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NEWS

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

Click here to read the full submission

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

June 24, 2020

COVID-19 Safety Plans: What BCGEU members need to know - BCGEU

COVID-19 Safety Plans: What BCGEU members need to know

As you are aware, the B.C. government has announced timelines for services and businesses to re-open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whether your workplace is re-opening now, or has been open throughout the pandemic, your employer – like all employers in B.C. – is required to develop a COVID-19 Safety Plan that meets government and WorkSafeBC requirements and to have the plan available upon inspection.

In addition to having a safety plan, your employer should:

  • Develop the safety plan in consultation with workers and your workplace's Joint Occupational Health and Safety (JOHS) committee or worker representatives;
  • Make the safety plan readily available to workers;
  • Ensure workers are trained and know how to keep themselves safe;
  • Ensure supervisors are trained;
  • Ensure supervisors are monitoring the workplace to confirm policies and procedures are being followed.

If these things are not being done in your workplace, or you have concerns about how they're being done, you should:

More about COVID-19 Safety Plans

By order of B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer, all employers must develop a COVID-19 Safety Plan. The purpose of the Safety Plan is to minimize the risk of transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

WorkSafeBC has developed detailed guidance and templates to help employers assess the risk of exposure to the virus, and put in place effective measures to protect workers. These materials are also a good resource to understand the best practices you should be seeing implemented in your workplace.

At a minimum, COVID-19 Safety Plans should include the following:

  • Measures to allow workers to maintain a physical distance of least two metres between one another and between clients/ customers
  • Policies to ensure that workers or clients (where possible) that are ill or required to self-isolate are not allowed in the workplace
  • Enhanced workplace cleaning, especially high-traffic areas and high-touch surfaces like light switches and door knobs
  • Easy access to facilities and adequate time for workers to wash their hands frequently
  • Consideration of allowing workers to work remotely where possible
  • "Engineering controls" – like plexi-glass barriers or other changes to the physical workspace to facilitate physical distancing, and to separate workers and/or clients where distancing is not possible
  • "Administrative controls" – like rotating or staggered schedules, restrictions on the number clients, or sharing documents electronically to facilitate physical distancing and reduce contact with potentially contaminated surfaces
  • Where physical distancing is not possible, provision for appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, eye protection, gloves and/or gowns.
  • Updated protocols for Occupational First Aid Attendants (OFAAs)
  • A training plan for all staff on the Safety Plan and the measures identified in the Safety Plan
     

Download a copy of the COVID-19 Safety Plan poster here



UWU/MoveUP

June 15, 2020

Message From President Stephanie Smith - BCGEU

The last several months have been indescribable in so many ways...but the last few weeks have been absolutely devastating.
 
Like many of you, two weeks ago my social media feeds were completely filled with the video of the senseless murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Mr. Floyd is not alone-Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, the list goes on and seems to grow by the day-but Mr. Floyd has been a flashpoint. The violence and brutality of his death was unspeakable, and the aftermath has been as hard to watch as it is hard to look away from.
 
These names and images and events are just the latest chapter in our society's generations-long struggle with racism and white supremacy. To win that struggle, we need to start by understanding and accepting that racism and white supremacy are deeply rooted in our communities and our institutions and that those of us who are white have a moral obligation to be part of the work of rooting them out.
 
To me, that means embracing the work, the hard work, of anti-racism. For white people, like me and many of you, that work includes listening to and supporting our IBPoC (Indigenous, Black and People of Colour) friends and comrades when they share their lived experience; it includes looking for ways to transfer our privilege to those who lack it; it includes unlearning language and behaviour and assumptions that we don't remember learning in the first place; it includes confronting uncomfortable truths about the people, places and institutions that have defined our lives; it includes dismantling systems designed for oppression and building a better world.
 
The work of anti-racism includes all of this and much more. And that work must happen in every community and every family. I can assure you that work will happen in our union.
 
A few months ago, our plan had been to spend last week together at convention, debating, voting, socializing and charting our union's course for the next three years. Instead, we spent the time apart, but we must still work on a vision for our union's future and that anti-racism must be part of that vision.
 
Over the coming days, weeks, and months, I'll be working with your elected leaders and BCGEU staff to build anti-racism into the work of our union and I'm asking you to be part of making that happen: If you have ideas for what our union can do to be anti-racist, to see and support our IBPoC members, I want to hear from you.
 
Thank you for everything you do every day to make our union, and our movement stronger.
 
In Solidarity,
Stephanie



UWU/MoveUP

June 05, 2020

Hazard Alert: Hand sanitizer at worksites - BCGEU

Hazard Alert: Hand sanitizer at worksites

You are receiving this hazard alert as an OHS representative of BCGEU members. Please inform your colleagues of the following information. 

Due to supply issues, some manufacturers of hand sanitizer are substituting food-grade ethanol with technical-grade ethanol – which contains toxicological properties including carcinogenicity and should NOT be used on broken or damaged skin, while pregnant or breastfeeding, or inhaled in general.

We advise all OHS representatives and workers to:

 

  1.  Be aware of this potential hazard (full details below).
  2. Check the information about the hand sanitizer product used in your workplace. 

If your workplace is using hand sanitizer containing technical-grade ethanol, we advise JOHS committees or worker representatives to:

  • Recommend that the employer substitute the hand sanitizer with a hand sanitizer that does not contain technical-grade ethanol.
  • Recommend measures and procedures that reinforce handwashing with soap and water as the best hand-hygiene practice and use of hand sanitizer only when soap and water are not available. 

If you have questions about this advice, or the following information, contact ohs@bcgeu.ca

About technical-grade ethanol and Health Canada manufacturing requirements:


Hand sanitizer that contains technical-grade ethanol has a stronger or different smell than sanitizer with food-grade ethanol. The ingredient of concern is acetaldehyde with a content of 800-1000 ppm. (Normal content of acetaldehyde in hand sanitizer is 10 ppm.) The following is an example of a label you should expect to see on hand sanitizer containing technical-grade ethanol:



On April 15, 2020, Health Canada issued a time-limited approval for manufacturers of hand sanitizer to use technical-grade ethanol while higher-grade ethanol was in short supply. Health Canada required these manufacturers to notify its customers that their product contained technical-grade ethanol and to label their product containers with the following warnings: "Do not use on broken or damaged skin. Do not use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Do not inhale."

At the end of May, some lots of Microsan Optidose hand sanitizer with technical-grade ethanol were recalled by B.C. health authorities, and by now should have been identified and removed from health authority worksites. However, other non-health authority BCGEU workplaces may be using hand sanitizer with technical-grade ethanol. 

Key concerns about using this product:

  • Information about this change in manufacturing, and the potential harm associated with the new product, may not make it to workers. 
  • Handwashing with soap and water is always the best method for hand hygiene and should be encouraged no matter what type of hand sanitizer is available, but especially because of this issue. 

More information:

British Columbia's Occupational Health and Safety Regulation requires employers to eliminate or minimize exposure to chemicals that are potentially harmful to workers' health (Section 5.2 (b)), and ensure that that labels, Safety Data Sheets and other information are readily available and clearly communicated to the worker (Section 5.2 (a), (c)). 

The Joint Health and Safety (JOHS) committee or worker representative has the power to identify hazards and make recommendations to the Employer to improve the health and safety of workers (Workers' Compensation Act Section 37), and to request information from the employer about hazards in the workplace (Workers' Compensation Act Section 42(2)(a)). 

April 15th Health Canada notice to industry: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/natural-non-prescription/legislation-guidelines/covid19-technical-grade-ethanol-hand-sanitizer.html

List of Health Canada-approved hand sanitizers: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/disinfectants/covid-19/hand-sanitizer.html

Information on how Health Canada assesses the use of technical use ethanol: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/natural-non-prescription/legislation-guidelines/covid19-technical-grade-ethanol-hand-sanitizer/risk-assessment-summary-report.html

Questions? 

Contact ohs@bcgeu.ca



UWU/MoveUP

May 28, 2020

Glass Lewis endorses shareholder motion questioning Thomson Reuters’s (NYSE, ...

Burnaby – One of the world's leading independent proxy advisory firms, Glass Lewis, has recommended that Thomson Reuters (NYSE, TSX: TRI) shareholders vote FOR a proposal filed by the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU). The proposal calls on the Thomson Reuters board to produce a human rights report that addresses the impacts of contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Shareholders believe these contracts expose the company to significant legal and reputational risk, as well as the real likelihood of contributing to, or being directly linked to, violations of human rights, including children's rights, due process, equal protection, freedom from persecution and torture, and the rights of asylum seekers.

This endorsement is significant. Glass Lewis's global client base of 1,200+ institutions collectively manages more than $25 trillion in assets.

According to Glass Lewis's analysis of the proposal:

"[W]e do not believe that [Thomson Reuters] has provided sufficiently robust information concerning its human rights considerations, particularly given the controversial nature of its association with ICE. We believe that additional reporting on how the Company is mitigating adverse human rights impacts from its products, and how it ensures it remains in compliance with the UN Global Compact (of which it already is a signatory), would provide shareholders with assurance this is an area that is being thoroughly managed and overseen in a manner that is in the best interests of shareholders".

In response to the endorsement, BCGEU President Stephanie Smith released the following statement:

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

"We deeply believe in the importance of this proposal and are encouraged that Glass Lewis has recommended shareholders support BCGEU's proposal. We hope to see a strong vote at the June 3 AGM."

BCGEU has also learned that other significant TRI investors have voted FOR the proposal, and the proposal also has also been endorsed by responsible investment funds including Trillium Asset Management ($3.2 billion AUM) and Azzad Asset Management ($812 million AUM), as well as human rights and legal expert Nina Gardner, Adjunct Professor of business and human rights law at John Hopkins SAIS.

Recent reports revealed by Mijente, a US based advocacy non profit, show how Thomson Reuters is not only passively offering data to government agencies like ICE as part of the companies multi-million dollar contracts with the rogue agency; they also play a direct role in reviewing and vetting target lists for which immigrants ICE should deport.

The proposal was submitted by the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) as part of its capital stewardship program. 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 securing strong commitments on human rights due diligence, vertical pay analysis, food waste and climate disclosure.

The Thomson Reuters shareholder meeting will take place virtually on June 3, 2020.

 

View the BCGEU shareholder proposal here: https://www.bcgeu.ca/bc_union_s_shareholder_proposal_questions_thomson_reuters_on_human_rights_record_connections_to_ice

View BCGEU's investor brief here: https://www.bcgeu.ca/bcgeu_releases_investor_brief_calling_on_thomson_reuters_tsx_nyse_tri_to_properly_assess_risks_of_working_with_ice

View Thomson Reuters's management circular and response to the BCGEU shareholder proposal here: https://ir.thomsonreuters.com/static-files/0482f011-d14a-4094-8029-74c7a7f3c4bd

 

 

 

 

 



UWU/MoveUP