April 20, 2018

MSDPR’s Acceptance of Ombudsperson’s Holding Pattern Report Is a Major Victor...

The BCGEU applauds the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction's (MSDPR) willingness to accept most of the recommendations of B.C.'s Ombudsperson Jay Chalke's special report Holding Pattern: Call Wait Times for Income and Disability Assistance.

"We're pleased that the new government has acknowledged the long-standing problems surrounding the MSDPR centralized phone line and is committed to addressing some of the underlying issues," said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "However, we believe that all of the Ombudsperson's recommendations should be implemented and we're hoping to meet with Minister Shane Simpson in the near future to discuss how we can work together to continue improving services for British Columbians and working conditions for our members."

This report, which investigates the long wait-times and restricted service of the ministry's centralized phone system, is the result of repeated complaints submitted by the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre on behalf of nine social service agencies across the province. 

The complaint draws, in part, on the findings of the BCGEU's Choose Children report which outlines the concerns and experiences of frontline workers in the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation (MSDSI, as it used to be called under the BC Liberal government) as well as community based social services agencies. It says that child, youth and family workers face massive caseloads, severe staffing shortages, poorly designed service delivery and a lack of resources. 

Workers at MSDPR have also voiced concerns to the BCGEU about the worsening of working conditions as a result of budget cuts, office closures and the centralized phone system. Workers are subjected to increased levels of stress and exposed to abuse by vulnerable clients who are no longer receiving adequate services. 

This, combined with pay that is lower than the equivalent in other provinces, has also led to a low retention rate for Employment and Assistance Workers (EAW), which has made it difficult for the ministry to maintain appropriate staffing levels. 

The Ombudsperson's report confirms problems the BCGEU has pointed out for years regarding the long wait times and inadequate service levels experienced by the province's most vulnerable people when calling into the ministry's centralized phone system. 

In this report, the Ombudsperson made 9 recommendations for MSDPR to improve services. These recommendations include:

• Reporting wait time statistics to increase transparency on the ministry's progress in addressing this problem
• Hiring more EAWs to reduce wait times and provide adequate levels of service
• Phasing out the use of limited service techniques used to reduce the amount of time EAWs spend on each call, which resulted in reduced service levels for people seeking assistance

Related Resources:

Choose Children: A case for reinvesting in child, youth and family services in British Columbia
Wait times for welfare phone line soar
Service reductions at Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation prompt complaint to Ombudsperson



April 20, 2018

BCGEU partners with SumOfUs on improving corporate responsibility through inv...

The BCGEU is leading the way in the labour movement when it comes to responsible investing. Ahead of the 2015 global oil price crash, the union divested its strike fund and general reserves from fossil fuel equities and not only preserved, but increased the value of its holdings. Now, the BCGEU has partnered with non-profit organization SumOfUs to advocate for greater corporate responsibility among companies in its portfolio to further improve the value and sustainability of those investments. 

"As a union we need to make sure that funds our members count on, such as the strike fund, are financially healthy and this requires careful and responsible investment decisions," says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "Calling for greater corporate responsibility as a shareholder is not only financially prudent, but it allows us to pursue our values as a labour union as well." 

On behalf of the BCGEU, SumOfUs will file several proposals over the summer for a vote by shareholders at Annual General Meetings of Canadian companies. These proposals will call for greater fairness in corporate governance and increased scrutiny around human rights and labour practices as well as the impacts of deforestation. 

SumOfUs is a global non-profit organization that engages an online community of 14 million people to hold big corporations accountable on issues such as climate change, workers' rights, discrimination, human rights, animal rights and corruption.


April 19, 2018

Welcome to Your Union: A New Resource Guide for BCGEU Members

Introducing BCGEU's brand-new member guide! Welcome to Your Union is a compact yet informative guide, written for all BCGEU members, whether new to the union or not.

The guide outlines key information members need to get the most out of union membership such as educational opportunities, ways to get more involved, the role of shop stewards and the right to workplace safety.

It also describes the organizational structure of the union, the components, and how to contact area offices across the province.

There are also instructions on how to access BCGEU's member portal, a web-based resource that is customized to members' specific needs based on geographic location and occupational component. On the portal you can easily locate your collective agreement, get union news and updates, find local events and campaigns, and read bargaining and component news relevant to your worksite.

Watch for printed copies inserted in the next issue of The Provincial. Members can also get copies through their local area office, or you can download a PDF of the guide here.


April 16, 2018

Honouring killed and injured workers on Day of Mourning – April 28 - BCGEU

In 2017, 158 workers lost their lives to workplace injury or disease. Please join us in honouring their memory on the Day of Mourning, April 28.

Many BCGEU members will be attending Day of Mourning events in communities around our province. Some members will be there to honour and remember their co-workers and family members. Many will be there to show solidarity and empathy for those who have been affected by the death of a worker. 

Experience tells us that every one of these 158 deaths and injuries could have been prevented. There is much work to be done to improve regulatory requirements and enforcement. The BCGEU, along with the BC Federation of Labour and other unions, continue to lobby government and the Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) to increase prevention activities, to write more orders, levy more penalties and launch more criminal prosecutions against negligent employers. 

Every year the BCGEU and Labour Councils organize activities in their workplaces and communities to commemorate April 28. BCGEU members are encouraged to attend Day of Mourning events in their communities. Members are also encouraged to take a moment on April 28 to remember the workers who have lost their lives or have been injured in the course of their workday.

Since 1997, the BC Federation of Labour, the Business Council of British Columbia, and WorkSafeBC have co-hosted a public commemorative ceremony for the Day of Mourning in Vancouver, B.C. In 2001, WorkSafeBC, the BC Federation of Labour, and the Business Council of British Columbia dedicated a permanent workers' memorial in the Sanctuary in Hastings Park, Vancouver.

There are approximately 45 permanent worker memorial sites sponsored by WorkSafeBC in British Columbia.

• For a list of ceremonies taking place in British Columbia on April 27 and 28 visit

Download a PDF file of the new Day of Mourning poster here



April 13, 2018

Government to Recognize PTSD & Mental Health Claims for First Responders: Cor...

The BCGEU welcomes the provincial government's announcement that first responders including Sheriffs and Correctional Officers will receive greater access to mental health support. 

On Wednesday, BC Labour Minister Harry Bains announced amendments to the Workers Compensation Act. These amendments -- called a presumptive clause -- will be introduced this week and, if approved by the legislature, will add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental disorders to a recognized list of presumptive conditions associated with specific types of jobs. This means that when first responders, including sheriffs and correctional officers, who experience job-related trauma are diagnosed with a mental disorder, they will be able to get assistance without providing proof that the injury was related to their work.

"I applaud the proposed amendments to the Workers Compensation Act announced by Minister Bains, building on the work begun by Minister Simpson and supported by Minister Darcy. Making mental health, including PTSD, a presumptive condition is a long overdue show of common sense and compassion for first responders," said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith.

Seven other provinces and territories in Canada, including Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, already have a presumptive clause to protect first responders suffering from PTSD and mental illnesses. "This change is an important step but there is more work to be done to protect the men and women that protect our province. So while we recognize and appreciate progress, it's critical that we also stay focused on the road ahead," added Smith.

BCGEU would like to acknowledge the work of long-time BCGEU member Robert Gagnon, whose efforts helped make this possible. Gagnon, a Corrections Officer and Canadian Forces veteran, walked from Prince George to BC's Legislature last summer to raise awareness and support for veterans and first responders who suffer from PTSD. 

"It's important to stay focused on how this change happened. Make no mistake, we are here today because of the efforts of activists. Activists like Robert and everyone else who raised their voice, told their story, and kept the pressure on in their own way. Activists make a difference. I'm lucky to be surrounded and inspired by them every day," said Smith.


Read the government press release here.

Hansard script (recognizing the work of Correctional Officer Robert Gagnon):

Hon. H. Bains
I'm really pleased today to recognize a number of first responders seated in the gallery. Gord Ditchburn, of the B.C. Professional Firefighters Association; Cameron Eby, Robert Parkinson, Sophia Parkinson and Lindsay Kellosalmi, from the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C.; Jeremy Kerr, who's a sheriff; and Dean Purdy, who's a corrections officer. 
Joining them is a special guest, another corrections officer who some of you may remember from last summer. Robert Gagnon has been called "the man who walked through the flames for PTSD" - and indeed he did. Robert is a former corporal with the Canadian Armed Forces, who now works as a corrections officer for Prince George.
Following his military career, Robert found himself struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, and through his own struggles, he became aware of how many others, including first responders, were also needing services and support. He decided to do something about it, and last summer, Robert set off on the journey of his life, as he walked solo from Prince George to the front steps of this building to raise awareness around PTSD.
He reached Victoria on July 25, after walking about 30 kilometres per day. Along the way, he raised funds to help support an equine therapy ranch for veterans in Quesnel and a facility in Kamloops that works with first responders and veterans with PTSD.
He's here to see some of the fruits of his labour, as we make an announcement related to supporting those kilometres per day.
Along the way, he raised funds to help support an equine therapy ranch for veterans in Quesnel and a facility in Kamloops that works with first responders and veterans with PTSD.
He's here to see some of the fruits of his labour as we make an announcement related to supporting those who develop mental disorders as a result of trauma in their workplaces. I thank him for his tireless efforts and wish him all the best as he travels the road to recovery. Would the House please join with me making him and all other heroes in the gallery very welcome.

Photos from Wednesday's event at the Legislature:






April 13, 2018

Government action for renters and tenants a welcome relief in middle of housi...


This week the government of British Columbia announced new initiatives to strengthen protections for renters. BCGEU welcomes these long overdue changes, and applauds the government for continuing to take initiative on the housing file.

"Increasing protections for those facing eviction is an important step in making B.C. more affordable for renters," noted BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "The new provisions will provide tenants more time to dispute evictions, and the new penalties for landlords who exploit the rules will greatly improve accountability. These are all good concrete steps to protect vulnerable renters."

New relief for renters in British Columbia is much-needed. Many families have been at the mercy of an overheated housing market. Low vacancy rates and underfunding of the Residential Tenancy Branch have made living in B.C. more expensive, housing situations precarious, and assistance hard to access.

These actions are a clear sign that political leaders are starting to respond to the public desire for an affordable British Columbia. Hundreds of thousands of British Columbians are counting on Premier John Horgan and his ministers to stabilize their housing situation and they should be encouraged by these actions. 

"We look forward to the implementation of the changes announced, and the work of the Province's new Rental Housing Task Force. We recognize the importance and timeliness of the work of the task force, and look forward to establishing a dialogue in the coming weeks and months to support action on affordability." said Smith.

The BCGEU, in cooperation with CUPE 1767 has been advocating for strong action on housing through the Affordable BC campaign. Released in November 2017, Affordable BC, is a plan to address speculation and invest in neighbourhoods to solve the affordability crisis. Thousands have already signed online in support of the plan to tackle the housing crisis. Full details of the plan are available at

The BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) represents information and administrative workers at the Residential Tenancy branch as well as more than 74,000 workers in more than 550 bargaining units throughout British Columbia. 



April 12, 2018

BCGEU and B.C. Government to begin bargaining new contract for members in the...

The BCGEU has accepted an offer from the B.C. Government to begin negotiations aimed at concluding a new collective agreement with members in the B.C. public service.

The existing contract between the BCGEU and the B.C. Government expires on March 31, 2019. It covers roughly 27,000 employees in the public service around the province.

"We're pleased to begin the bargaining process now," said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "It will give us sufficient time before the expiration of the existing contract to address the long-standing issues we've been raising with government in the four years since we negotiated our last contract. We want to improve services through the bargaining process."

The BCGEU has been preparing for a return to the bargaining table since late last year to identify priorities through member surveys, bargaining meetings and conferences as a part of the normal process in the lead up to the agreement's expiry.

Component bargaining will commence on April 30, 2018, with negotiations on the main agreement beginning May 7, 2018.

We'll post more information as it becomes available. Please make sure your contact information is up-to-date and correct by visiting:


Ask your co-workers to do the same.


April 10, 2018

April 12th Jersey Day - BCGEU

Staff and the Senior Leadership at the BCGEU will be wearing their jerseys to show support and respect for the Humboldt Broncos on Thursday, April 12 2018. We hope you do too!



April 09, 2018

‘Honeymoon phase is over’ at Okanagan Correctional Centre - BCGEU

"The honeymoon phase is over."

That's the sentiment of Dean Purdy, head of the B.C. Government Employees Union's corrections division, but it appears to apply beyond staff at the Okanagan Correctional Centre.

Official complaints filed by inmates against the jail nearly doubles that of any other jail in the province.