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September 04, 2020

A Labour Day Message from Stephanie Smith - BCGEU

The future cannot be predicted, but it can be created. 

So far, 2020 has been a year of upheaval and uncertainty and that has many of us questioning what the future will look like for ourselves, our families, and our society. It's also been a year in which working people have shown time and again that we have the power to create a society that is stronger, safer, and more prosperous through solidarity, resilience, and shared values like dignity and respect; equality and fairness; social justice and opportunity for all.

That power and those values are the core of what Labour Day is, and has always been, about: the belief shared by union activists that we have the ability and the obligation to build a better future not just for ourselves but for all working people. As J.S. Woodsworth famously said "what we desire for ourselves, we wish for all."

COVID has not broken us but it has revealed plenty that is broken about how our society works and who it works for. The fact is that the BCGEU and our 80,000+ members across the province were working on many of these issues long before the pandemic hit: from addressing the deep fissures in the long term care system that put the lives of seniors, elders, and workers at risk; to advocating for safe supply and other evidence-based approaches to the overdose crisis; to working for affordable, accessible housing options for all British Columbians; to fighting for a universal, publicly funded child care system; to advancing reconciliation and an end to racism and discrimination in families, workplaces, and communities. I'm proud of that work and of every BCGEU member who has driven our union to get involved and stay involved in these critical issues.

The first Monday in September will look a little different this year as union activists plan pandemic-safe ways to come together but Labour Day will still be Labour Day: an opportunity for union activists to celebrate our history, reaffirm our values, and dream with our eyes open about the future we want to create, battles yet to be fought, values yet to be realized, workers yet to be organized. As we move forward through whatever comes next for our society, the BCGEU and our partners throughout the labour and social justice communities will be front and centre continuing the work to fix what's broken and create a better future. And this Labour Day I'm full of optimism for what we can achieve together.

So, what can you do?

 

 

 



UWU/MoveUP

September 02, 2020

BCGEU: provincial government must release pandemic pay now

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 2, 2020 
 
BCGEU: provincial government must release pandemic pay now 

Burnaby, B.C. – The BCGEU is calling on the provincial government to either immediately distribute the stipend promised under the B.C. COVID-19 Temporary Pandemic Pay (TPP) program or provide a firm date when workers will get the long-awaited funds.
"Thousands of our members and other workers across the province have been waiting for this stipend to be paid out for months and these delays are frustrating and unacceptable," says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "Essential workers are counting on this money to pay their bills, but the TPP was also meant to be recognition of the important contribution they've made to get our province through this public health crisis. Delays send the wrong message."

B.C.'s TPP program was announced in mid-May, more than three months ago. The 16-week period the stipend is meant to apply to ended in early July, almost two months ago. While workers in every province have experienced some delay in getting this much-needed money, workers in B.C. appear to be the only ones still waiting. 

There's no end in sight to the delay. But the delays are not the BCGEU's only issue with the program.

"The BCGEU pushed hard to get our provincial government to make B.C.'s TPP program the most inclusive in Canada," said Smith. "And we're happy that B.C.'s program covers more essential workers than in any other province. But the bottom line for us has always been that the program should cover all frontline essential workers-not just some of them. We aren't finished working on this."

Pandemic pay has been a key focus of the BCGEU's work to support its members through the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. BCGEU members have been instrumental in continuing to deliver the essential services British Columbians count on and the BCGEU will continue fighting to get all workers the recognition and support they deserve. 

Some of the workers who are currently not eligible for the TPP program include workers in B.C.'s public liquor stores, child care workers, and the provincial enforcement officers enacting the government's new enforcement measures announced last week. The BCGEU continues to call for all essential frontline workers to be included in the program: see our release here.

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.

Media availability:
The BCGEU will make available a spokesperson from the union to comment on this matter, as well as a union member affected directly by the pandemic pay delay.

For more information contact: BCGEU Communications, at communications@bcgeu.ca.



UWU/MoveUP

August 25, 2020

Pandemic pay delay - BCGEU

Since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic in March your union has been working hard to navigate the complex and ever-shifting landscape this crisis presents in order to protect members' livelihoods and help ensure your safety at work.

Pandemic pay has been a key focus of that work, and the BCGEU pushed hard to expand our province's pandemic pay program to cover the broadest possible range of essential workers. As a result, B.C.'s program is significantly more inclusive than those in other provinces. (See who is included in the pandemic pay program.) However, we are disappointed to learn that the delivery of this pay has again been delayed.

We know thousands of members are depending on receiving this pay and we are concerned about the negative effect another delay may have on members and their families who are counting on this money to pay the bills. We also know that pandemic pay is more than just money, it is recognition of the incredibly important and hard work you have done to help our province through this public health crisis. 

Although all unions in B.C. applied pressure related to the parameters of the program, it's important that members know that all decisions regarding pandemic pay and who receives the premium were made entirely by the provincial government. Pandemic pay was not negotiated as part of your collective agreement and there are no signed, bargained MOUs related to the program. As such, your union's role is to continue applying pressure to push government to fulfill their promise as fairly and quickly as possible. We will continue to do that and to push the provincial government to provide a definite date on which eligible workers will receive their pandemic pay. 

We will also keep fighting to expand the program further to cover all essential front-line workers.

BCGEU members have been instrumental in continuing to deliver the essential services British Columbians count on and your union will continue fighting for the recognition and support you deserve.

In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith
BCGEU president

P.S. - Have you written to your MLA about including all essential front-line workers in the pandemic premium program? If not, click here to send them a message.



UWU/MoveUP

August 25, 2020

Congratulations to the 2020 BCGEU Scholarship Winners. - BCGEU

The BCGEU is pleased to support our 2020 scholarship recipients in their continuing education.

2020 Scholarship Winners List

(Winners will be mailed a letter with instructions on how to claim their scholarship).

This year, applicants were asked to write an essay on one of three topics:

1. One job should be enough! How does precarious work impact workers and why is decent work so important?

2. What are the impacts of work on the mental health of workers and what can employers and unions do to support workers' mental health?

3. What does Reconciliation between Indigenous and settler peoples mean to you?

You can read some of the top winning essays below:



UWU/MoveUP

August 21, 2020

BCGEU members play critical role in province’s new pandemic enforcement measu...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 21, 2020

BCGEU members play critical role in province's new pandemic enforcement measures

Once again, members of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) are playing a critical role in the province's response to COVID-19.

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced this morning that compliance and enforcement staff from provincial ministries have been enlisted to support enforcement of public health orders for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"These BCGEU members are highly-trained peace officers and special constables and are ready to step up to support public health officials during a state of emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic," said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "They are critical to our province's public health and safety, just as other BCGEU members have been throughout this pandemic."

Many BCGEU members work in fields with special constable designations, including liquor, cannabis and gaming inspectors; community safety unit inspectors; and conservation officers. They will fill a critical role alongside police and other enforcement officers.

This is not the first time during the pandemic that BCGEU members have been redeployed to support and enforce public health orders. Conservation officers have been tasked with ensuring motorists entering the province are following B.C.'s prevention measures, and hundreds of public service employees heeded the province's call to screen travellers at YVR and major land border crossings and ensure self-isolation plans were completed.

"I echo Minister Farnworth's comments that it's extremely disappointing we even need to contemplate enforcement of public health orders. People should be following the rules and I hope they do. But while they're not, I'm glad we can count on BCGEU members to step up and do what is needed," said President Smith.

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 please contact, BCGEU Communications, communications@bcgeu.ca 

UWU/MoveUP

August 12, 2020

Join our equity networks - BCGEU

Join our equity networks!

Your union is committed to building diversity and inclusion and speaking out for equity and social justice for all workers. Key to achieving this goal is creating the opportunities for members to feel heard, represented and able to contribute to their union, their workplace and their community.

Over the last 18 months, your BCGEU Equity and Human Rights committee held a series of four equity roundtables for workers with disabilities, workers of colour, Indigenous workers and 2SLGBTQI+ workers. At these roundtables, members discussed how we as a union can promote equal access and participation for all members and sent a series of recommendations to your union's provincial executive.

A key part of delivering on our commitment is input and participation from members. Members who identify as a part of an equity group are invited to join our networks to keep up-to-date on progress that your union is making and to provide input along the way.

If you identify as a:

  • Worker with a disability
  • Worker of colour
  • Indigenous worker
  • 2SLGBTQI+ worker

Click here to sign up to join your respective equity network.

Pride and Indigenous masks
As many of our community celebrations have moved online this year, the BCGEU's Equity and Human Rights Committee commissioned a series of masks commemorating Pride and National Aboriginal Day so that members can celebrate their pride and Indigenous heritage while protecting their communities.

Members who sign up to the Indigenous workers and 2SLGBTQI+ workers networks will be sent one of these masks.



Masks will be sent out starting two weeks after signup has opened. As a limited number of masks were produced, if more members sign up than there are masks, names will be randomly drawn to receive a mask.

Not a member of those equity groups and haven't received your BCGEU branded mask? Click here to order yours - FREE for members



UWU/MoveUP

July 21, 2020

Proposed changes to Workers Compensation Act marks beginning of restored bala...

Proposed changes to Workers Compensation Act marks beginning of restored balance

After years of advocacy by workers and their unions – including your union's submission to the B.C. workers' compensation system review last year and the courageous testimonies at public hearings by dozens of current and former BCGEU members who had been injured on the job – the provincial government has begun to restore balance to BC's workers' compensation system.

On July 14, the B.C. government tabled Bill 23, the Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2020. If passed, the bill will increase WorkSafeBC's powers and the amount of compensation workers can receive. These amendments prioritize the needs of injured workers and undo some of the damage done by the previous BC Liberal government in creating a compensation system that favoured employers and failed workers. 

I'm glad to see our government tabling legislation to repair some of the damage done since 2002. I believe the proposed changes will strike a better balance between the interests of workers and employers and will rebuild workers' confidence in the system.

If passed by the legislature, Bill 23 will allow WorkSafeBC to:

  • Return to the dual system of assessing pension entitlement. This is a major improvement because it essentially restores what the BC Liberals took away in 2002 and more fairly reflects the loss experienced by BCGEU members injured on the job.
     
  • Wait until an injured worker turns 63, when the effects of their injury are more established, to assess their retirement date. This change negates the present policy where the Board assumes the worker's retirement date at the time of injury. This change is fairer to the injured worker, especially young workers who may not yet know their retirement date.
     
  • Authorize preventive medical treatments before a claim is accepted. This is most significant for psychological injuries for which timely intervention could mean quicker recovery and for which the cost of treatment is often not covered by our province's health care system. Furthermore, the injured worker would not be required to reimburse the Board for pre-paid treatment should their claim be denied.
     
  • Increase the maximum insurable earnings from $87,000 to $100,000. This is a significant, welcome and long overdue change and will help protect the full annual earnings of many members. 
     
  • Correct obvious errors after 75 days, rather than within 75 days. This is a new power and gives more flexibility, will reduce demand on the appeal system and benefit workers who would otherwise have to appeal.
     
  • Implement a regulation related to an occupational disease that is an infection caused by a communicable viral pathogen (such as COVID-19) in less than 90 days. This change in timeline will allow the Board to more rapidly respond to and effectively deal with prevention and compensation issues like pandemics. In the potential case of a second wave of COVID-19, this change will be critical to ensuring workers who contract the virus can access benefits faster.
     
  • Collect unpaid premiums and other monies owing the Board, including holding directors personally liable if their company fails to pay. This new power will ensure owners cannot hide behind their corporation status to avoid paying premiums or fines.
     
  • Ensure the court considers victim impact statements when considering a penalty or punishment. This is an important change for members as it will enable them to have their experience influence the degree to which an employer is reprimanded.

Of course, there is more that we want to achieve in our workers' compensation system, and we will continue to push for those changes. In the meantime, your union is encouraging the government to pass Bill 23 as soon as possible, and ensure the Board regularly reviews and updates these policies and powers to maintain balance between the needs of workers and employers. 

We will keep you informed of any further progress on these changes.


In solidarity,
Stephanie Smith, President



UWU/MoveUP

July 17, 2020

BCGEU calls on government to protect renters by extending eviction ban

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 17, 2020 

BCGEU calls on government to protect renters by extending eviction ban
 
Burnaby, B.C. – The BCGEU is calling on the provincial government to extend the ban on evictions for non-payment of rent—today the government announced that ban will be lifted on September 1st.
 
“This decision is utterly baffling to me,” said Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU. “COVID-19 has caused a public health crisis and an economic crisis and we are nowhere near the end of either. Renters are facing the same uncertain future they were when the ban was put in place—this is not the time for government to be leaving renters vulnerable to eviction.”

The union has been a leading voice in the fight for secure, affordable, accessible housing in British Columbia—from the ongoing Affordable BC campaign for the implementation of Land Value Capture Tax, to more focused efforts to outlaw demovictions, reduce the annual rent increases allowable under the Residential Tenancy Act, and support affordable housing project proposals in communities across the province. In March, the BCGEU expanded its housing advocacy to call for a freeze on rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the pandemic. 

“We knew the eviction ban was not a good solution because, while renters who couldn’t pay couldn’t be evicted, they would still be on the hook for the money someday,” said Smith. “And now—with the economy in the extremely early stages of recovery, and no treatments or vaccines on the horizon—the government has decided “someday” is September 1st.”  

Policy analysis and public opinion research overwhelmingly shows that British Columbians want the government to protect renters from incurring additional debt due to this crisis. And, with public health officials warning that a second wave of COVID-19 could be coming in the fall, renters will become vulnerable to evictions potentially at a high point of the pandemic, creating an increased risk of homelessness as well as an unnecessary additional risk to public health.

“I am the first to say that BC has done some great work on pandemic response and our government has made the difference in our province’s success so far,” said Smith. “But the eviction ban should be extended, not lifted—renters deserve better than this.”

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 please contact, communications@bcgeu.ca 



UWU/MoveUP

July 13, 2020

BCGEU recommendations for Budget 2021 - BCGEU

For many years, our union has been participating in the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services consultation process to inform the government's budget priorities. By making a written submission and an oral presentation, as well as encouraging members to participate via the committee's online survey, we make sure that our members' priorities are part of the government's budget process.

On June 2, I presented our priorities to the committee via video conference as part of a panel with representatives of CUPE BC and the BC Federation of Labour. On June 26, we submitted our written report. Our submission reflects the feedback of your senior elected leadership regarding the priorities and challenges of members living and working across B.C. and is supported by the rigorous and comprehensive research of our Research & Interactive Services (RIS) staff.

Our report reflects a key lesson of the pandemic: government matters. Because of government, B.C. went into the pandemic in a strong fiscal and economic position. Because of government, B.C. had already embarked on progressive policy change in critical areas like seniors' care, childcare, poverty reduction, and workers' rights before the pandemic hit. Because of government, B.C. had a solid foundation from which to launch the public health response that has left our province with fewer infections, hospitalizations and deaths than many other jurisdictions. 

Now, as we work together to reopen our communities and restart our economy without rebooting the virus, government will matter more than ever. British Columbians can and must have a robust and well-resourced system of public programs and services as well as a diverse and prosperous economy. To achieve those goals, our submission recommended significant investments in seniors' care; affordable public housing; universal public childcare; climate action, green infrastructure and renewable energy development; and public jobs, programs and services. Our recommendations are based on three pillars:

Protecting our most vulnerable: A few weeks ago, Dr. Henry said, "We're all facing the same storm, but we aren't in the same boat." The truth is, none of us will be truly safe until all of us are safe. Government must protect those who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
 
Building what we need: Moving forward will mean fundamentally re-imagining government's role as an employer and an investor in post-pandemic economy and society.

Maintaining what we have: Before the pandemic hit, key and critical public programs and services were suffering from years of chronic under-funding. Those challenges remain and addressing them is more urgent than ever. Government should shore up existing public services and programs by boosting employment in key, targeted areas.

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

I want to thank your elected leadership for passing on your priorities, the dedicated RIS staff who developed this document on a tight timeline, and you – the members – for taking the time to read our submission.

This is a unique and important moment for a budget consultation, a moment that presents both promising opportunities as well as serious challenges – all of which must be met with continued government leadership and increased public capacity. I look forward to working with the provincial government, your elected leadership and BCGEU staff, to ensure our priorities are reflected in Budget 2021.

In solidarity,
Stephanie Smith, President



UWU/MoveUP