Click here to find info on COVID-19

NEWS

January 05, 2021

The Provincial Fall 2020 - BCGEU

Check out the latest issue of The Provincial 

This issue has updates on our union's shareholder program, scholarship winners, member stories about
working during a pandemic, COVID & women: call for an intersectional feminist recovery and the crisis in B.C. seniors’
care facilities. 

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UWU/MoveUP

December 24, 2020

Happy Holidays – BCGEU offices closed for the holidays - BCGEU

BCGEU president Stephanie Smith, treasurer Paul Finch and the entire Provincial Executive would like to wish our 80,000 members and their families a happy and festive holiday season!

Please note that all physical and virtual BCGEU offices will be closed for the holidays.

BCGEU offices will be closed from 12:00pm on December 24, 2020 and until 8:30am on January 4, 2021, except for the Prince George Area Office, which will reopen on January 5 2021.

If you are a BCGEU member and need emergency support at your worksite during the holiday closure period, please contact your union steward.

Media inquiries can be directed to Aaron Donovan, Coordinator - Research and Interactive Services, at [email protected] or 604 306-9122. Facilities related emergencies can be directed to Ryan Schmid at 778-870-7877.

Happy holidays!

Please note that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, BCGEU’s physical offices have been closed to the public with staff assisting members remotely. These measures are likely to continue into the new year. Please check the news section of the BCGEU website for updates.


BCUWU/MoveUP

December 21, 2020

COVID on the job: how to refuse unsafe work - BCGEU

The right to refuse unsafe work is a legislative right and responsibility of all workers in B.C., and that is no different during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Have you been assigned work that you feel is unsafe? According to law, the procedure to refuse unsafe work is as follows:

    1. Immediately report to your supervisor that you have stopped work and the reasons why you believe the job or task is unsafe. Do not leave the worksite.

      Your supervisor must investigate and decide that either "the work is unsafe, stop working" or "you are assigned alternate duties until hazards are eliminated or minimized" or "the work is deemed to be safe, please go back to work."If you are unsatisfied with your supervisor's decision, continue to step 2.

      Note: 
      If your employer asks another worker to do the work, your employer must inform them of the refusal and the reasons for the refusal.

    2. Request for an OHS Committee worker rep,union designate or your choice of co-worker to attend and assist with the investigation into unsafe work.

      You, your supervisor and your selected rep must go through the investigation process again and decide that either "the work is safe, return to work" or "the work is unsafe, we'll make this safe before continuing work." If you are still not satisfied with this decision, continue to step 3.

    3. Your supervisor and you must notify WorkSafeBC.WorkSafeBC will assign an officer who must investigate without undue delay and issue their findings and any necessary orders.

      If WorkSafeBC deems the work to be safe, you must return to work. You can appeal WorkSafeBC's decision; however, you must comply with the investigation of the WorkSafeBC officer.

Please keep your union steward, local chair, staff rep and OHS Department informed throughout the process so they can assist you.

Who is my OHS rep? How do I get in touch with them?

Your worksite should have a joint Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) committee made up of workers and employer representatives who act as OHS member reps. Their names and contact details should be posted at your worksite and provided to you during your orientation to the workplace. 

You can also find the names and contact details of your OHS members reps once you're logged into the BCGEU Member Portal at https://my.bcgeu.ca/login

If you have any questions, contact the BCGEU OHS department at [email protected]

I work in my client's home. Before COVID-19, my client's family members weren't around. But now they are at home while I'm working with the client, and some are not wearing masks. I feel unsafe. Is this a situation to refuse unsafe work?

If the presence of your client's family has not been approved in your worksite's risk assessment (care plan), and you have already explained that they must leave the room in order for you to do your work, and they have not followed your request, then yes, this sounds like a situation to refuse unsafe work. To do so, stop working, leave the building, call your supervisor and explain the situation – most importantly, say:

"I am not going to continue to work as it is unsafe for me to do so. I am refusing to work as it is currently unsafe for me to do so" to ensure you are clear why you are stopping work at this time.

Click here for more questions and answers about your right to refuse unsafe work and other occupational health and safety topics during COVID-19.



UWU/MoveUP

December 21, 2020

COVID-19 and recent changes to the Workers Compensation Act and Board Policy ...

During the pandemic, the B.C. government amended the Workers’ Compensation Act to allow workers to be compensated for lost wages when they contract COVID-19 on the job.

Members who have reason to believe they have contracted COVID-19 through work should report it to their employer as soon as possible and should file an application for compensation with WorkSafeBC, including as many details as possible.

There are two pathways of investigation that WorkSafeBC uses to determine if a worker was actually exposed on the job and qualifies for coverage. WorkSafeBC may presume in certain cases that you have contracted COVID through your work; otherwise, they must investigate more thoroughly to see if your work caused you to contract COVID. Members are encouraged to apply if there is a reason to believe they contracted COVID-19 on the job and leave that determination to the board rather than trying to figure it out themselves.

Additionally, members who have disability coverage under their collective agreement should also apply for coverage under that plan. As the standards for what claims can be accepted by WorkSafeBC and disability plans vary, by applying to both at the same time, members can improve their chances of obtaining faster benefit coverage under one or the other.

Note: Compensation is not available for wages lost due to self-isolation or other preventative measures. Workers can only qualify for compensation if they were confirmed to have contracted COVID-19. Your employer or our government may set up plans for compensating for those lost wages, but WorkSafeBC will not compensate workers for wages lost in those situations.

If your application to WorkSafeBC about COVID-19 exposure in the workplace (or any other issue) is rejected and you feel that the decision was incorrect, our union provides support for filing and pursuing an appeal. Please click here for information on accessing those resources

December 17, 2020

B.C. liquor and cannabis workers wear button on the job in demand for essenti...

BURNABY, COAST SALISH TERRITORIES – As the second wave of the pandemic intensifies and British Columbians head into the holiday season, B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) members working for the BC Liquor Distribution Branch (BCLDB) are ramping up their campaign to be recognized and compensated as essential workers. BCLDB workers will be wearing Essential Pay for Essential Work buttons to show their solidarity and raise public awareness of their ongoing fight for fair treatment as essential workers.
 
"I feel it's important to go to work because we were deemed an essential service – we were told we were needed to keep the B.C. economy going," said BCLDB employee Orson Choy, a union steward. "We want the public and government to know we're still here doing our part – and we want to be treated fairly."
 
BCLDB workers were among thousands who the B.C. government declared essential during the initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring. Liquor and cannabis retail stores have remained open to the public throughout the pandemic-with prevention measures like plexiglass barriers and mandatory masks introduced gradually. The warehouse has also remained fully operational to support increased demand from stores as well as pubs, bars and restaurants.
 
"Working on the frontlines of a pandemic brings increased stress and genuine risks to emotional and physical health for all essential workers," said BCGEU vice president Kusam Doal. "BCGEU members working for the BCLDB deserve to be compensated for their commitment to doing their part to keep our province running during this crisis."
 
BCGEU members working for BCLDB will wear the buttons throughout the holiday season-traditionally the busiest time of year for retail stores and warehouse-and are calling on BCLDB General Manager and CEO Blain Lawson to achieve fair pay for the essential work of store and warehouse workers.
 
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 about 4,600 members at the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch.

For more information, contact BCGEU Communications, [email protected]

Additional quotes: 

"We have a young child and four senior parents. We need to be careful for them," said, Cherylene Choy, who is also an BCLDB worker. "Pandemic pay shows we're important to the government, that we are worth something."
 
"Even with the public health restrictions in place, the crush of the holiday season will be a busy time for liquor and cannabis stores and warehouses," said Stephanie Smith, BCGEU president. "These members have faced financial, emotional and health pressures just to do their jobs during the pandemic and they deserve to be compensated in line with how they are said to be valued and appreciated."
 
Background:
 
On March 26, the provincial government declared BCLDB workers in retail stores and warehouses to be essential.
 
Despite their status as essential workers, these workers were not included in the provincial government's Temporary Pandemic Pay program (TPP), which was announced in May.
 
On May 29, after the TPP was announced, the BCGEU launched a petition and letter-writing campaign calling on the public to tell their MLAs to provide pandemic pay to all frontline workers. The campaign produced 2100 letters.
 
BCLDB members also wrote to Finance Minister, Carole James, asking to include them. James did not include BCLDB workers in the TPP but publicly encouraged "all businesses who've seen an increase in revenue to ensure that their workers are being properly compensated at this difficult time."
 
In September, workers then asked their employer, BCLDB General Manager and CEO Blain Lawson, to allocate just 20 per cent of excess revenue generated during Q4 of 2019/2020 to pandemic pay for all BCLDB employees. Lawson ultimately declined, claiming he was an advocate of employees but ultimately didn't have the power to authorize use of BCLDB revenue.

For more information about the workers' campaign, visit http://bcldb.bcgeu.ca/more



UWU/MoveUP

December 14, 2020

BCGEU stands in solidarity with farmers in India

The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union expresses solidarity with farmers, labour activists and other workers in India who are protesting dangerous new agricultural legislation that threatens the livelihoods of millions of families.

In September, the Indian government quietly passed or amended three Farm Bills designed to deregulate agricultural markets and open them up to takeover by multinational corporations.

Farmers, who immediately recognized that these bills would destroy their ability to make a living and eventually push them off their land, took to the streets in historic protests. Despite a brutal reaction from Indian police, protests have grown over the last two months, with millions demonstrating across India.

Today, the BCGEU is expressing our solidarity with the farmers protesting in India. We echo the calls to stop the corporate takeover of India's agricultural sector, and to immediately release all political prisoners, including union members, arrested for protesting these draconian laws.



UWU/MoveUP

December 03, 2020

Working from home expenses and your taxes - BCGEU

Throughout the pandemic many BCGEU members working at home have been wondering about the process for reimbursement or tax deduction for home office expenses.

As each member's situation with their employer's remote work protocol looks a little bit different, it's difficult to give an one-size-fits-all answer to questions.

However, this week's announcement of a simplified home office deduction may clear up the situation for many Canadians working from home.

From the Government of Canada:

Simplifying the Home Office Expense Deduction

Millions of Canadians are unexpectedly working from home because of COVID-19. While Canadians can already deduct certain home office expenses for tax purposes, to simplify the process for both taxpayers and businesses, the Canada Revenue Agency will allow eligible Canadians to claim up to $400, based on the amount of time working from home, without the need to track detailed expenses.

Click here to read the announcement in context

If you have home office expenses that are in excess of the amounts covered in the simplified deduction and are having difficulty getting the documentation needed from your employer, please talk to your BCGEU union steward.

UWU/MoveUP

November 30, 2020

New Book Recounts Worker-led Occupation at Tranquille - BCGEU

 

UPDATE - It is with heavy hearts we have to tell you about the passing of our dear friend Gary Steeves, a true champion of working people, human rights and social justice. 

The devastating news comes as we and Gary were celebrating another great achievement of his, the recent printing of his book, Tranquility Lost: The Occupation of Tranquille & Battle for Community Care.

We are feeling Gary’s loss deeply and send our sincerest condolences to his family and friends.

Gary Steeves - 1950-2020

Tribute to Gary Steeves from former BCGEU President George Heyman in the BC Legislature

 

BCGEU members have always stood in solidarity with the communities we serve - especially when government cuts have threatened to hurt people.

A new book by retired BCGEU staff Gary Steeves, Tranquility Lost, provides a dramatic first-hand account of BCGEU members at Tranquille, a Kamloops mental health facility, who took direct action when budget cuts threatened the lives of vulnerable residents.

In the early 1980s, governments were phasing out institutions like Tranquille. The promise of "de-institutionalization" was that supportive services would be replaced with community-based care models. Our union supported this new approach, but the Social Credit government's massive budget cuts in July 1983 meant that Tranquille – home to 325 residents and 600 staff – would be closing in just five months, with neither a community care plan for residents, nor collective agreement options for severance and alternative job placement for staff.

Steeves was sent to Kamloops to deliver the dire news to Tranquille workers. He ended up staying for longer than expected: staff decided to fight back by staging a dramatic takeover and occupation of the facility. They put up signs declaring that the facility was "Under New Management". Sentries guarded entrances, and they established a workers' council with representatives from every department to coordinate running the facility themselves.

More than 30 years later, Steeves recounts the full, exceptional story of worker power and initiative in his new work: Tranquility Lost

Click here to order a copy of the new book
Enter the code "BCGEU" for 25% off (Valid until December 31, 2020)

 

Learn more about the Tranquille occupation and Tranquility Lost:



UWU/MoveUP

November 19, 2020

BCGEU members win major victory for safe workplaces during COVID-19

I am writing to celebrate with you. Because of our solidarity and collective action, our union has won a major victory in our campaign to ensure safer workplaces across British Columbia.

The Provincial Health Officer has just announced that wearing masks is now mandatory in all indoor public and retail spaces. 

This is a huge victory that shows the power of workers standing together to demand safe workplaces. It's a result of you speaking up, applying pressure and insisting on your health and safety. 

I know many of you have been concerned about returning to the office and, for those working directly with the public, you've experienced heightened stress, verbal abuse and, of course, fear of contracting COVID-19 – all while working hard to serve the public in the safest way possible. With this order, we now finally have the clear, consistent and official support we need to keep ourselves, our families, and the public safe.

We have issued a media release about this win, thanking the government for listening to us and to Dr. Bonnie Henry for giving us the clarity and support we need in order to continue serving the public. 

Safe workplaces are not negotiable. We know this, and fortunately, now the Provincial Health Officer does, too.

This is a tough time, and we'll get through this together. 

In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith
President



UWU/MoveUP