perhaps cautious in tone, Budget 2020 is progressive – which is much needed at a time when other provincial governments in Canada are implementing harsh austerity programs.

There's a lot to celebrate about this budget:

  • Major spending increases in housing and childcare
  • Continued investments in affordability and poverty reduction
  • Record-level capital investments in healthcare, education and transportation
  • A new income tax bracket for top earners – a measure that is directly in line with recommendations your union made to the government

However, none of this will happen without our members and adequate staffing levels. Workload, recruitment and retention, burnout, and occupational health and safety are existing challenges for workers in practically every ministry and sector.

The BCGEU looks forward to working with government to put in place a human resources strategy to support the people delivering the programs and services funded by Budget 2020.