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April 26, 2022

City of Burnaby Greenlights BCGEU Affordable Housing Project - BC General Emp...

Press contact:
[email protected]

For Immediate Release

 

City of Burnaby Greenlights BCGEU Affordable Housing Project

 Replicable model could be a gamechanger for tackling housing affordability

  

Burnaby - Yesterday, Burnaby councillors voted seven to two in favour of a rezoning application brought forward by the BCGEU that had the potential to offer a new model for tackling housing affordability.

"Our union has been working on this project for more than two years," said BCGEU President Stephanie Smith. This vote is a major milestone that brings us one step closer to making our project a reality and we are deeply grateful to Mayor Hurley and councillors Calendino, Dhaliwal, Gu, Hillman, Keithley and Wang for their leadership in supporting our vision."

The project is located on Palm Avenue in a mixed use area north of Royal Oak Skytrain station. The union's plan is to develop a multi-use building with 292 units of housing-at least 50% at below-market affordable rates-as well as a 49-space childcare facility and new office space for the union. The proposal incorporates key design elements based on feedback from the city planning department including an expanded traffic study that ensured the project would not negatively impact existing residents.

The project received overwhelming support at a public hearing on March 29th, with 45 residents showing up in person or on Zoom to speak in favour, and hundreds more sending letters of support to council.

"For the BCGEU, this project was driven by the vision of our membership," said Smith. "It's an opportunity to give back to a community we have been a part of for over 50 years. It's a chance to make real progress on affordable housing-an issue we have been actively engaged in for a long time. And Burnaby residents sent a clear message to council at the public hearing: they want to live in a progressive, affordable, inclusive city and they see projects like ours as the way to get there."

The BCGEU's rationale for the project stemmed from concerns that housing costs are far outpacing wage increases labour unions can bargain for. BCGEU members have passed multiple convention resolutions calling for their union to take action on housing affordability.

"Our union outlined the case for building affordable housing adjacent to major transit hubs as far back as 2014, and we are pleased today to take a step forward to implement our vision to provide a new area office for our members, and affordable housing and childcare for the community," said BCGEU Treasurer and Affordable BC campaign report co-author Paul Finch, who is leading the project. "This project leverages the increase in land value from upzoning to deliver more affordable housing, a policy we hope will be emulated by other municipalities across BC. We believe this model can be replicated by other unions, non-profits and faith groups to provide urgently needed housing starts amidst the current affordability crisis."

Facts about the project:

  • The chosen location near Royal Oak Skytrain aims to align with Burnaby's 2019 Mayor's Task Force on Community Housing recommendations, which explicitly called for density around Skytrain stations/transit and building homes for working families with the maximum number of affordable units possible. The project includes significant 2-3 bedroom units for families. 
  • Affordable rents will be commensurate with working-class wages, with the highest monthly rental cost for affordable units being 80% of CMHC market rates for the local market.

In addition to the rezoning with the City of Burnaby, the union engages advocacy for stronger housing policies through its Affordable BC campaign, and shareholder engagement on the financialization of housing with proposals and commitments from some of Canada's largest chartered banks.

Read the Backgrounder on the project here.

Read the Affordable BC Plan here: https://www.affordablebc.ca/

 

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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.

 

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UWU/MoveUP

April 25, 2022

BCGEU releases investor brief calling on Loblaw (TSX: L) to take action on su...

 

Ahead of the Loblaw (TSX: L) annual meeting of shareholders on May 5, 2022, the BCGEU has released an investor brief about its shareholder proposal, raising concerns about forced labour and supply chain controversies at Loblaw. The Proposal asks Loblaw to disclose the results of its supplier audits. In line with its peers

BCGEU encourages investors to vote for this proposal.


Download PDF Investor Brief Loblaw


April 22, 2022

BCGEU librarians ratify collective agreement with Vancouver Island Regional L...

BURNABY, B.C. (COAST SALISH TERRITORIES) – Seven months after starting bargaining and almost seven weeks after starting job action, members of the BC General Employees’ Union (BCGEU) working as librarians for the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) have voted almost 90% in favour of ratifying a new collective agreement.
 
“This has been a challenging round of bargaining, but these members stuck together and achieved the deal they were looking for from the start,” said BCGEU vice-president, Joanna Lord. “Through their solidarity and thanks to incredible support from library users and the labour movement, BCGEU members working for VIRL demanded better – and they got it.”
 
On April 11, the bargaining committee reached a tentative agreement with their employer. The tentative agreement was ratified by a strong majority of the bargaining unit on April 19. The VIRL board ratified the agreement the following day. The new four-year agreement is effective from December 31, 2020, to December 31, 2024, and the new terms are retroactive to its start date.
 
Highlights from the agreement include wage improvements totalling over 12 per cent plus a $500 signing bonus for all active employees. These wage increases are important steps toward closing the wage gap between VIRL librarians and those working for other, comparable regional library systems in our province. BCGEU members working at VIRL also attained improved terms for parental leave, workload, and workplace harassment.
 
“All workers in B.C. deserve respect in their workplace and a wage that keeps pace with the high cost of living in this province,” said Lord. “That’s what these negotiations were about from day one and that’s what this deal represents for our members."
 
The collective agreement covers 48 members at 39 VIRL branches.
 
Background:
For more information, including previous media releases, visit www.bcgeu.ca/virl.
 
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

April 12, 2022

Vancouver Island library job action paused as BCGEU librarians consider wage ...

BURNABY, B.C. (COAST SALISH TERRITORIES) – Members of the BC General Employees' Union (BCGEU) working as librarians for the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) have reached a tentative agreement with their employer and, as a result, are pausing job action.
 
The offer comes after a month of rotating pickets at various VIRL branches. Following meetings to discuss the terms of the tentative agreement, BCGEU members will conduct a ratification vote in the coming days.
 
"We're pleased that VIRL's management has chosen to re-engage negotiations, and to have received a fair wage proposal that is worthy of bringing back to the membership," said Laura Kaminker, VIRL librarian and bargaining committee chair. "Until the vote is counted, librarians will be back at work and not on the picket line."
 
"We're grateful for all the support we've received so far – from our communities, our CUPE colleagues, labour supporters from around the region, and even board members. We're hopeful this offer resolves our issues, and that the final collective agreement leads to a respectful and psychologically, physically safe workplace for these dedicated community-serving librarians."
 
Background: 
For more information, including previous media releases and picket updates, visit www.bcgeu.ca/virl



UWU/MoveUP

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/
 
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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