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NEWS

May 07, 2020

The Provincial Spring 2020 - BCGEU

Check out the latest issue of The Provincial 

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





UWU/MoveUP

May 07, 2020

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


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

 



UWU/MoveUP

May 05, 2020

Sign our petition to end for-profit seniors’ care in B.C. - BCGEU

Right now, 79 per cent Canada's COVID-19 deaths are connected to long-term care facilities and make up the majority of deaths in B.C. Many seniors and elders have faced the end of their lives alone and their families have been left to pick up the pieces. We have known since the start of this pandemic that elderly people are most at risk, but we knew the senior's care sector was in crisis long before the virus came to B.C.

View our 30 second petition video here 

The crisis in long-term care started in the early 2000s when the (then) newly elected BC Liberal government passed healthcare laws that opened the door for privatization and contract-flipping, decimating labour rights and creating a race-to-the bottom in wages. Working conditions suffered, and so did care.

Study after study has confirmed: seniors in for-profit care receive inferior support and suffer worse health outcomes compared to those in publicly-funded or non-profit care facilities. That's because the profit motive in private systems gives operators a choice: invest in care through adequate staffing and compensation for workers, or maximize your profit by suppressing wages and staffing levels. The crisis in for-profit long-term care is proof of the choices those operators have made time, and time again.

20 years in the making, the tragedy we face today lays at the feet of for-profit companies-underpaid workers had no choice but to cobble together hours by working at multiple locations in order to make ends meet. As we now know, this patchwork system turned out to be the ideal conditions for the spread of the virus.

Sign our petition to end for-profit seniors' care in B.C.

The good news is that our current government had started the long, complex job of repairing seniors' care in our province before COVID-19 came to B.C. In 2019 the BC NDP transitioned all home support workers – those working in the community – from private contracts back into direct government employment. The BCGEU had long called for this change and you can read more about it hereThis was an important and timely achievement but now we need to do the same in residential care.

It's time to take the profit motive out of seniors' care entirely in B.C. by moving to a non-profit, publicly delivered system in our province.

Click here to join us in calling on the BC government to phase-out for profit residential seniors' care in B.C. now.

 

 

In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith
BCGEU President

 



UWU/MoveUP

May 01, 2020

A May Day message from President Stephanie Smith - BCGEU

May 1st is International Workers Day. Historically, it is a commemoration of the Haymarket affair, a rally that took place in Chicago on May 4, 1886 in support of a general strike for an 8 hour workday that had happened in communities across the United States three days prior. At the time workdays of up to 16 hours were normal-as were six-day workweeks, child labour, and workplace deaths and injuries. The initially peaceful rally turned deadly when a bomb was thrown into the crowd and the ensuing police response killed four demonstrators and injured many more.

In "normal" times I would be gathering today with my labour family to march through the streets of Vancouver and BCGEU activists from across the province would be rallying in their local communities.

These are not normal times but rather than dwell on the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic means there won't be a rally this year, I want to point out what the pandemic has done.

COVID-19 has put workers' rights at the top of the public agenda. Long-standing issues like sick benefits, workplace safety and the right to refuse unsafe work-issues that the labour movement has been fighting for for generations-are now recognized as essential components of our society's safety moving forward. 

COVID-19 has made the abject failure of neoliberal policies like privatization of seniors care impossible to ignore or avoid any longer.

COVID-19 has made us all reconsider not just how we define "essential" work, but how we value that work and the workers who do it.

So as we mark this International Workers' Day let's remember the sacrifices of those who came before us to create the world we now live in. And, as we prepare for BC's post-COVID "economic recovery", let's commit ourselves to not losing the lessons of our current circumstance but to making the most of those lessons to build a brighter, safer, more prosperous future for all working people.

Thank you for all you do.

In sol,
Stephanie



UWU/MoveUP

April 30, 2020

16% of Loblaw Independent Shareholders Vote for Greater Human Rights Oversigh...

16% of Loblaw Independent Shareholders Vote for Greater Human Rights Oversight at Canada's Largest Food Retailer

 

Today, Loblaw's independent shareholders voted 16% in favour of a human rights shareholder proposal filed by B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU). The proposal asks Canada's largest food retailer to assign board-level responsibility for human rights.

Loblaw scores poorly on international human rights benchmarks and lags behind its global peers who have adopted the UN Global Compact and UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

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

"It is long past time for this enormously profitably company to catch up with its peers and take decisive action on human rights.

During the COVID-19 pandemic we have all become acutely aware of the importance of food supply chains and the essential work done by grocery store workers-like those employed by Loblaws-to maintain those supply chains and keep Canadians safe and healthy.

There is no better time for Loblaw to demonstrate to their customers, their workers and their investors that they are committed to human rights as a whole organization-from the highest levels of leadership in corporate headquarters to the frontlines of their retail business and throughout their supply chains.

The BCGEU will be watching their progress and today's result shows that other shareholders will be as well."

This shareholder proposal is part of the union's cutting-edge capital stewardship program that helps us leverage our power as an investor to demand action from companies on the issues that matter for our members, and all working people. 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.


For further information and media requests, please contact:

Emma Pullman, BCGEU, emma.pullman@bcgeu.ca

 

The shareholder proposal can be viewed here: 

https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/bcgeu/pages/896/attachments/original/1588094938/2020_Loblaw_shareholder_proposal_.pdf?1588094938

 

The investor brief can be viewed here:

https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/bcgeu/pages/896/attachments/original/1587420818/BCGEU_-_Loblaw_Investor_Brief.pdf?1587420818



UWU/MoveUP

April 29, 2020

Union Shareholder Proposal Highlights Human Rights Risk at Canada’s Largest F...

Media Advisory

For Immediate Release 

Union Shareholder Proposal Highlights Human Rights Risk at Canada’s Largest Food Retailer

On April 30, 2020, BCGEU will present a human rights shareholder proposal at Loblaw's annual general meeting. According to international reports, Loblaw is a human rights laggard behind global peers.

 

WHO: B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU)

WHAT: Shareholder proposal presentation at Loblaw's Annual Shareholder Meeting 

WHEN: April 30, 2020, 11:00am - 12:30am EST

WHERE: The AGM is taking place online. Attendees can use password loblaw2020

WHY: Canada's largest food retailer scores poorly on international human rights assessments, and while its global peers have adopted the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Loblaw has not done so, nor has it assigned board-level responsibility for human rights. Shareholders believe that expanding the mandate of the Risk and Compliance Committee would better position Loblaw to quickly identify and mitigate human rights risks and would allow shareholders to better understand the potential impact of these risks on shareholder value.

Under BCGEU's capital stewardship strategy, the union has submitted shareholder proposals to companies including Royal Bank of Canada, Brookfield Asset Management and Loblaw on topics like human rights, sexual misconduct, and executive compensation. The union's strategy has succeeded in achieving strong commitments on human rights due diligence, vertical pay analysis, food waste and climate disclosure.


Read the shareholder proposal and cover letter: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/bcgeu/pages/896/attachments/original/1588094938/2020_Loblaw_shareholder_proposal_.pdf?1588094938  

Read BCGEU's investor brief: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/bcgeu/pages/896/attachments/original/1587420818/BCGEU_-_Loblaw_Investor_Brief.pdf?1587420818 

 

For further information and media requests, please contact:

Emma Pullman, BCGEU, emma.pullman@bcgeu.ca 

 



UWU/MoveUP

April 23, 2020

JOHS committees must continue meeting during COVID-19 pandemic - BCGEU

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever for Joint Occupational Health and Safety (JOHS) Committees to meet and discuss COVID-19-related health and safety issues they are dealing with in their workplace.
Your union has heard that some employers are telling JOHS committees to cancel or suspend their meetings until further notice. This violates the requirements of the Workers Compensation Act (WCA) and is unacceptable. JOHS committee meetings must continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This bulletin provides information about JOHS committee requirements in your workplace. If these requirements are not being followed at your workplace, please immediately notify your supervisor, your steward and your local OHS rep.

What are the requirements of a Joint Occupational Health and Safety (JOHS) Committee?

The Workers Compensation Act (WCA) requires employers to establish a joint health and safety (JOHS) committee in all workplaces with 20 or more employees. In smaller workplaces (9-19 employees), a single worker health and safety representative must be chosen that has essentially the same duties and functions as a joint committee. The Act also says that joint committees must meet at least once a month. Some BCGEU collective agreements include requirements for committees and representatives that go beyond the minimum requirements of the Act. 

Should JOHS committee meetings, or meetings with worker health and safety representatives, be cancelled or suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic?

No. JOHS committee meetings, or meetings with worker health and safety representatives, should not be cancelled or suspended. JOHS committees have a right to participate in the development of workplace prevention and response strategies dealing with the virus, and WorkSafeBC has confirmed that it expects JOHS committees to continue to meet in accordance with the requirements under the Act. 

If your JOHS committee meetings have been cancelled or suspended, tell your supervisor, your steward and your local OHS rep that the meetings should be restarted. If meetings remain suspended, report this to the WorkSafeBC Prevention Line at 1-888-621-7233 (1-888-621-SAFE), and email ohs@bcgeu.ca to let us know that you have called WorkSafeBC.

What should my JOHS committee or worker representative be doing in response to COVID-19? 
JOHS committees or worker health and safety representatives should be meeting regularly and working with their employer to identify and find solutions to workplace health and safety concerns related to COVID-19. At this time, meetings may need to be held remotely for some or all participants.

Here's a few concrete things that joint committees or worker health and safety representatives can be doing during this crisis:

  • Ask questions and raise concerns about exposure to the virus at work. For ideas, the Ontario's Workers' Health and Safety Centre has a useful COVID-19 checklist, and a list of questions for JOHS committees to ask is available from CUPE. 
     
  • Participate in a walk-through assessment of the workplace and/or work process(es) to identify potential areas of increased risk and priority action.
     
  • Participate in reviewing, updating and/or developing an exposure control plan (ECP) for your workplace in light of COVID-19. 
     
  •  Participate in any assessment or evaluation of personal protective equipment (PPE).
     
  • Review your workplace's policies and procedures to ensure they are updated with the latest information on COVID-19.
     
  • Make recommendations to your employer about how to keep workers safe from COVID-19. For guidance, WorkSafeBC offers both general and industry-specific information for employers to keep workers healthy and safe during this pandemic. Practical information for workplaces is also provided by the BC Centre for Disease Control and the Government of Canada.
     
  • Remember to consider and make recommendations protecting workers' mental health. Resources on mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic are available from the B.C. government, the Canadian Mental Health Association, and the World Health Organization
     
  • Gather feedback from your coworkers about how prevention measures are working, and what their health and safety concerns are during the pandemic. 
     
  • Help to promote measures to prevent exposure to COVID-19 at your workplace.
     
  • Provide feedback on the effectiveness of control measures implemented in your workplace.
     
  • Participate in incident investigations related to COVID-19 exposure in your workplace. 

What rights do workers have to participate in their workplace's response to COVID-19?

Workers continue to have the right to participate in their workplace's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes participation of the joint health and safety committee, or the worker health and safety representative, in the development of the workplace's exposure control plan, in the investigation of symptoms related to occupational exposure, and in workplace evaluations for determining appropriate personal protective equipment.



UWU/MoveUP

April 17, 2020

BC union’s shareholder proposal questions Thomson Reuters on human rights rec...

Burnaby, Canada – The BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) – a major Canadian labour union with an innovative and aggressive capital stewardship strategy – has filed a shareholder proposal raising concerns about human rights impacts at the $8-billion software and media company Thomson Reuters (TSX/NYSE: TRI).

"Like many unions, the BCGEU invests members' dues to grow our union," says Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU since 2014. "Unlike most unions, the BCGEU has a capital stewardship program in place that helps us leverage our power as an investor to demand action from companies on the issues that matter for our members, and all working people. Our proposal to Thomson Reuters raises one of those issues: human rights, including the rights of children."

Thomson Reuters currently holds US$60 million in contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Under those contracts, Thomson Reuters' CLEAR® software provides the data that ICE uses in its Immigration Enforcement program to track, arrest, detain, and deport foreign nationals-including children-on a massive scale.

ICE uses CLEAR® to collate information from multiple databases, including utilities, live cell phone records, social media posts, DMV records, property, criminal/arrest and court records, business data, healthcare provider information, and license plate recognition, among others. One of the main benefits to ICE is that CLEAR® is not subject to the same legal restrictions on collection and retention of data as a government-run software would be.

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

Concerns with these contracts, and ICE's Immigrant Enforcement program, are particularly timely in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic. ICE continues to conduct immigration raids using Thomson Reuters' software despite shelter-in-place orders, and continues to detain subjects in facilities that present a substantial risk for transmission of the virus due to lack of access to sanitation, testing, and healthcare in addition to inability to practice physical distancing or other public health measures.

Human rights advocates, lawyers and detainees themselves are raising concerns that a massive outbreak inside these facilities is a ticking time bomb waiting to happen.

"While Thomson Reuters has built a brand as a trusted news source, few people realize that the news operation is largely financed by the company's role as a data broker for agencies like ICE," says Jacinta Gonzalez, a senior campaign director at Mijentea digital and grassroots organizing hub for Latinx and Chicanx people. Mijente has been leading the challenge to hold companies who have contracts with ICE accountable. "There are enormous risks associated with doing business with ICE, and those risks are currently being ignored. Thomson Reuters needs to address the very serious human rights concerns with these contracts."

Thomson Reuters currently holds six distinct contracts with ICE worth nearly US$60 million. The contracts are held with two subsidiary companies, Thomson Reuters Special Services LLC and West Publishing Corporation. BCGEU expects strong support for this proposal given similarities to a TJX Companies proposal in 2019 that was supported by a significant 39 per cent of shareholders. 

###

The Thomson Reuters annual general meeting will take place virtually on June 3, 2020 from Toronto.

Read the proposal and cover letter here: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/bcgeu/pages/896/attachments/original/1587136015/20200417_Thomson_Reuters_Shareholder_Proposal_and_cover_letter.pdf?1587136015

Read the excerpt from Thomson Reuters management circular here: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/bcgeu/pages/896/attachments/original/1587137216/TR_-_Proposal_and_Response_%282020%29.pdf?1587137216

 

About BCGEU:

The BCGEU is one of the largest unions in B.C. with 80,000 members in almost every community and economic sector in the province. Learn more at www.bcgeu.ca

Under BCGEU's capital stewardship strategy, the union has submitted shareholder proposals to companies including Royal Bank of Canada, Brookfield Asset Management and Loblaw on topics like human rights, sexual misconduct, and executive compensation. The union's strategy has succeeded in achieving strong commitments on human rights due diligence, vertical pay analysis, food waste and climate disclosure.

 

 



UWU/MoveUP

April 16, 2020

Acknowledging the frontline workers of two health care crises

April 15, 2020 marks the fourth anniversary of the declaration of the overdose crisis as a public health emergency in British Columbia.

In a statement recognizing the date this week, Judy Darcy, B.C.’s first Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, said “In this unprecedented time of two public health emergencies, we must work together to both flatten the curve and stop overdose deaths. We cannot afford to stop caring about one health-care crisis as we stare down another.”

BCGEU represents hundreds of members working on the front lines of not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but the overdose crisis. We would want to take this opportunity to recognize the incredible work of our members who are working around the clock under extraordinarily challenging and stressful circumstances: members at worksites such as RainCity Housing, Lookout Housing and Health Society, Victoria Cool Aid Society, Atira Women’s Resource Society, the mental health outreach workers working for the health authorities and so many more across B.C. Our members put themselves at risk to help keep communities safe from COVID-19 and to protect some of our province’s most vulnerable people from overdose, withdrawal or other harms. 

While we applaud the recent move our government has made on safe supply and efforts to support physical distancing and other public health measures among drug users, we urge more action to protect drug users, the homeless, and the workers who care for them like making sure the safe supply measure implemented for the duration of the pandemic become permanent, and ensuring access to personal protective equipment (PPE) for front line workers in mental health, homelessness and addiction services.

We echo Minister Darcy’s sentiments and appreciate her recognition of people working on the front lines of the overdose crisis: “Every single day, I am awed by the dedication, ingenuity and passion of the thousands of people on the front lines of the fentanyl-poisoning crisis in British Columbia,” says Darcy. Now, more than ever, we must recognize the hard work, sacrifices and inherent value of our members’ and how they continue to save lives each and every day through these unprecedented times. Their unwavering dedication and resilience inspire us.