B.C.'S UNION SINCE 1919

NEWS

July 02, 2019

Voicing our concerns: BCGEU recommendations to the provincial Budget 2020 pro...

Each year, our union makes budget recommendations to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services. This usually happens in the Fall and it's our chance to offer our input into next year's budget.

This year, the process has been moved up several months. Late last week, we submitted our written report to the committee. It reflects the feedback of your senior elected leadership regarding the priorities and challenges of members living and working across B.C.

Progress has been made under the current government to improve the lives of British Columbians, including: more accessible and affordable child care, a poverty reduction strategy, ordering a public inquiry into money laundering and releasing CleanBC, the ambitious plan for emissions reduction and clean growth.

But, other issues still need to be addressed. Our submission to the Budget 2020 Consultation contains the following recommendations:

  • More support for TogetherBC – our province's first-ever poverty reduction. This includes making child care more affordable and accessible and improving working conditions for child care professionals; improving compliance and enforcement capacity in the Residential Tenancy Branch, Employment Standards Branch and other agencies; and adequately staffing and removing barriers to B.C.'s income assistance system while increasing rates above the poverty line. 

  • Take the next critical step in addressing the housing affordability crisis by investing in public supply.

  • Protect B.C.'s environment, natural resources, and climate goals by investing in BC Parks. Parks and protected areas are an economic, social, cultural, and health boon for British Columbians. They're also key to protecting biodiversity. We urge the government to invest in all aspects of the parks system from conservation and protection to infrastructure, staff, recreational services and regulatory oversight.

  • Ensure working people have safe, healthy workplaces by investing in occupational health and safety. Factors like chronic under-staffing, recruitment and retention issues, outdated facilities and inadequate training increase the risk of physical and mental injury on the job. We need to keep our families and communities safe.

You can read the full text of our written budget submission here.

UWU/MoveUP

June 19, 2019

BCGEU welcomes Auditor General’s recommendations to address MCFD’s ineffectiv...

The BC Government & Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) welcomes the Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia's report released today: Oversight of Contracted Residential Services for Children and Youth in Care. The BCGEU has for decades called on the provincial government to address chronic and significant challenges within the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) and supports the recommendations made in this report to improve outcomes for children and youth in government care.

"The fact, as the report shows, that the quality of care in placements in contracted residential services is simply unknown is distressing and unacceptable," says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "MCFD must act urgently to provide oversight of its contracts, and eliminate this added and unnecessary risk posed to an already vulnerable population of children and youth."

The report found that when it comes to providing contracted residential services, the ministry did not have a province-wide strategy, good information on the supply and demand for placements, nor an effective contract management framework. The report also found that the ministry did not have any cultural planning requirements for contracted residential services to ensure that Indigenous children and youth receive culturally appropriate care – a service the BCGEU has long advocated for.

In the BCGEU's most recent submission to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, the union called on the provincial government to address the deep, unresolved staff retention issues in MCFD that prevent better resource management and collaboration among frontline teams. This includes improving working conditions for staff, and better supporting resource and guardianship workers who work with contracted residential service providers. The submission also repeated the union's calls to adequately fund Delegated Aboriginal Agencies (DAAs) in order to improve working conditions and therefore the care of Indigenous children and youth.

"The ministry has capable, dedicated staff working in children and youth care, all of whom are BCGEU members. They want to make a difference but MCFD must adequately resource their work and make guidelines clear in order to move forward."

The BCGEU formed a Joint Working Group with MCFD in 2014 following a recommendation made in an earlier Representative for Children and Youth report. The union welcomes any opportunity to work with the ministry, DAAs and other stakeholders to take action on the findings in the Auditor General's report.

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Read related BCGEU reports:

Naut'sa mawt sqwaluwun: Working together with one mind and one heart (2018)

Closing the Circle (2015)

Choose Children (2014)



UWU/MoveUP

June 14, 2019

Voicing our concerns: BCGEU presentations regarding workers’ compensation sys...

Participating in public consultations is a valuable way to make sure our voices are heard before government makes important decisions. Two public consultation processes are currently underway that will directly impact working people in B.C. – the Worker's Compensation Review and the provincial government's Budget 2020 Consultation. Today I had the honour of presenting at public hearings for both to call for a more equitable workers' compensation system and a provincial budget that continues investing in public services and a more affordable B.C.

Workers' compensation system review

As we mentioned last week, the provincial government has initiated a formal review of the workers' compensation system. As a result of legislative and policy decisions made by the BC Liberals back in 2002, the workers' compensation system has become skewed in favour of saving money for employers rather than protecting workers. Because of this, the stated goal of the review is "to increase the confidence of workers and employers in the system and to shift the workers' compensation system to become more worker centred."

By telling our stories about the injustices within the current system, this is a tremendously important opportunity for our union to influence legislative and policy changes that will restore fairness. The review will hold 14 public hearings which began today in Surrey, and I made the very first presentation to prominent labour lawyer Janet Patterson who is leading the review.
In follow up to my presentation, the BCGEU will submit a detailed written submission addressing what we feel needs to change. And in the coming weeks, Ms. Patterson will also hear from a number of BCGEU members that have been injured on the job and struggled within a system that has been stacked against them. All of these stories and our submission will demonstrate the human costs of an unequal system, and the pressing need for change. If you have a story to tell, learn more about how you can participate before the deadline of July 19th.

Budget 2020 Consultations

Each year your union participates in the public consultation for the next provincial budget. Led by the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, the consultations lead to a report with recommendations for the next year's budget with the input they receive. Today in Vancouver I presented the BCGEU's budget submission to the committee which reflects the feedback of your senior elected leadership regarding the priorities and challenges of members living and working in communities across B.C.
Now almost two years since the BC NDP formed government, next year's budget marks an important moment. Much progress has been made to make life better for British Columbians including: making child care more accessible and affordable, launching a poverty reduction strategy, calling a public inquiry into money laundering in our province and releasing CleanBC, an ambitious and inclusive plan for emissions reduction and clean growth.

But as we all know many problems persist so our submission to the Budget 2020 Consultation includes the following recommendations: 

  • Give Together BC – our province's first-ever poverty reduction strategy – the support it needs to succeed by building capacity in key public service areas. This includes continued progress to make child care in B.C. affordable and accessible and improving working conditions for child care professionals; improving compliance and enforcement capacity in the Residential Tenancy Branch, Employment Standards Branch and other agencies; and adequately staffing and removing barriers to B.C.'s income assistance system while bringing rates above the poverty line. 

  • Take the next critical step in addressing the housing affordability crisis by investing in public supply. A major public sector investment is the only way to guarantee that affordable housing is available when, and where, British Columbians need it. 
  • Protect B.C.'s environment, natural resources, and climate goals by investing in BC Parks. B.C.'s parks and protected areas are an economic, social, cultural, and health boon for British Columbians…and they are key to protecting biodiversity. We urge the government to invest in all aspects of the parks system from conservation and protection to infrastructure, staff, recreational services and regulatory oversight.

  • Ensure working people in B.C. have the safe, healthy workplaces they deserve by putting a priority on occupational health and safety. Factors like chronic under-staffing, recruitment and retention issues, outdated facilities and inadequate training increase the risk of physical and mental injury on the job. We urge the government to invest in the safety and security of the workers who keep our families and communities safe.

The BCGEU will release the full text of our written budget submission in the coming weeks. You can find out more about the consultation process and how you can participate by the deadline of Friday June 28 at 5:00 pm here.

I want to thank the elected leadership and the BCGEU members who provided valuable input into both of the submissions delivered today – and we look forward to seeing the results. The Worker's Compensation Review report is due in September and the committee will release its recommendations for the next provincial budget later this summer.


In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith
President

 



UWU/MoveUP

June 14, 2019

1 out of 10 Independent Shareholders of Brookfield Asset Management Agree tha...

The BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) and SumOfUs are encouraged that 10% of independent shareholders voted for the company to tie executive pay to preventing sexual misconduct at the firm

Today, BCGEU and SumOfUs presented a proposal that called on Brookfield Asset Management to address sexual misconduct in the financial services industry by penalizing executive compensation packages. According to recent studies, one in three women in the finance industry has been sexually harassed at work. The groundbreaking proposal is the first of its kind in Canada and is based on recommendations by proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services. 

In recent years, the #MeToo movement has achieved significant progress around the world as countries and companies implement policies that address sexual misconduct across the public and private sector. The groups believe that this proposal could completely shift the landscape of the financial services industry and hopefully prevent more #MeToo moments.

In response to today's vote, Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President Stephanie Smith released the following statement:

"The BCGEU believes every worker has the right to a safe, healthy workplace free from all forms of violence, harassment and discrimination and today's vote shows that Brookfield shareholders agree. Clearly, the financial services sector has a long way to go to protect workers from sexual misconduct and we will continue to push for change until they get it right."

In response to today's vote, Dana Wise, UNITE HERE, released the following statement: 

"Brookfield's largest investment in 2018 was in real estate and that includes hotels, where sexual harassment is a pervasive problem. In Chicago, nearly two-thirds of women working in hotels and casinos have been sexually harassed by a guest. In Seattle, 53% of housekeepers reported sexual harassment and assault. UNITE HERE, the hospitality workers union, believes hotel owners like Brookfield have a responsibility to address sexual harassment at work at all levels of the company. All women at Brookfield deserve to be treated with respect and that is why we think management should take action on this issue."

In response to today's vote, Amelia Meister, Senior Campaigner at SumOfUs released the following statement:

"This groundbreaking proposal is ahead of its time, and it's encouraging to know that some shareholders are on the cutting edge. It is clear that this pressure is forcing management to pay attention. We hope this will open the conversation in the board rooms across the financial industry to use proven measures, like the one in our shareholder proposal, to address sexual misconduct in their workplace."

 

 

 

 



UWU/MoveUP

June 13, 2019

BCGEU president Stephanie Smith first presenter at workers’ compensation syst...

BURNABY, June 13, 2019 – The workers' compensation system has been seriously undermined by policy and legislative changes introduced by the BC Liberals in 2002. The system shifted to focus on the financial impact to employers which has resulted in an overall reduction in compensation benefits to workers both in the short and the long term, a more limited ability to appeal decisions, and a reduced focus on the merits and justice of an individual worker's case.

As the independent review of the system, led by retired labour lawyer Janet Patterson gets underway, BCGEU president Stephanie Smith will be the first to present at the public hearings. Smith's presentation will highlight key elements of the union's forthcoming written submission to the review, and emphasize that restoring a balance between workers' and employers' interests must be prioritized in order for there to be confidence in the system, and to better support ill and injured workers.

In the coming weeks, BCGEU members that have been injured on the job and struggled with the system will also present their stories to Ms. Patterson in subsequent public hearings throughout the province.

WHAT: BCGEU president to present at public hearing on workers' compensation system review

WHEN: Friday, June 14, 2019, 3:00 – 3:20 pm

WHERE: Sheraton Vancouver Guildford – 15269 104 Avenue, Surrey, B.C.

Read more about B.C.'s workers' compensation system review here; see the public hearings schedule here.



UWU/MoveUP

June 07, 2019

British Columbians need a break: the BCGEU submission to the Fair Wages Commi...

BURNABY-

The British Columbia Government and Service Employees' union, representing more than 79,000 workers in various sectors and occupations in the province has submitted its report to the provincial government's Fair Wages Commission.


The Fair wages commission was set up by the provincial government to advise government on how to raise minimum wages with increases that are regular, measured and predictable.


The commission has been working since 2017 on three tasks, with the current stage looking at ways to close the gap between the minimum wage and the actual real living wage in the province. Since 2017, the government has laid some important groundwork to lower the average living wage by investing in public services like childcare.


"Here in Canada's most unaffordable province we still have a way to go to make sure that workers are getting a fair paycheque, and that possible to make ends meet without working multiple jobs." said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith.


The BCGEU's submission contains five recommendations to the Fair Wages Commission, which will submit their report to the Ministry of Labour upon the completion of their findings. Along with a recommendation to end the minimum wage exemptions in B.C., the union is also recommending that government implement policies that raise the average wage in the province.


 "There are two important things the government must do right now to start to close the affordability gap: close the loopholes that let employers pay less than minimum wage, and continue to invest in high quality public services like transit, health care, housing and child care to bring down the cost of living," said Smith. "It is critical that the province try to address this problem from as many angles as possible, including making it easier for workers to form a union, which maximizes their ability to get better wages from their employer".


The work of the provincial government, as well as of the fair wages commission has so far made very real and significant differences for working British Columbians and their families. Now the solid foundation that has been laid must be reinforced with good economic policy empowering workers over the long term, which will make British Columbia more affordable for everyone.


The BCGEU has been engaged with the Fair Wages Commission consultation process since it was first established in 2017.



UWU/MoveUP

June 07, 2019

Workers’ Compensation Review Underway - BCGEU

In response to years of advocacy by workers and their unions, the provincial government has initiated an independent and comprehensive review of BC's workers' compensation system. 

This is a tremendously important opportunity for BCGEU members to tell their stories about the injustices within the current system, and to influence legislative and policy changes that will restore fairness to the workers' compensation system. Do you have a story to tell?

Problems with the system started in 2002-03 when the BC Liberal government made sweeping changes to the laws and policies related to the workers' compensation system. Compensation for workers was reduced, appeals made more difficult, and WCB staff were required to adhere strictly to policy, rather than having the discretion to make decisions on the merits of each claim. As a result of these legislative and policy decisions, the workers' compensation system has become skewed in favour of saving money for employers at the expense of workers. Today many BC workers feel the system is failing to fully and fairly compensate injured workers. 

There are three ways for you to participate:

1. Answer the online questionnaire

The review website has a short questionnaire for injured workers or anyone else to share their comments and concerns about workers' compensation in BC. Please take a few minutes to fill out the survey, and contribute your perspective. Some questions you may want to keep in mind when you are completing this survey are: 

  • Is the system difficult to access, understand and navigate for workers?
  • Are work injuries being assessed appropriately and fairly compensated?
  • Are injured workers able to return to work or train for a different job in a fair, healthy and dignified way?
  • What changes are needed to make the system better for workers?

2. Make an in-person or a written submission

If you or another BCGEU member that you know has a story to tell about their experiences with a WCB claim, or even a workplace injury that was never reported, you can share it with the review at a public hearing or in a written submission. The BCGEU will provide assistance and support for members to participate in this public review process, either in person at a public hearing, or in written form.

So, if you or someone you know wants to make a submission, or would like more information, please email wcb.review2019@bcgeu.ca, or contact your local area office.

3. Attend a public hearing

I also encourage you to attend a public hearing in your community to show support for injured workers that have struggled with a system that has been stacked against them, and to make sure the government knows that making the workers' compensation system fair again is an important and pressing issue for working people in BC.

The review will be led by prominent labour lawyer Janet Patterson, and involve 14 public hearings in communities across BC between June 14th and July 19th, and written submissions can be made until July 19th. The review's website, including the terms of reference and the schedule for public hearings can be found here: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/workerscompensationreview/

Thanks in advance for your assistance with this important review.

In solidarity, 

Stephanie Smith

 



UWU/MoveUP

June 05, 2019

Final report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous W...

On Monday, June 3rd, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released its final report and recommendations in a ceremony at the National Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec on Algonquin Territory.

The release was the culmination of a three-year process in which the Inquiry heard testimony, submissions and stories from more than 2,000 people including the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people, Indigenous knowledge keepers, experts and parties with standing.

The BCGEU was the only union to seek and receive standing from the Inquiry and the only labour organization to make a submission. Thanks to your activism your union was the only voice for Indigenous workers and workers who deliver vital services to Indigenous families and communities that the inquiry heard from.

I was honoured to present the BCGEU submission to the Inquiry in Ottawa in December but decided not to attend this week's ceremony. Instead I watched the ceremony surrounded by some of the activists that made this Inquiry happen at the Feminists Deliver conference in Vancouver. It was a powerful experience of true solidarity and I am grateful that I was part of it.

The inquiry's final report, Reclaiming Power and Place, concluded that the violence experienced historically and currently by Indigenous women and girls in Canada amounts to genocide-a conclusion that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has accepted. In light of that conclusion and based on a thoughtful and thought-provoking framework and foundational principles, Commissioner Marion Buller encouraged all Canadians to find the strength and courage to begin to decolonize the relationships and institutions that shape their families, their communities and their country.

The report contains 231 calls for justice that collectively cover and reimagine practically every facet of the Canada we know-from courts and legislatures; to public services like child welfare, policing and corrections; to the entertainment and resource extraction industries that drive our economy; to the daily lives of "ordinary" Canadians-with the ultimate aim of decolonizing our country in order to eliminate violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.

The BCGEU participated in this inquiry because you, our members, demanded action. Our goal as a union has always been to bring the Inquiry's recommendations to life for our members in worksites, in the operations of their union, and in the larger labour movement in B.C. and Canada. To that end we are currently doing an in-depth analysis of the report and the recommendations to find opportunities for concrete action. The BCGEU is committed to decolonization and we will be relying on the ongoing participation of all members as we move forward.

I encourage you to read the final report and reflect on what it means for you. It's a big document, start with the calls for justice for all Canadians and suggested resources for Allyship (pages 85 and 86 of the Executive Summary), then read through the recommendations that relate to your work and the work of your family and friends. As always, I invite you to get involved in all levels of your union from your local to your component and to champion issues of social justice and reconciliation.

It was your vision that guided our participation in this inquiry and while the final report is a major milestone, the real work is just beginning. The BCGEU is part of a movement to create a more just society where all people have access to their inherent human rights-including the rights to justice, security, health and culture identified by the inquiry-and all people are treated with dignity, respect and fairness. In many ways, our focus has not changed: we will continue to walk the path of true reconciliation with our Indigenous brothers, sisters and friends. The final report shines a light on that path for all of us.

 

In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith,
BCGEU President

To learn more:

Read the Executive Summary, Reclaiming Power and Place.
Read the Full Report, Reclaiming Power and Place.
Watch the Video Message from Stephanie Smith, December 11, 2018
Read the BCGEU submission Naut'sa mawt sqwaluwun: Working together with one mind and one heart,December, 2018

Below are 15 of the 231 recommendations that are most relevant to BCGEU members:

  1. Establish a national Indigenous and human-rights ombudsperson and a national Indigenous and human-rights tribunal

  2. Create a national action plan to ensure equitable access to employment, housing, education, safety and health care

  3. Provide long-term funding for education programs and awareness campaigns related to violence prevention and combating lateral violence-that is, violence committed by one Indigenous person against another

  4. Prohibit taking children into foster care on the basis of poverty or cultural bias

  5. Fund Indigenous-led efforts to improve the representation of Indigenous people in popular culture

  6. Launch health and wellness services aimed at Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) people, particularly so that health care is available to vulnerable Indigenous people in their own communities

  7. Create a guaranteed annual livable income for all Canadians, taking into account "diverse needs, realities and geographic locations"

  8. Create safe and affordable transit and transportation services in, to and from remote communities, to reduce dependence on risky activities such as hitchhiking

  9. Revise the Criminal Code to "eliminate definitions of offences that minimize the culpability of the offender"

  10. Fund policing in Indigenous communities so their services are equitable compared to those in non-Indigenous communities, including modern information technology, major-crime units and crime prevention

  11. Fund training and education for Indigenous people to thrive in education, health-care, media, policing, law and other fields

  12. Consider the welfare of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people in planning resource-development and extraction projects

  13. Remove the "maximum security" classification in the federal correctional service, which limits access to rehabilitation and reintegration programs

  14. Increase Indigenous representation on all Canadian courts, including the Supreme Court

  15. Develop knowledge and read the final report. Listen to the truths shared, and acknowledge the burden of these human- and Indigenous-rights violations, and how they impact Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people today


MoveUP/UWU 



UWU/MoveUP

June 03, 2019

Victoria Area Office hours – Thursday, June 6 - BCGEU

Please be advised that the hours of operation at the Victoria Area Office for Thursday, June 6, 2019 will be from Noon – 5:00 pm.



UWU/MoveUP