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NEWS

March 05, 2020

BC union shareholder proposal prompts RBC to confirm screening of U.S. privat...

(Burnaby, BC)Following a shareholder proposal by the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU), Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has confirmed that it will not provide lending or financing services to companies including GEO Group (NYSE: GEO) and Core Civic (NYSE: CXW). These U.S. private prison companies operate the majority of U.S. detention facilities currently detaining migrant families and children.

Following productive negotiations and in exchange for withdrawing the shareholder proposal, RBC has also agreed to: 

  • Confirm in its shareholder meeting circular that RBC does not do business with the private prison industry in the U.S. 
  • Develop and publish a human rights position informed primarily by the requirements of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights by October 31, 2020
  • Commit to improving stakeholder engagement on human rights matters

"Shareholder advocacy is a major priority for the BCGEU-we invest our members' dues to grow our union and we make sure to leverage those investments to demand action from companies on the issues that matter to our members and all working people," says Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President. "Private prison companies have been at the centre of the appalling human rights crisis at the U.S. border, and as investors, we had the power to take action. And that action has delivered fantastic results: Not only has RBC committed not do business with U.S. private prison companies, they've also committed to greater human rights disclosure and engagement."

The detention of undocumented immigrants and asylum-seekers, especially the separation of minor children from their parents entering the U.S. outside of ports of entry, has spurred global criticism. Reports detail inhumane conditions in detention centers with children sleeping on cement floors and suffering from hunger, inadequate health care, and abuse. There have been numerous deaths inside these facilities. 

Through its general fund and defence fund investments, the BCGEU is a shareholder in Royal Bank of Canada and, as such, is entitled to file proposals for consideration at the bank's 2020 Annual General Meeting of Shareholders. 

"RBC's decision is proof that doing the right thing for human rights is also good for the bottom line," said Smith. "We couldn't be happier with this outcome but that doesn't mean we're finished. We applaud RBC's leadership on this issue, and we will be monitoring progress closely while we decide what issues to tackle next."

This week, BCGEU will send letters to Canada's largest banks asking them to assess the risks of doing business with U.S. private prison companies and to publicly announce the results of those assessments.

Over the past three years, the BCGEU's push for human rights and labour rights reforms in the companies in which they invest has established the union as a leader in Canada. 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.

RBC's AGM will take place on April 8, 2020 in Toronto.

Read the excerpt from RBC's management circular here.



UWU/MoveUP

February 27, 2020

BCGEU analysis of provincial Budget 2020 - BCGEU

The BCGEU has prepared a detailed analysis of Budget 2020 to help members understand how the targeted investments in programs, infrastructure and affordability will impact members:

Although prudent and perhaps cautious in tone, Budget 2020 is progressive – which is much needed at a time when other provincial governments in Canada are implementing harsh austerity programs.

There's a lot to celebrate about this budget:

  • Major spending increases in housing and childcare
  • Continued investments in affordability and poverty reduction
  • Record-level capital investments in healthcare, education and transportation
  • A new income tax bracket for top earners – a measure that is directly in line with recommendations your union made to the government

However, none of this will happen without our members and adequate staffing levels. Workload, recruitment and retention, burnout, and occupational health and safety are existing challenges for workers in practically every ministry and sector.

The BCGEU looks forward to working with government to put in place a human resources strategy to support the people delivering the programs and services funded by Budget 2020.



UWU/MoveUP

February 26, 2020

BCGEU seniors’ care workers reach deal to improve working conditions at long-...

Following six months of negotiations, over 500 BC Government & Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) members working at Broadmead Care Society in Victoria ratified a tentative deal this week that will improve conditions for both workers and seniors at the non-profit organization. Members secured wage increases, weekend shift premiums and the continuation of their Short-Term Illness and Injury Plan (STIIP) benefits.

"This news is most welcome in a sector that has been struggling for decades due to low wages and therefore the inability to retain qualified staff," says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "Our members care deeply about their clients, so this is a win for seniors as much as it is for workers."

The quality of seniors' care in B.C., particularly among for-profit facilities, began to degrade after the BC Liberals enacted legislation in the early 2000s that led to the deterioration of working conditions for health and social-sector workers. It also stripped workplace protections and rights and enabled contract-flipping which created a race to the bottom in terms of wages. The BC NDP repealed these laws in late 2018, but the damage will take years to undo.

"We must restore seniors' care as a whole in B.C. and our union wants to see the problematic for-profit model of care eliminated and moved into government as a public service," Smith continues. "Only then will we have a long-term solution that supports our dedicated workforce with good wages and benefits to deliver the standard of care B.C. seniors deserve."

BCGEU members at Broadmead Care Society work as health care workers, activity workers, social workers, therapy assistants and building maintenance workers as well as in food service, administration and more. 

The BCGEU represents over 8,000 members in seniors' care with 3,000 working in residential care facilities.

For more information contact BCGEU Communications, communications@bcgeu.ca 



UWU/MoveUP

February 26, 2020

Coronavirus information for BCGEU members - BCGEU

As you are all likely aware, a new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is causing respiratory infections mostly in Hubei Province, China. As of today there is one confirmed case of the virus in B.C.; however, according to the Ministry of Health and the Provincial Health Officer, the risk to British Columbians is considered extremely low. 

I want you to know that your union has been closely monitoring this situation since news of the virus first started breaking and we are in direct contact with health authorities as they work to ensure the health and safety of working people and their families across B.C. and coordinate containment and prevention plans.

Our OH&S department gathered the following information for BCGEU members. 

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Some transmit easily from person to person while others do not have that ability. China is conducting further investigations to better understand where the disease came from, how it is transmitted and the severity of illness it causes in humans.

Who is at risk of occupational exposure?

The risk of infection is greatest for persons living with or caring for an individual with the coronavirus. This includes health care aides, dietary workers, housekeepers, activity workers and other heath care workers treating patients with the virus or responding to medical emergencies involving persons infected with the virus.

In fact, any worker in direct contact with the public is at risk, including our members working as corrections officers and even clerical positions. Anyone who comes in close proximity with a possibly infected individual could be at risk for contracting the coronavirus.

What can members do?
Although the risk to British Columbians is considered low, BCGEU is following procedures of the health authorities and the BC Centre for Disease Control and encourages members to take preventative measures to help control possible spread of the virus and protect themselves and others.

The World Health Organization's standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include: regular hand washing, covering your mouth and nose with your arm when coughing and sneezing, avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose, and thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. 
B.C.'s Ministry of Health recommends that anyone who is concerned they may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus should contact their primary-care provider, local public health office or call 811.
BCGEU recommends our members do the following:

 

  1. Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) if a risk of exposure to 2019-nCoV has been identified for you. You have the right to protect yourself, to ask for adequate PPE from your employer, and to ensure you are fit tested. 

  2. Review and comply with your workplace exposure control plan, policies and procedures. Find out what role you have in these plans and participate in any training and education that your workplace offers.

  3. Know what "leave" policies your workplace has in place for sick leave or to care for your family. Knowing your options in advance will help you make arrangements as needed. If you're uncertain about your leave entitlements, contact your shop steward.

  4. Stay home if you have the flu – or if you think you have the flu.

  5. Contact your BCGEU Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee Representative or site steward if you are concerned about the level of training or preparedness of your worksite.

 

You may wish to visit the following useful resources for more information about coronavirus:

BC Centre for Disease Control
B.C.'s Ministry of Health 
Public Health Agency of Canada
World Health Organization

We will update you on this issue as relevant information becomes available.

In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith, President



UWU/MoveUP

February 26, 2020

The public inquiry into money laundering has begun – your union’s opening st...

Just over fourteen months ago, your union launched the Public Inquiry Now campaign-making the BCGEU one of the first voices demanding that the provincial government call a public inquiry into the links between the housing affordability crisis, the overdose crisis and criminal money laundering in casinos. 

As you know, our campaign succeeded. And Monday I was honoured to take the stand in front of Commissioner Austin Cullen to deliver the BCGEU's opening statement.

Your union is one of only 16 participants granted standing to submit evidence and testimony on the topics covered by the Commission's mandate. More importantly, the BCGEU is the only participant speaking for working people. And we intend to ensure that the lived experience of working people is a central consideration in the Commission's work.

Our opening statement highlighted our support for the actions taken by the current government to fix the interlocking real estate, overdose and money laundering crises that were allowed to escalate over the past two decades. Our statement emphasized your union's support for the casino sector and those who work in it as a vital source of revenue for important public services. And our statement also made our expectations clear:

  • We expect the Commission to identify which decision makers are responsible for getting us to where we are and to hold those individuals accountable.
  • We expect the Commission to make the health, safety and well-being of working people a central consideration of their investigations and recommendations.
  • We expect to be active participants in the commission's work going forward, including helping our members to share their lived experience and perspectives with the Commission.


You can read my full statement here. And you can follow the proceedings on the Commission's website. All public hearings are webcast live and available in an archive at https://cullencommission.ca/webcast-live/ .

Delivering our opening statement is a great milestone in our work with the Commission. We have more work to do. We will continue compiling feedback from our members working in the sectors vulnerable to this crisis. In the coming weeks and months, you will receive more communication from your union about how you can provide information to the Commission. For now, if you have information you think may be relevant to the Commission's mandate, please visit or email publicinquiry.bcgeu.ca and inquiry@bcgeu.ca.

We would not be here without the many BCGEU members who were among the first to raise the alarm on money laundering in the province, and who ensured our union was among the first voices in civil society to call for a public inquiry. I want to thank you for your perseverance and solidarity on these important issues. I assure you that your voice will continue to be central to our work as we move forward.

In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith
President

UWU/MoveUP

February 26, 2020

BCGEU brings the voice of working people to Cullen Commission - BCGEU

BURNABY – The BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) was one of the first voices in the province to call for a public inquiry into money laundering in B.C. Monday, the BCGEU's president delivered the union's opening statement to the inquiry it helped create.

"We pushed for this inquiry because the housing affordability crisis, the overdose crisis and criminal money laundering were making our members' communities and workplaces unsafe and unlivable," said Stephanie Smith, BCGEU president. "Our members asked their union to take action, and we did. But getting the Cullen Commission created was just the first step. Our goal now is to make sure that the lived experience of our members – and other working British Columbians – is front and centre in the Commission's work."

The BCGEU is one of only 16 participants granted standing by the Commission. In the union's opening statement, Smith made a series of recommendations for areas the union would like the Commission to investigate and highlighted the union's goals for the Inquiry:

  • Get to the truth of how the housing crisis, the overdose crisis and criminal money laundering are connected and how our province arrived at its current state.
  • Identify those responsible, and hold them accountable for their actions and inactions.
  • Reverse the damage that can be reversed and protect British Columbians from anything like this happening again or happening in different sectors.

"The BCGEU supports everything our current government has done in terms of fact-finding and implementing policies and programs to mitigate the impact of these issues," said Smith. "But the simple fact is, we are where we are because key decision makers and organizations let British Columbians down. We deserve to know how that happened. We deserve to see some accountability. We deserve to feel confident that our province is no longer at risk." 

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, including the provincial public service, financial services, gaming sector, and frontline community health and social services. 

Read the BCGEU's full statement here.

For more information contact: BCGEU Communications at communications@bcgeu.ca



UWU/MoveUP

February 20, 2020

Lateral Transfers to Cannabis, deadline extended to August 1 - BCGEU

Your union has successfully appealed to the employer to extend the deadline for lateral transfers to cannabis, as per the Memorandum of Understanding explained below. The new deadline is July 31, 2020. There will be no further extensions to the process beyond this date.

The Cannabis Implementation Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), as agreed to as part of negotiations for the 18th Main Collective Agreement, allows current regular and regular part-time employees to laterally transfer from the BC Liquor Distribution Branch to the new BC Cannabis Distribution and Retail Stores operations for the purposes of start-up and implementation. Given that implementation of the new cannabis operation has been unexpectedly slow, particularly in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley where the majority of Component 5 members work, there have been fewer opportunities for transfers than originally anticipated. The extended timeline will help ensure members can benefit from the MOU.

Employees wanting to express interest in a lateral transfer per the MOU must complete a cannabis lateral request form and email the form and their resume to cannabistransfer@bcldb.com

In solidarity,

Kusam Doal, Component 5 Vice President

 



UWU/MoveUP

February 18, 2020

BCGEU applauds increased tax fairness and investments in programs, infrastruc...

Victoria, B.C. – The BCGEU is applauding the government's continued and new investments in core programs, infrastructure and improving affordability for British Columbians. But the union representing tens of thousands of workers in direct government and the broader public service is highlighting the critical role of staff in the province's success moving forward.

"After 16 years of devastating cuts under the previous government, and compared to what's happening in other provinces across Canada right now, this budget is good news," said Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU. "From continued investments in child care, affordability and poverty reduction; to a new income tax bracket for top earners and new investments in infrastructure; there's a lot to celebrate." 

The BCGEU consulted with members across the province to inform their submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services. That consultation revealed that workload, recruitment and retention, burnout, and occupational health and safety-all due to under-staffing-remain critical challenges for workers in practically every ministry and sector from community social services and residential care, to social work, corrections and court services.

"Services and programs are important," said Smith. "But it's equally important to have a human resources strategy in place to support the people that deliver those programs and services. Simply put: without our members, none of this works."

The BCGEU is one of the largest 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

February 14, 2020

Wet’suwet’en protests at worksites – information for members - BCGEU

Over the last week we have seen protests in support of the Wet'suwet'en people take place around the province, across the country, and around the world. These protests continue to escalate around the province.

While we support the rights of protest guaranteed by the Charter, we are not affiliated with these protests. The safety and well-being of our members is of paramount importance.

Here's what you need to know if you encounter a protest at your worksite 

  • Under their collective agreement and the Charter, members have the right not to cross a picket line. 
  • Members have the right to refuse unsafe work. If you have any concerns about this, please contact your steward or area office.
  • Members should not confront protestors or place themselves at any risk.
  • Members who encounter picket lines at their worksite should immediately contact their steward or area office for accurate information about how to proceed.
  • Should picket lines go up, your union will not likely be in a position to determine their legality at that time. However, picket lines should be assumed to be legal unless we are informed otherwise.
  • The BCGEU Provincial Executive has approved picket pay for members who are unable to attend work due to a picket line at their worksite if they are not paid by their employer. 
  • In the event that you are unable to work due to protests at your worksite and are not being paid by your employer for missed hours, please complete this online form to apply for picket pay: https://my.bcgeu.ca/picket

I want to thank all of you who have contacted me, Paul or any other BCGEU member to seek advice. It's critical that members are fully informed when deciding how to act and react during these protests and your union is here to help!

In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith
President 



UWU/MoveUP