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NEWS

November 30, 2020

New Book Recounts Worker-led Occupation at Tranquille - BCGEU

 

UPDATE - It is with heavy hearts we have to tell you about the passing of our dear friend Gary Steeves, a true champion of working people, human rights and social justice. 

The devastating news comes as we and Gary were celebrating another great achievement of his, the recent printing of his book, Tranquility Lost: The Occupation of Tranquille & Battle for Community Care.

We are feeling Gary’s loss deeply and send our sincerest condolences to his family and friends.

Gary Steeves - 1950-2020

Tribute to Gary Steeves from former BCGEU President George Heyman in the BC Legislature

 

BCGEU members have always stood in solidarity with the communities we serve - especially when government cuts have threatened to hurt people.

A new book by retired BCGEU staff Gary Steeves, Tranquility Lost, provides a dramatic first-hand account of BCGEU members at Tranquille, a Kamloops mental health facility, who took direct action when budget cuts threatened the lives of vulnerable residents.

In the early 1980s, governments were phasing out institutions like Tranquille. The promise of "de-institutionalization" was that supportive services would be replaced with community-based care models. Our union supported this new approach, but the Social Credit government's massive budget cuts in July 1983 meant that Tranquille – home to 325 residents and 600 staff – would be closing in just five months, with neither a community care plan for residents, nor collective agreement options for severance and alternative job placement for staff.

Steeves was sent to Kamloops to deliver the dire news to Tranquille workers. He ended up staying for longer than expected: staff decided to fight back by staging a dramatic takeover and occupation of the facility. They put up signs declaring that the facility was "Under New Management". Sentries guarded entrances, and they established a workers' council with representatives from every department to coordinate running the facility themselves.

More than 30 years later, Steeves recounts the full, exceptional story of worker power and initiative in his new work: Tranquility Lost

Click here to order a copy of the new book
Enter the code "BCGEU" for 25% off (Valid until December 31, 2020)

 

Learn more about the Tranquille occupation and Tranquility Lost:



UWU/MoveUP

November 19, 2020

BCGEU members win major victory for safe workplaces during COVID-19

I am writing to celebrate with you. Because of our solidarity and collective action, our union has won a major victory in our campaign to ensure safer workplaces across British Columbia.

The Provincial Health Officer has just announced that wearing masks is now mandatory in all indoor public and retail spaces. 

This is a huge victory that shows the power of workers standing together to demand safe workplaces. It's a result of you speaking up, applying pressure and insisting on your health and safety. 

I know many of you have been concerned about returning to the office and, for those working directly with the public, you've experienced heightened stress, verbal abuse and, of course, fear of contracting COVID-19 – all while working hard to serve the public in the safest way possible. With this order, we now finally have the clear, consistent and official support we need to keep ourselves, our families, and the public safe.

We have issued a media release about this win, thanking the government for listening to us and to Dr. Bonnie Henry for giving us the clarity and support we need in order to continue serving the public. 

Safe workplaces are not negotiable. We know this, and fortunately, now the Provincial Health Officer does, too.

This is a tough time, and we'll get through this together. 

In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith
President



UWU/MoveUP

November 19, 2020

BCGEU members win major victory for safe workplaces during COVID-19 - BCGEU

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 19, 2020

BCGEU members win major victory for safe workplaces during COVID-19


BURNABY, COAST SALISH TERRITORIES – After weeks of surging COVID-19 case numbers, members of the B.C. Government and Services Employees' Union (BCGEU) have won a major victory in their campaign to ensure safer workplaces across British Columbia.

"This is a huge victory that shows the power of workers standing together to demand safe workplaces," says Stephanie Smith, BCGEU president. 

Today's announcement from Dr. Bonnie Henry ordering masks to be worn in indoor public and retail spaces comes just 10 days after the BCGEU, which represents more than 80,000 members including 30,000 in the public service, called on the B.C. Public Service Agency, the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and the Fraser Health Authority to protect workers with stronger policies on mask wearing and remote work. BCGEU Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) officers, who monitor research on workplace safety, recommended mandating masks in communal workplaces across B.C. as well as supporting remote work for non-essential workers in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions.

"I've heard daily from BCGEU members who are concerned about returning to the office, and from members who work directly indoors with the public, such as our members in BC Liquor and Cannabis stores. They have experienced heightened stress, verbal abuse and, of course, fear of contracting COVID-19 – all while working hard to serve the public in the safest way possible. With this order, we now finally have the clear, consistent and official support to keep workers and the public safe in all inside public spaces."

"On behalf of our members, I want to thank the government for listening to workers, and Dr. Bonnie Henry for giving us the clarity and support we need in order to continue serving the public."

The BCGEU also represents workers in the health and community social service sectors, as well as other sectors deemed essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"I want to express my compassion for all essential workers who have, and will continue to, show up in their workplaces every day through this pandemic. They are critical to our province's response to COVID-19. My message to them is: Solidarity works, and our union is committed to pushing for all members health and safety. Safe workplaces are not negotiable. This is a tough time, and we'll get through this together."

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, communications@bcgeu.ca



UWU/MoveUP

November 13, 2020

Letter from the Premier regarding the loss of John Fryer - BCGEU

November 5, 2020

Stephanie Smith
BCGEU President
4911 Canada Way
Burnaby, BC V5G 3W3
Sent via email

Dear Stephanie:

As Premier of the Province of British Columbia, my thoughts are with you and all BCGEU
members as you mourn the loss of John Fryer.

John was a tireless advocate for workers' rights, and he played a crucial role in transitioning the
BCGEU into the union it is today. His career was underpinned by his tenacity, strength of
character, and dedication to improving the lives and working conditions for the union members.

John will be missed by many, and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to know him. His
legacy will live on through the countless people he inspired throughout his career and his
important contributions to the labour movement. My sincere condolences to John's family,
friends, and the BCGEU.

Sincerely,

John Horgan
Premier

Download PDF of notice here



UWU/MoveUP

November 08, 2020

BCGEU calls on BC Public Service Agency to protect employees with stronger ma...

BURNABY, Coast Salish Territories – With new cases of COVID-19 increasing across the province and surging in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) has called on the BC Public Service Agency to take immediate action to protect employees in their workplaces.

In a conversation with Don Wright, Head of Public Service Agency (PSA), BCGEU president Stephanie Smith urged the province's largest employer to adopt new workplace safety policies including: making masks mandatory in communal workplace spaces province-wide and supporting remote work for non-essential workers in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions.

"The PSA has an opportunity to set a positive example of COVID safety in the workplace that all employers in the province could follow," said Stephanie Smith, President of the BCGEU. "I'm pleased they are taking a safer approach to remote work but I believe they could and should show stronger leadership by implementing a mandatory mask policy in their workplaces."

In order to ensure that adequate protections are undertaken for members across various industries, BCGEU Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) officers monitor research on workplace transmission of the virus and works with member OHS committees to ensure that current best practices are followed. As the latest provincial briefings indicate that enclosed communal workspaces have been linked to COVID-19 infections in the province, BCGEU OHS officers recommended the policies laid out in the letter to Wright.

"It is now widely recognized that airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 can occur under certain conditions," stated a memo included in the letter to Deputy Minister Wright. "In light of these developments, and in keeping with the precautionary principle, the government must immediately review and strengthen measures to minimize exposure to the virus among workers in the BC Public Service."

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, communications@bcgeu.ca



UWU/MoveUP

November 08, 2020

Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley office closures - BCGEU

As COVID-19 cases rise in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, our union has been monitoring public health recommendations with regard to workplaces.

In accordance with the latest restrictions enacted for the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions on November 7 (click here to read the latest restrictions), our union has made the decision to close the following physical offices and shift to remote work:

  • The Lower Mainland Area Office (Area 03 - Vancouver)
  • The Fraser Valley Area Office (Area 04 - Fraser Valley)
  • BCGEU Headquarters (Burnaby)

All services performed by these offices will continue – as they have through periods of remote work throughout the last nine months – but the office buildings will no longer be accessible for in-person union services.

Click here for details on how to contact your local BCGEU area office

We took this decision to ensure members have access to core services and supports of their union while also supporting the ability of our staff to practice social distancing. Allowing non-essential staff to work from home and restricting public access to BCGEU buildings we are making sure staff whose work requires them to be in an office to practice social distancing in their workplace.

In addition to the closure of BCGEU offices, our union has also contacted a number of employers urging them to do the same: shifting all non-essential services to remote work and requiring masks in all communal spaces when remote work is not possible.

Have you received your free BCGEU non-medical mask? If not, click here to request one be sent to you.

COVID-19 and your workplace

If you have any concerns about how COVID-19 precautions are being handled at your workplace. Please consider the following to protect the health of yourself, your family, fellow workers and any clients:

  • Review in full your employer’s COVID-19 Safety Plan, especially the section about outbreak management.
  • Ensure your questions and concerns are answered by your employer to your satisfaction.

If not, then:



UWU/MoveUP

November 02, 2020

Remembering John Fryer, “a titan in the labour movement” - BCGEU

BCGEU is saddened to hear of the sudden passing of John Fryer. Fryer served as BCGEU's general secretary from 1969-1983 and president of NUPGE (National Union of Public and General Employees) from 1980-1990.

Those who knew him characterize John Fryer as no-nonsense, gritty, brilliant and a larger than life personality. He will be best remembered for his role in securing collective bargaining rights for provincial government workers in 1972 under the first BC NDP government.

"I never had the chance to work directly with John Fryer, but he was a titan in the labour movement and a key figure in making the BCGEU what it is today-a dynamic, progressive voice for our members and all working people in BC," said Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU.

"John's legacy includes engineering the transition of the BC Government Employee's Association to the BCGEU-the official bargaining unit for direct government workers. Our union would literally not be what it is today without him. On behalf of the more than 80,000 members of the BCGEU my deepest condolences go to John's family and all those who knew and loved him."

Fryer was known for implementing some rather unusual strategies. For instance, perhaps his most memorable and amusing tactic is when he hired a Cessna airplane to fly over the B.C. Legislature towing a banner reading "Drop us a line, Mr. Black – BCGEU". This feat – which garnered front page national media coverage -- was to urge the cabinet minister for the public service, Wesley Black, to sit down with BCGEU to discuss bargaining rights.

The late John Shields, BCGEU's second president, said that "John Fryer transformed the B.C. Government Employees' Association from a staff society to the largest labour union in British Columbia… The footprints of John Fryer are the footprints of a pioneer."



UWU/MoveUP

October 26, 2020

The BCGEU stands in solidarity with Alberta workers

October 26, 2020

Via email: g.smith@aupe.org

Guy Smith, President

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE)

Solidarity Place Edmonton

10451 170 St. NW

Edmonton, AB, T5P 4S7

 

Dear AUPE President Guy Smith,

Re: Solidarity with Alberta workers

 

The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU), with its more than 80,000 members, stand in solidarity with all workers in their fight to protect public healthcare in your province.

The BCGEU calls on the Alberta government to immediately stop their risky plan to cut jobs in the middle of a pandemic and strip workers of their collectively bargained rights.

Premier Jason Kenney’s government once called these workers heroes, but now they are showing that those words were empty rhetoric. We fully support AUPE members taking direct action to bring attention to the Alberta government’s dangerous privatization plan.

The fight to protect public healthcare is not contained to one province or one union. We hope that the entire labour movement, and civil society in Canada, will stand united in support of the brave direct action taken by AUPE workers to protect the services people in Alberta are counting on.

Your neighbours to the west are here to support in any way we can. Should workers in Alberta need anything we can help with, please do not hesitate to call, or get in touch with us at the BCGEU.

The labour movement was founded on the principle of an injury to one being an injury to all, and we are proud to continue this tradition.

Wishing you nothing but success in your fight to safeguard Alberta’s healthcare system for generations to come.

 

In solidarity,

                                                            

Stephanie Smith                                                                                               Paul Finch

President                                                                                                            Treasurer

Kari Michaels                                                                                                    Doug Kinna

Executive Vice President                                                                               Executive Vice President

Joanna Lord                                                                                                      James Coccola

Executive Vice President                                                                               Executive Vice President

 

cc            Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta, via email

               Tyler Shandro, Alberta Minister of Health, via email

 

Download a PDF of the letter here.

 

 

UWU/MoveUP

 

 

October 23, 2020

The BCGEU stands in solidarity with Mi’kmaq fishers- BCGEU

October 23, 2020

Via email: chiefsack@sipeknekatik.ca

Sipekne'katik First Nation
Chief Michael P. Sack
522 Church Street
Indian Brook 14, NS
B0N 1H0 

Dear Mi'kmaw Nation & Sipekne'katik First Nation,

Re:  Solidarity with Mi'kmaw Nation & Sipekne'katik First Nation

The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) stands in solidarity with Mi'kmaq fishers. We wish to amplify your calls for immediate action by all levels of governments and law enforcement to protect your inherent rights, lives, and the safety of your fishers, including members of the Sipekne'katik First Nation.

BCGEU condemns the violent and racist attacks by non-Indigenous fishers. We condemn the escalating and dangerous crimes perpetrated by non-Indigenous people. And we condemn the RCMP's lack of leadership in addressing these attacks. 

The attacks on your fishers are in direct violation of the Supreme Court of Canada's landmark Marshall ruling that protects your inherent rights to fishing. Your legal and constitutionally protected rights to generate a moderate livelihood must be upheld by all levels of Government, and they must be upheld now.

The BCGEU calls on all relevant levels of government to take action against these acts of racism against the Mi'kmaq and to affirm and respect Mi'kmaq rights immediately. 

Your perseverance and commitment are inspiring to many, and though we are many kilometres away, please know that you have our union's full support.

In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith                                                     Paul Finch 
President                                                                Treasurer

 

Download PDF of letter here



UWU/MoveUP