September 19, 2019

President’s message – Global Climate Strike - BCGEU

Like many of you I'm inspired by the passion and perseverance of Greta Thunberg and student activists across the world who have worked so hard and so fast to put the climate crisis at the forefront of the public agenda and hold politicians accountable for their lack of action to prevent or mitigate it. 

I want you to know your union recognizes the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for decisive action to save our planet. You have told us through numerous convention resolutions and our recent survey on the issues that matter to you during this federal election, that the environment, global climate change and the sustainability of our planet are top priority. 

That's why I'm not surprised at the number of questions I've received about your union's support for our participation in Global Climate Strike events. As you probably know, from September 20-27 millions of people of all ages across the globe will walk out of classrooms, workplaces and homes to join Greta Thunberg and other young activists in protest events to support climate justice. 

I want to be clear that the BCGEU supports the push for climate justice and stands in solidarity with the young activists who are driving this movement. But I also want to be clear about two particular ways that Global Climate Strike events may impact members:

  • Members who want to participate in protest events. Although the term "strike" is part of the movement's public relations, it's vital that union members understand these protest events are not considered legal strikes under the BC Labour Code; and, therefore, there is no legal mechanism to protect members who choose to participate during their regular work hours. If you intend to participate in a protest event during regular work hours, please advise your union.
  • Members whose worksite is picketed as part of protest events. Members who encounter a picket line at their worksite are expected to exercise their collective agreement and Charter rights to respect that picket line. The only exception is picket lines that have been deemed illegal by the Labour Board and are subject to an injunction. Members who encounter picket lines at their worksite should immediately contact their steward or area office for accurate information about how to proceed.

I want to thank all of you who have contacted me, Paul or any other BCGEU member to express your support for the student-led protests and seek advice about participation. 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



September 01, 2019

2019 BCGEU scholarship winners announced - BCGEU

Congratulations to the 2019 BCGEU Scholarship Winners. The BCGEU is pleased to support our 2019 scholarship recipients in their continuing education.

(Winners will receive a letter in the mail with instructions on how to claim their scholarship).

2019 Scholarship Winners List

This year, applicants were asked to write an essay on one of three topics:

  1. How can unions lead the way on climate change
  2. How can unions lead the way on reconciliation with Indigenous people and communities?
  3. How can unions lead the way on affordable housing?

You can read some of the top winning essays below:


August 30, 2019

Kootenays inland ferry workers to kick off Labour Day weekend strike - BCGEU

WHAT: BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) inland ferry workers employed by Western Pacific Marine will kick off a three-day strike on Saturday August 31st. The move comes after several months of unsuccessful negotiations for a new collective agreement that will address long-standing issues with substandard wages, benefits and training that have created a staffing crisis for the ferry service.

The workers will be joined by BCGEU president Stephanie Smith and treasurer Paul Finch along with fellow BCGEU members and other members of the community.

The three-day strike will see the Kootenay Lake ferry shut down for routine travel over the long weekend but it will remain available for emergencies and disaster response. Full service will resume Tuesday September 3rd pending further announcements. 

WHEN: Saturday, August 31st, 2019, 2:30pm

WHERE: Balfour Terminal of the Kootenay Lake Ferry – Balfour, B.C.

View our media release: Kootenays inland ferry workers serve 72-hour strike notice

For more information visit: ferries.bcgeu.ca


August 30, 2019

Paid leave for people who experience domestic violence – B.C. should become a...

Earlier this month, the BCGEU wrote to Minister of Labour Harry Bains calling on the B.C. government to amend the Employment Standards Act in order to support those who experience domestic violence.

Today we are pleased to learn that government has launched consultations on the matter, and we reiterate our call for B.C. to adopt New Zealand's standard which allows all workers affected 10 days of paid leave and the right to request flexible working arrangements.

Read our letter to Minister Bains below

The Honourable Harry Bains
Minister of Labour
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC V8V 1X4

Dear Minister,

Re           Paid leave for survivors of domestic violence

The BCGEU represents more than 79,000 workers in various sectors and occupations in communities throughout British Columbia. Our incredibly diverse membership
includes direct government employees, workers in the community social services sector that support people who experience domestic violence at workplaces including
women’s shelters, emergency housing, counselling centres, etc.

Domestic violence affects too many British Columbians. Statistics Canada reports that domestic violence – offences that take place between spouses, common-law partners,
or people who are in intimate relationships – accounts for 30 per cent of all police-related violent crime in Canada, with women being the victim eight times out of 10.

The Canadian Labour Congress, in partnership with Western University, recently conducted a national research project on the effects of domestic violence on Canadian
workers and their workplaces. They found that one in three workers have been impacted by domestic violence, with higher reporting numbers for women, gender diverse
individuals, Indigenous peoples and people reporting a sexual orientation other than heterosexual.

The study also found that workers’ ability to return to their workplace and perform their duties while feeling safe was also compromised as harassing phone calls and
stalking may continue when a worker returns to the workplace. [1]

This important research illustrates that domestic violence, including harassment and abuse, is not only a personal issue but rather has broader implications for our workplaces and our communities. With this in mind, it is essential that we find policy tools to eliminate complications for those fleeing violent relationships.

We encourage your government to amend British Columbia’s Employment Standards Act, to include paid leave for people who experience domestic violence and the right to request flexible working arrangements without jeopardizing their employment. 

Legislating paid leave for people who experience domestic violence will provide economic security and stability in a vulnerable time in a person’s life when they likely cannot afford to be missing work. Paid domestic violence leave will mean that people will have the time needed to deal with the effects of violence, seek help and take steps to keep themselves and their children safe, including leaving a violent situation.

Momentum for paid leave for survivors of domestic violence is growing across other jurisdictions in Canada as other provinces and the federal government have introduced various forms of paid domestic violence leave. Manitoba was the first province in Canada to introduce paid domestic violence leave in 2016, with other provinces following suit shortly thereafter.

We encourage British Columbia to become a leader on this important issue and amend the Employment Standards Act to include provisions for paid domestic violence leave that are in line with those established in New Zealand which allows all workers affected 10 days of paid leave and the right to request flexible working arrangements.

If you or your staff have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. We welcome an opportunity to work collaboratively with your government on this important issue.


Stephanie Smith                              
President, BCGEU     

[1] Wathen, C. N., MacGregor, J. C. D., MacQuarrie, B. J. with the Canadian Labour Congress. (2014). Can Work be Safe, When Home Isn’t? Initial Findings of a Pan-Canadian Survey on Domestic Violence and the Workplace. London, ON: Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women and Children.

Download PDF copy of the letter here 


August 29, 2019

A message for Labour Day from Stephanie Smith - BCGEU

Like thousands of labour activists, I’ll spend the first Monday in September surrounded by my family—my labour family. It’s a family I’ve been a part of since I first joined a union as a childcare worker more than 30 years ago. It’s a family I cherish.

Labour Day 2019 is special for me and every member of the BCGEU because this is our centennial year. The Provincial Civil Service Association of B.C. opened its first convention on July 26, 1919 in Vancouver’s Eagle Hall. That convention was attended by 37 delegates representing a total membership of 980—all of whom worked directly for the provincial government.

What a difference a century makes.

The BCGEU’s membership is now over 80,000 strong and growing. And, while we still proudly represent tens of thousands of provincial government workers, well over half of our members work outside government in the broader public service and the private sector.

But one critical thing hasn’t changed.

One hundred years ago, those convention delegates and the workers they represented came together because they shared values—values like dignity and respect; equality and fairness; opportunity and security—and they knew that by working together in solidarity they could bring those values to life in their workplaces and their communities.
One hundred years later, those values are still the foundation for everything the BCGEU stands for and fights for.

Labour Day 2019 is a chance for BCGEU members to celebrate those values and what we’ve achieved because of them. It’s also a chance for us to acknowledge how far we still have to go to create a society where those values are a reality for all working people.

Unions are under attack across the world and in our own country; the cost of necessities like transportation and housing continues to grow faster than wages; and, we continue to see a shift from family-supporting full-time jobs to part-time, more precarious employment.

The workers of tomorrow are counting on us to come through for them as our predecessors did for us. And this Labour Day I’m full of optimism for what we can achieve together.

So, what can you do?
  • Vote. There is a lot at stake in the upcoming federal election. Get the facts about when, where and how to vote. Then do your research and support candidates who are tackling issues that matter to working people—like living wages, job security, affordability, the environment and protecting public services.

  • Support working people in your community by making sure the businesses and corporations you deal with every day reflect your values.

Happy Labour Day,
Stephanie Smith
BCGEU President

Download Labour-Day-Message-2019.pdf


August 29, 2019

Kootenays inland ferry workers serve 72-hour strike notice - BCGEU

On Wednesday, the 80 members of the BC Government & Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) employed by Western Pacific Marine issued a 72-hour strike notice, making it all but certain that the Kootenay Lake ferry will be shut down to routine travel over the Labour Day long weekend.

The move comes after several months of unsuccessful negotiations for a new collective agreement that the ferry workers are hoping will address long-standing issues with substandard wages, benefits and training that have created a staffing crisis for the ferry service.

"Our members don't just work on these ferries, they live in ferry-reliant communities," says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "They know how important this service is to their friends, families and neighbours and they know what it's going to take to make it safe and sustainable for years to come. That's why they're fighting for a contract that prioritizes the recruitment and retention of highly-skilled staff in a highly competitive industry."

If the ferry workers and their employer can't reach an agreement before the 72-hour notice is up, the workers will conduct a 3-day strike beginning Saturday, August 31st at the Balfour Terminal of the Kootenay Lake Ferry. Under the terms of an essential services ruling issued by the Labour Relations Board, the Balfour ferry will be shut down to routine travel over the long weekend but will be available for emergencies and disaster response. The ferries serving the communities of Harrop and Glade, also operated by Western Pacific Marine, will remain 100 per cent operational.

Ferry workers and their supporters have spent the last few days talking to ferry users and other community members about their job action, including issuing notices warning of the possibility of a 3-day strike over the Labour Day long weekend.

"Our goal from the beginning of these negotiations has always been to get a collective agreement that these workers and ferry-reliant communities deserve," says Smith. "As the cost of living continues to rise employers should be doing everything they can to support services and preserve family-supporting jobs in B.C.'s small towns and rural areas, instead of prioritizing profit margins by suppressing wages, eroding benefits, and reducing funding for training, safety and career development."

Inland ferries were contracted out under the previous BC Liberal government. As operating costs have increased, Western Pacific Marine has not maintained adequate training, wages and staffing levels. As a result, the Kootenay Lake ferry has become heavily dependent on overtime, short-term hires from other regions and even contracting retired employees to maintain existing services. With this kind of instability, sailings are at risk of cancelation on a daily basis.

As per the Labour Relations Board ruling on essential services ferry crews on the picket line will be on standby to provide on-demand sailings of the Kootenay Lake ferry for emergency response and the ferries serving the communities of Harrop and Glade will remain 100 per cent operational. For full details on schedules and service levels of the inland ferries in the West Kootenays over the Labour Day weekend, visit ferries.bcgeu.ca

BCGEU members work on most of B.C.'s 13 inland ferry routes including Adams Lake, Arrow Park, Francois Lake, Glade, Harrop, Needles, Kootenay Lake and Upper Arrow Lake ferries.

The BCGEU is one of the largest unions in B.C. with over 79,000 members in almost every community and economic sector in the province.


August 27, 2019

BCGEU calls on BC government to scrap detrimental pension rules

The BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) is calling on the BC government to scrap outdated rules that compromise private sector defined benefit pension plans by inaccurately measuring their value and creating unnecessary volatility. The union's call to action on this issue follows the release of "A Review of the Solvency Funding Framework under the Pension Benefits Standards Act: Report on Stakeholder Committee Process August 2019" by the Ministry of Finance earlier this month.

Defined benefit pension plans are the best guarantee of retirement security currently available to workers in Canada, but in B.C. they are subject to a type of valuation that can paradoxically weaken their value. This is the solvency valuation which calculates whether the plan has sufficient assets to cover its liabilities if the plan were to terminate. This requirement is currently 100 per cent – enough assets to pay all benefits owed to pensioners at a given time. Plans valued at less than 100 per cent are considered to have a "solvency deficiency."

"The current solvency funding requirements are unrealistic because they were not designed for our current investment environment of very low interest rates and bond yields," says BCGEU treasurer Paul Finch. "As a result, plan administrators are obliged to significantly scale up contributions in the short term, creating volatility and potential cost problems for employers and employees."

To strengthen and protect defined benefit pension plans and to guarantee their security, the solvency valuation requirement must be replaced with a going concern valuation. As opposed to the assumption of termination in the solvency valuation, the going concern valuation calculates continued contributions to the plan and accumulated assets. A well-formulated going concern valuation would more accurately capture the actual value and risks associated with defined benefit plans, while reducing unnecessary funding pressures that have been proven to jeopardize them.

In 2018 the administrative committee of the United Way Pension Plan advised its members that the most recent valuation indicated funding of 119 per cent on a going concern basis; however solvency funding was just 91 per cent so these members lost their defined benefit pensions due to this faulty valuation system. As a result, use of the solvency funding requirement has already been dropped in other provinces.

The BCGEU is also disappointed that the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) is advocating that the provincial government maintain required pension solvency funding at 100 per cent in response to the ministry's recommendation in their report to lower it to 85 per cent.

"CARP's position is based on an understanding of Ontario's regulatory framework for pensions, not B.C.'s, making their comments potentially harmful to the retirement security of B.C. workers and pensioners," says Finch. "To protect pensions, solvency funding must be replaced by the going concern valuation and plan costs should not be based on bond yields."

Read the BCGEU's detailed response to the report released by the Ministry of Finance here.

The BCGEU is one of the largest unions in B.C. with over 79,000 members in almost every community and economic sector in the province.


August 26, 2019

Self-Checkouts in our Libraries - BCGEU


More and more nowadays, we encounter machines where once we would have encountered a person. Have you ever stopped and wondered how often you interact with a machine in your daily life? We're talking about self-checkouts and self-check ins. They are in many large retailers and grocery stores, at the airport, fast food chains, and even one of our most community orientated spaces: libraries.

On a recent visit to Merritt, BCGEU leadership became aware of frustrations caused by these automated checkouts. Seniors and others in the community are now forced to use self-checkouts and when problems arise, they then have to go to the front counter and ask library staff to assist them, back at the self-checkout! The whole process is unnecessary and embarrassing.

In some cases, machines are a good thing. Automation can free up staff from certain tasks so they can focus on other work. However, all too often automation is implemented to cut labour costs, and that means eliminating jobs. That's why it's important to view "improvements" such as these with a critical eye.

In the case of the library in Merritt, patrons prefer to deal with a staff member than with the automated checkouts that dehumanize daily life. It seems we still prefer human-to-human contact, especially at a community space like libraries. In addition to potential job loss, there are other problems with self-checkouts. For example, higher-than-expected levels of shoplifting are often seen. In the U.S., Ikea discovered it took longer for customers to use the self-checkout than the checkout with a staff member present.

Job losses, shop lifting, frustration and delays. They sound like good reasons to move away from machines and back to people. And that is what's happening. Some retailers have removed self-checkouts or cancelled plans to introduce them. However, in Canada, local librarians say self-checkouts are on the rise, even in small libraries with one or two staff.

Librarians are working hard to prevent the decline of jobs and the rise of self-checkout machines, and they need your help. An effective way to make a difference is by sharing your thoughts with management and decision makers. Ultimately, show your support for library staff by not using self-checkouts whenever possible. You'll probably get a smile and a thank you too. Importantly, that librarian will also get a pay cheque.
In solidarity,


August 15, 2019

2019 PAC Survey - BCGEU

The federal election is fast approaching and union members will be voting based on key issues. We are asking you to fill out the below survey to identify what is most important to members. 

The results will be shared mid September and resources relevant to these issues will be provided to members. 

To ensure only one submission per person, please enter your name and email.