April 27, 2016

The BCGEU is proud to endorse the Sanctuary City principles

When refugee applicants come to Canada, there is often an assumption that Canada is a safer place than their home countries. But if you have a precarious migration status or no status at all, and you fear being turned over to the immigration authorities, life here is not safe at all.

Transit, health care, and community based social services workers could all be directed by their employers to demand proof of migration status, and even turn people over to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Sometimes workers are misled into thinking that contacting CBSA is helpful, when in fact it can have irreparable damage to an individual or family. In fact, workers are not obliged to collaborate with the CBSA if they are not presented with a valid warrant.

Sanctuary City Vancouver is part of a growing global movement to provide access to services, based on need, not migration status. The group is spreading the word throughout the Lower Mainland, hoping to educate British Columbians on the importance of providing services to the people who most need them.

Early this year, the BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) was proud to endorse the Sanctuary City Principles for Vancouver:

  1. Access to basic and essential services will be determined by need and not migration status: Services such as education, health services, food security, dignified housing, public transit, public safety, legal aid, and municipal services are meant for everyone regardless of status.
  2. Access without fear: The fear of debt, deportation, and/or death should not limit people’s access to services. We recognize that the responsibility of enforcing immigration law falls onto Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) alone, and is NOT the responsibility of service providers, health care workers, other police agencies, transit security nor the municipal government.

As part of the plan to integrate the principles into the work of the BCGEU, the Education Department will be initiating a pilot where Sanctuary City workshops will be integrated into our education plan for some of our members who work with the public. "Letting our members know they don't have to check a client's migration status is an important step toward providing a safe space for care," said Andrea Duncan, vice president of community social services. "We are starting with our workers who deal with the most vulnerable populations, and depending on the pilot, we will expand to other components."

For more information on Sanctuary City and its principles, click here.
For more information on BCGEU's education department, click here.

April 25, 2016

Ergonomics in the workplace

Ergonomics is the science of adapting the workplace to the worker and the product to the user.

You are at risk of developing musculoskeletal injuries (MSI) when you carry out work without first considering how the workplace suits you. This can lead to disabling conditions if not recognized and treated in the early stages. The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, Sections 4.46 – 4.53, require employers to set up an Ergonomics program at their workplace.

First and foremost, employers should consult with their workers and the OHS committee. The consultation process is most beneficial if it is carried out before a workspace changes or during the preliminary setup stages of a new workspace. A risk assessment must be conducted to identify which workers may be at risk of receiving a musculoskeletal injury. Risk factors that must be considered include:

  • The amount of force required to carry out tasks
  • The duration and frequency of these tasks
  • Contact stresses or awkward postures 
  • The size, shape and weight of handled objects
  • The layout of workstations
  • How often workers are required to reach 
  • Environmental conditions 

Other risk factors to consider include: the ability of the worker to vary their task, the work rate and how much recovery time there is between tasks. 

Once the risk assessment is completed and the employer has identified where the risks of injury are, the employer must then mitigate this risk by implementing control measures to protect the worker. The first step in this hierarchy of control measures is to eliminate the risk. If the risk cannot be eliminated, the employer must minimize this risk by substituting a safer process to protect the worker. If that is not sufficient to protect the worker, engineering a change to tools or the workspace must be considered.  Administrative controls could be implemented to change the staffing mix or to provide extra training. The last control measure the employer should consider is to provide personal protective equipment. This is a last resort and the least preferred control measure.

As a worker you have the right to be educated and properly trained to identify ergonomic risks, to recognize the early signs of MSI’s and to learn about the potential health effects. You must be trained to use safe work procedures and to correctly use mechanical aids and personal protective equipment. 

If you feel you are at risk of a musculoskeletal injury, you have the right to ask for an ergonomic assessment and the employer must provide you with this assessment. There is a definite link between poor work ergonomics and worker’s satisfaction and performance. A workplace without an effective ergonomic program can cause workers to suffer physical and emotional stress. This results in low productivity and poor quality of work. A proactive employer can help to support a positive working environment by ensuring an effective ergonomics program is in place and reviewed on an annual basis.

The BCGEU offers OHS courses in ergonomic assessment for direct government workers as well as workers covered under labour code agreements. Ensure you protect yourself from a musculoskeletal injury. Get educated about workplace ergonomics and your health and safety rights.

For more information, contact the BCGEU OHS department at ohs@bcgeu.ca or call 604-291-9611.



April 20, 2016

Area 04 Local Executives, Stewards and OHS representatives evening workshop o...

The Area 04 Cross Component Committee presents an evening workshop on the duty to accommodate, medical notes and return to work.

This workshop will cover general information about the employer's duty to accommodate members who, because of a disability require accommodation in their job position or duties.

Date: May 10, 2016
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Fraser Valley Area Office
                8555 – 198A Street, Langley

To attend this informative evening workshop, please RSVP by calling the area office at 604-882-0111.  Space is limited so please be sure to register early.

Thank you!

In solidarity

Area 04 Cross Component Chair

Download PDF of notice here. 


April 07, 2016

BCGEU Occupational Health and Safety Networker Outreach

The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Networker team had their initial meeting in January. The 21 BCGEU members appointed to the team are from all areas of the province. One of their first tasks is to contact BCGEU OHS committee representatives to let them know about upcoming training opportunities. 

The Networkers are also busy calling OHS representatives in their areas to determine if they still sit on their committee, update contact information and determine if these representatives want to be reappointed for another three-year term which would start on December 1, 2016. 

The OHS Networkers will be using this opportunity to listen to members’ concerns and point them towards additional resources. Please expect a call from the OHS Networkers as we prepare for the 2016 appointment and reappointment process.

Here is an overview of the Networkers’ role for this year:

1.    Auditing OHS committees and assisting with the growth of these committees
2.    Working with locals on OHS committee appointments 
3.    Scheduling OHS courses in consultation with BCGEU’s OHS Department and contacting members to increase participation
4.    Analyzing information and networking to identify non-compliant employers and ensure there are OHS committees or worker representatives at these workplaces 
5.    Acting as a resource for OHS committees, components, locals and area offices.

If you have any questions, please email us at ohs@bcgeu.ca or call us at 1-800-663-1674


April 04, 2016

Member Update - April, 2016

BCGEU president Stephanie Smith is joined by Community Social Services Component VP Andrea Duncan and first vice chair Pamela Pye from worksite visits in Port Coquitlam.

April 04, 2016

OHS Reps in Area 02 - BC Federation of Labour "Emergency Preparedness" Course

The “Emergency Preparedness” course will be offered at the Nanaimo area office on Monday May 2, 2016 from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. This course will be facilitated by a BC Federation of Labour Health and Safety Centre facilitator. This course has been designed to provide participants with a fundamental understanding of the planning and preparations needed to assist workplaces to respond before, during and after an emergency/disaster in order to reduce the effects.

Your employer must pay for you to take at least 8 hours of annual Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) education so you must apply for this training through your employer. The cost of this training is $115 per person. Employer OHS representatives are invited to register but will only be accepted if there is space. The maximum registration is 24.

A pre- requisite for this course is the BCGEU 1 day Basic OHS (Labour Code) or 2 Day Basic Government OHS training.

If you have already taken your 8 hours of annual training, the OHS department will consider sponsoring you to take this training. Please indicate your need for this sponsorship when you register through your area office. The area office will then confirm the funding with the OHS department. 

Call the Nanaimo area office at 250-338-7774 to register and to provide your leave requirements and dietary restrictions.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to improve your ability to advocate for worker’s health and safety rights and to ensure you are prepared in case of an emergency– register today! 

If you have any questions, email ohs@bcgeu.ca

Download PDF of notice here.


March 21, 2016

OHS training at the BC Federation of Labour

The BCGEU Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) department is offering additional training through the BC Federation of Labour for government and labour code OHS worker representatives. These training sessions are for specific courses we do not offer through the BCGEU. The one or two day OHS course is a pre-requisite to the BC Federation of Labour OHS training.

Your employer must pay for you to take at least eight hours of annual OHS education, so you must apply for this training through your employer. The cost of this training is $115 per person. Employer OHS representatives are invited to register but will only be accepted if there is space. Maximum registration is 24.

If you have already taken your eight hours of annual training, the OHS department will sponsor you to take this training. Please indicate your need for this sponsorship when you register through your area office.

The schedule is listed below; course descriptions can be found by clicking on this link:



Area Office


Course Name


Monday, May 2

Emergency Preparedness


Friday, June 3

Preventing Workplace Stress

Fort Saint John

Friday September 30

Improving Committee Effectiveness


Friday, October 21

Women’s Health & Safety in the Workplace


Friday November 18

Occupational Health


Please take this opportunity to improve your knowledge and skills. Learning how to protect your health and safety and of those around you is vitally important. Register early as these sessions fill up fast.

Any questions? Email ohs@bcgeu.ca

Download PDF of notice here.


March 17, 2016

Urgent Action - Honduran activist assassination

Berta Cáceres, a prominent environmental activist, was assassinated in Honduras on March 3, and a witness to the assassination is being held against his will. We need people to urge both Canadian & Honduran authorities to take action and conduct a full investigation. Full details and letters to sign can be found on the CoDevelopment Canada website by clicking here

UPDATE: There has been another assassination of an activist from the same indigenous group - see the Guardian article here

The Amnesty International urgent action for the latest killing, of Nelson Garcia, is here

March 16, 2016

Have you taken your Occupational Health and Safety training?

Are you an Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) worker representative for your workplace? 

If the answer is “yes”, your employer is required by law to pay for at least eight hours of annual OHS education for you (Workers Compensation Act). If you are unable to take the training yourself, you have the right to assign your eight-hour annual allotment to another worker representative. 

Your collective agreement may entitle you to even more time for health and safety education. By taking your annual training, you will increase your knowledge and skills and represent your members more effectively at your workplace. You will learn how to prevent injury and illness, what your health and safety rights are, and what your employer is required by law to provide for workers.

BCGEU offers OHS courses for non-government workers - those that fall under Labour Code agreements. Labour Code courses include:

  • 1 Day OHS (basic) Training                                                 
  • Ergonomics                                                                            
  • Prevention of Violence                                                        
  • Incident Investigations                                                        

We also offer OHS courses for direct government workers that fall under the Public Service Agreement. Direct Government courses include:

  • 2 Day OHS (basic) training
  • Ergonomic Assessor
  • Prevention of Violence
  • Incident Investigations

Click here to see the 2016 schedule of courses.

To register for labour code (non-government) courses, call your area office. 

To register for direct government courses:

  • Go to My Learning by clicking here: 
  • Once in My Learning, in the “SEARCH THE CATALOG” field type “Occupational Health and Safety” then click on “SEARCH ACTIVITIES” 
  • Details specific to the range of OHS courses can be found on the pages – click enroll to register

There’s also a video available via https://hr.gov.bc.ca/learning/SitePages/Home.aspx

Call the OHS department at 1-800-663-1674 or 604-291-9611 if you have any questions. You can also contact us at ohs@bcgeu.ca