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NEWS

April 07, 2022

22% of RBC Shareholders Back Resolution on Financialization of Housing - BC G...

BURNABY, B.C. (COAST SALISH TERRITORIES) – Today, RBC (TSX: RY) shareholders voted 22% in favour of a proposal asking for the company to assess and mitigate the human rights and reputational risks involved in the financialization of housing.
 
The proposal was presented by the B.C. General Employees’ Union, an institutional investor in RBC.
 
In response to the AGM results, BCGEU President Stephanie Smith released the following statement:
 
“As a labour union, housing affordability is one of the most critical issues for our over 85,000 members. Over the past six years, we've been leaders on the issue of housing affordability through our Affordable BC campaign, and this is a continuation of that good work. As an investor, we are increasingly concerned about the looming human rights and reputational risks related to the financialization of housing. Today’s vote indicates RBC shareholders agree with us”.
 
The financialization of housing can occur when companies buy single family residences and convert them to rental stock. This relies heavily on bank financing, both through syndicated loan facilities and mortgages. The syndicated facilities require banks to collaborate on due diligence matters and other aspects of loan assessment and administration.
 
As reported by the Globe and Mail, a Canadian developer has already started importing this Wall Street business model into Canada – by purchasing hundreds of single-family homes in Ontario, for the purpose of renting them at a profit. This developer seeks a $1 billion Canadian residential real estate portfolio with 4,000 rental units, and eventually publicly listing this enterprise through an IPO.
 
“This Wall Street model is coming to Canada whether we like it or not. Today our shareholder proposal asked a simple question: Given the potential for adverse human rights impacts, does RBC have the human rights due diligence practices in place to adequately mitigate risk? We unfortunately don’t think so,” said Smith.

BCGEU filed the same proposal at BMO, but as a result of meaningful dialogue was able to withdraw after BMO acknowledged the potential for the financialization of housing in the single-family residential sector in Canada and committed to evaluating and enhancing its due diligence processes and training that will address human rights due diligence considerations.

Housing affordability is one of the biggest issues facing BCGEU members, and in addition to shareholder engagement on the financialization of housing the union is engaged in advocacy for stronger housing policies and has an rezoning application before the City of Burnaby to develop 292 units of housing, with at least 50% offered at below-market affordable rates, as part of a multi-use building that would also include a childcare facility and new office space for the union.

Press contact:
Emma Pullman
[email protected]
778-887-6776
 

View the BCGEU shareholder proposal here: https://assets.nationbuilder.com/bcgeu/pages/896/attachments/original/1649262439/2022_final_RBC_shareholder_proposal.pdf?1649262439
View BCGEU's investor letter here: https://assets.nationbuilder.com/bcgeu/pages/896/attachments/original/1649262149/RBC_Investor_letter_-_Financialization_of_Housing_2022.pdf?1649262149
Read the Affordable BC Plan here: https://www.affordablebc.ca/
 
***

About BCGEU: BCGEU is one of the largest unions in British Columbia, with over 85,000 members in almost every community and economic sector in the province. Under BCGEU's capital stewardship strategy, the union has submitted shareholder proposals at some of Canada’s largest companies on topics like human rights, racial equity, and executive compensation. The union's strategy has succeeded in achieving strong commitments on ESG issues.



UWU/MoveUP

April 06, 2022

Day of Mourning on April 28 - BC General Employees' Union (BCGEU)

Every year, on April 28, BCGEU members across the province come together to honour and remember co-workers and family members who were injured, made sick or killed because of something that happened at work. 

As COVID-19 restrictions loosen, our coming together this year will once again be in-person. It is critical that we all remember those workers and reiterate our commitment to fight for the living to prevent further tragedies.
 
Here are a few ways you can acknowledge Day of Mourning on April 28: 

  • Attend a ceremony in your community – see the list here.
  • Download and post at your worksite the BCGEU's Day of Mourning poster. To receive a hard copy of the poster, please submit a request here by Friday, April 8, 2022, 5 p.m.
  • Make an online dedication to those who have died or been injured at work.
  • Observe a moment of silence.
    • Share the following statement in your email signature or on social media:
      On April 28, we honour the lives of those that have been injured or lost their lives to workplace injury or disease in B.C. Visit dayofmourning.bc.ca for more information.
  • Call on your employer to:
    • work with health and safety committees and representatives to ensure safe and healthy working conditions, whatever work is taking place; and
    • ensure all workers have access to free personal protective equipment, training and paid sick days so they can stay home when they are ill and not risk exposing co-workers and their community.
  • Call on our provincial government to:
    • Ensure every worker has seamless access to universal, permanent, and adequate paid sick leave, so no one has to choose between going to work sick and getting a paycheque. Being able to stay home when you are sick is fundamental to reducing workplace exposures and illness;
    • Enforce workplace health and safety provisions, including the right to refuse unsafe work; and
    • Deliver on the promise that workplace health and safety is recognized as a fundamental right at work at the International Labour Organization (ILO) this year

Local BCGEU events:

Fort St. John: Area 10 will be holding a ceremony in FSJ which will commence with a gathering at the Fort St John City Hall at 11:45. We will join with other Unions and march down to Centennial Park were there will be a wreath laying ceremony at approximately 12:00. Light snacks will be provided by the Area 10 Cross Component Committee following the ceremony. We will be issuing a joint bulletin on the City Of Fort St John’s and the Worksafe website within the next week or so. Please contact the area office for more information.



Download PDF of Day of Mourning Poster here
 





March 29, 2022

BCGEU librarians still without offer, all to strike with pickets at targeted ...

BURNABY, B.C. (COAST SALISH TERRITORIES) – After more than a week without an offer from their employer, members of the BC General Employees’ Union (BCGEU) working as librarians for the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) are escalating their job action. As of 7:00 am Wednesday, March 30th, all BCGEU members working as VIRL employees will be on strike. In person and virtual services at all VIRL branches will be affected. Some branches will be behind picket lines, other branches will be operating but will not have librarians available.

“This has been an exceptionally challenging round of bargaining from the very beginning,” said Stephanie Smith. “BCGEU members have been professional, creative and flexible in an attempt to get a deal that meets their needs and makes sure their libraries are the vibrant, diverse, welcoming spaces communities rely on. Their solidarity is strong and they’ve had great support from library users. Now all we need is for their employer to step up with a fair offer.”

At mediation on March 23rd, VIRL tabled a wage proposal that improved on previous proposals but still fell short of what is needed to align VIRL librarians’ wages with those of their counterparts in comparable library systems or to account for the rising cost of living. The employer walked away from the union’s counterproposal the same day. The two sides have not met for negotiations since.

“I want to be clear, our wage ask is reasonable given the skyrocketing cost of living on Vancouver Island and the wage increase the VIRL board has already approved for the system’s executives,” said Smith. “And our wage ask is affordable within VIRL’s existing budget. Quite frankly, since the VIRL Board of Trustees are willing to approve increases for executive salaries, new facilities, branch renovations and books, it’s shocking that they are not willing to do so for librarians.”

In a March 17th letter to the VIRL board, librarians shared research showing that, of all regional library systems in B.C., VIRL librarians are the lowest paid and its executives are among the highest paid. Furthermore, since 2018, VIRL has created nine new executive positions – one of which is filled by an out-of-province employee – and those executives received substantial salary increases in 2020 – the same year the librarians’ collective agreement expired.

“Librarians don’t want to be on picket lines. They want to get back to the work they love – serving their community,” said Smith. “But without a fair offer librarians have no other choice but to escalate. VIRL has the power to end this job action at any moment and they know that.”

Background:  

For more information, including previous media releases and picket updates, visit www.bcgeu.ca/virl. 

For interview requests, please email [email protected].

The BCGEU is B.C.'s most dynamic, diverse, and fastest growing union -- representing more than 82,000 members who work in every sector of the economy and live in every community across the province including the 48 librarians who work for the Vancouver Island Regional Library.

March 25, 2022

BCGEU and PSA head back to the table - BC General Employees' Union (BCGEU)

VICTORIA, B.C. – Negotiations between the BC General Employees' Union (BCGEU) and the provincial government's Public Service Agency (PSA) will be resuming after a 15 day break. The current agreement between the parties, which covers more than 32,000 union members, expires on March 31, 2022.
 
"We always say 'where there's talk, there's hope" so getting invited back to the table is definitely positive," said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "Our members have been clear from the beginning that cost-of-living protection for wages was a top priority this round of bargaining and they haven't wavered on that. We're hopeful that the employer's invitation is a sign that they have heard that message."
 
Prior to the stall, the parties had made significant progress on a range of important issues including improved processes to resolve member issues and complaints, stronger language around bullying and sexual harassment, as well as improvements to occupational and health and safety language.
 
Talks between the two parties stalled on March 10th over a significant gap in wage proposals. The union's bargaining committee is ready to return to the negotiating table on short notice as soon as the PSA has a revised wage proposal to bring to the table.
 
Dates for upcoming bargaining sessions have not yet been set.

-30-

Contact: [email protected]



UWU/MoveUP

March 22, 2022

Stephanie Smith on CKNW's Mike Smyth show to talk bargaining - BC General Emp...

This morning, BCGEU President and Chair of the BCGEU Public Service Bargaining Committee spoke with CKNW's Michael Smyth about public service bargaining. "What we're looking for and what we think is very reasonable are cost of living adjustments… Our members over the last two years have learned their worth, they know their value, they know their contributions to our province, and they know that they are critically important in the economic recovery as we move forward."

Please click this link to listen to Stephanie Smith on CKNW

 

 



UWU/MoveUP

March 21, 2022

BCGEU Statement on CFNU re-admitting BCNU - BC General Employees' Union (BCGEU)

BCGEU Statement on CFNU re-admitting BCNU

Recently, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) announced their plan to re-admit the BC Nurses Union (BCNU) into their union, more than a decade after they left the CFNU because of raiding activities in our province.

BCNU raided our union, and other health care unions in BC, for several years in an attempt to build their own power at the expense of other front line health care workers.

During some of the worst years of the anti-labour BC Liberal government, many BCGEU members in the health care sector agreed to forego wage increases for themselves to support increases for LPNs. It was hard for our members when we then spent much of our union's resources fighting BCNU as they raided LPNs throughout the province.

BCNU's behaviour struck at worker solidarity-a core principle of the labour movement. Their raiding pitted workers against workers in health care facilities across the province damaging solidarity in the sector.

BCNU has not taken adequate steps to repair the damage they caused. While nurses are a key part of the national labour movement, here at home in BC, the leadership of the BCNU has work to do. Even if the CFNU re-admits them, the BCNU needs to take important steps before they can re-enter the broader labour movement.

The BC Federation of Labour (BCFed), Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and local labour councils condemned the BCNU raiding and barred them from participating in their organizations. These organizations have clear provisions against raiding and clear processes for any union that then expresses the desire to return to the fold, including acknowledging wrongdoing, reparations and a commitment to ensuring no future raiding will occur. Those processes must be followed, and we will be working with the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) to ensure the CFNU and BCNU are held accountable to adhering to the core values of the labour movement.

 

 

March 17, 2022

BCGEU librarians expand pickets and escalate job action - BC General Employee...

BURNABY, B.C. (COAST SALISH TERRITORIES) – Members of the BC General Employees’ Union (BCGEU) working as librarians for the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) are escalating their job action starting Friday, March 18th in an ongoing effort to get the VIRL Board to issue a new wage mandate.
 
“We’ve said from the beginning—librarians don’t want to be on picket lines in front of their libraries, they want to get back into their libraries and back to work,” said Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU. “They’ve made every effort from day one of this job action to find a balance between pressuring their employer to get back to the table while minimizing the impact on their communities and their CUPE colleagues. The bottom line is, our members deserve a fair contract, and the VIRL Board has the power to end this job action by issuing a new wage mandate to get that contract settled.”
 
The librarians’ job action started on March 9th and has so far been limited to rotating pickets targeting single branches. That action will escalate to impact multiple branches from Sooke to Port Hardy as of Friday morning. The union’s pickets will be in effect throughout regular operating hours at the following VIRL branches:

  • Port Hardy (7110 Market Street)
  • Comox (101 – 1720 Beaufort Ave)
  • Qualicum Beach (101 – 660 Primrose Street)
  • Sooke (6671 Wadams Way)
  • South Cowichan (310 – 2720 Mill Bay Road, Mill Bay)
Union members are asking library users and community members to support their job action by joining them on the picket line or refusing to cross it should VIRL choose to keep branches open. Supporters are also asked to call on their local VIRL Board Trustee directly with a request to authorize an appropriate wage mandate for librarians.
 
“On behalf of these dedicated librarians, I want to thank everyone who has shown up on the picket line or written to the VIRL Board to support this job action,” Smith continued. “From library users and their CUPE co-workers, to other union members and steadfast community members, the support and solidarity has been overwhelming. It just proves what our members have always known—libraries are community hubs and communities support librarians.”
 
Background:
 
For more information, including previous media releases and picket updates, visit www.bcgeu.ca/virl.
 
For interview requests, please email [email protected].
 
The BCGEU is B.C.'s most dynamic, diverse, and fastest growing union -- representing more than 82,000 members who work in every sector of the economy and live in every community across the province including the 48 librarians who work for the Vancouver Island Regional Library.
UWU/MoveUP

March 14, 2022

Negotiations With PSA Stall Over Gap In Wage Proposals - BC General Employees...


VICTORIA, B.C. – Negotiations between the BC General Employees’ Union (BCGEU) and the provincial government’s Public Service Agency (PSA) have stalled over a significant gap in wage proposals. The current agreement between the parties, which covers more than 32,000 union members, expires on March 31, 2022.
 
“We have made good progress so far on some very important issues that will substantially improve the working lives of our members,” said Stephanie Smith, BCGEU president and chair of the union’s bargaining committee. “But we came to the table carrying a clear message from our members to their employer—cost of living protection is the price of admission for a deal this round. When we exchanged monetary packages last week there was a gaping chasm between what our members need and what the PSA was offering so we’re stalled.”
 
As inflation rises and the cost-of-living skyrockets in communities across the province, public service workers are falling further and further behind. And there’s no end in sight—this week’s inflation numbers from Statistics Canada are expected to be higher.
 
“BC is a beautiful province but it is expensive to live here and it’s getting more expensive every day,” said Smith. “The bottom line is any wage offer that doesn’t include cost of living protection (COLA) is a wage cut and no worker should be expected to take a wage cut—especially not the public service workers who kept our families safe and our province operating over everything the last two years has thrown at us.”
 
The BCGEU bargaining committee sees the stall as a temporary setback and remains optimistic about reaching a deal at the bargaining table before the current agreement expires.
 
“Our union has a long-standing and very constructive working relationship with the PSA,” said Smith. “We’ve been bargaining agreements and solving problems together for almost 50 years. I am confident that if the PSA can revise their wage offer, we can get a deal BCGEU members will ratify.”
 
Before pausing negotiations, the parties made significant progress on a range of issues BCGEU members also identified as important including improved processes to resolve member issues and complaints, stronger language around bullying and sexual harassment, improvements to occupational and heath and safety language. The union’s bargaining committee is ready to return to the negotiating table on short notice as soon as the PSA has a revised wage proposal to bring to the table.
 
 
 



UWU/MoveUP

March 10, 2022

BCGEU Social Media Community Guidelines - BC General Employees' Union (BCGEU)

Every individual has the right to contribute to the conversation on the BCGEU's social media channels. These conversations will be respectful of others' political affiliation, race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, abilities, appearance, and occupation.

  • Harassment will not be tolerated: Harassment is defined as comments which ridicule, humiliate, insult, or degrade another user on the basis of race (e.g. comments, slurs and jokes), place of origin, political belief, sex, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, physical or mental abilities. Sexual harassment of any kind (unwanted attention of a sexual nature such as remarks about appearance or personal life, graffiti or degrading pictures, physical contact or sexual demands) will also not be tolerated.
  • Personal attacks on other participants on the page, fellow members and citizens, or on public figures are not tolerated. Personal attacks are defined as comments that use abusive remarks on or relating to one's person instead of debating that person's claims or comments.
  • Hate speech is not tolerated. Hate speech is defined as comments that attack a person or group on the basis of attributes such as race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or occupation. Any post containing hate speech will be deleted without notice. 
  • Spamming is not tolerated. Spamming is defined as sending the same or similar message indiscriminately. Any spam posts will be deleted without notice. 
  • Misinformation (posts/comments that are clearly not factual) and off-topics comments of an inflammatory nature will be deleted without notice.

 



UWU/MoveUP