November 23, 2018

New resources for Residential Tenancy Branch a good first step - BCGEU

Union sees need to enhance online resources with added walk-in service

The recent announcement by the B.C. government of improved staffing and service levels at the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) is a welcome improvement and a good first step, but should not completely replace walk-in services, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union said today.

The B.C. government reported that at least 25 new staff were hired and additional online resources were put in place – resulting in wait times for urgent applications being processed 47 per cent faster, applications requesting money were processed 44 per cent faster, and wait times to speak to an information officer is down 84 percent since additional funding was approved in September 2017.

"We are heartened to see that wait times for service at the RTB have improved with the addition of new staff and online resources," said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "The addition of a compliance and enforcement director, along with new information services and dispute resolution staff is a welcome and needed improvement to the agency."

"We're also happy to see that the online portal is operating more quickly and providing a streamlined process for applicants. But we must also point out that resources need to be expanded for walk-in services at local RTB branches, for people with limited access and knowledge to navigate the web portal."

Currently, the Burnaby Residential Tenancy Branch location is the only office in the province where people can walk-in to obtain service. Elderly residents and people with limited understanding of computer and internet services currently have few options to file applications under the Residential Tenancy Act.

 The BCGEU has been actively involved in our Affordable BC campaign, which includes:



November 13, 2018

Casino workers go back to work after achieving wage increases, improved benef...


November 9, 2018

Casino workers go back to work after achieving wage increases, improved benefits 

(Thompson-Okanagan) Nearly 700 members of the BCGEU working in Gateway Casinos in the Thompson-Okanagan voted to ratify a new contract with their employer ending a 19-week strike.

"I am so impressed by the solidarity and courage of our members" said Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU. "They should be proud of what they achieved by sticking together throughout the bargaining process, especially over the past 19 weeks on the picket line."

The four-year deal includes an average 23.5% wage increase over the life of the agreement and improved benefits – particularly for part-time workers.

"Our members are going back to work, which is great news," Smith continued. "But the ratification vote was close, which means there is more work to be done in all four of these workplaces. That work starts as soon as the picket lines come down."

Casino workers will begin heading back to work over the weekend as operations resume to pre-strike levels.

"On behalf of our members I want to thank our friends in the communities of Kamloops, Kelowna, Penticton and Vernon and our friends in the labour movement for their support during the strike," said Smith. 

BCGEU represents staff spread across Gateway's four casinos in the Thompson-Okanagan: Playtime Casino in Kelowna, Lake City Casino in Vernon, and Cascades Casinos in Kamloops and Penticton. BCGEU members work in table games, as slot attendants, cashiers, in the count room, kitchen, security, guest services and maintenance.




November 08, 2018

BCGEU welcomes new legislation aimed at improving working conditions for heal...

The BC Government & Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) welcomes the B.C. government's announcement today that it will repeal both the Health and Social Services Delivery Improvement Act (Bill 29) and the Health Sector Partnerships Agreement Act (Bill 94). Enacted in 2002 and 2003, the bills led to the deterioration of working conditions for health and social-sector workers by stripping workplace protections and rights and enabling contract-flipping in the sector. The repeal of the bills will mark a positive step towards restoring working conditions and improving health care delivery to British Columbians – especially seniors and people with disabilities. 

"For the last 16 years those working in health-care settings throughout the province, many of whom are women, immigrants and visible minorities, have experienced significant instability and an erosion of working conditions as a result of these bills," says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "The BCGEU has long pushed for change in the health services and community social services sectors, and to end the practice of contract-flipping in particular. Today's announcement demonstrates a concrete effort on the part of government to address these issues." 

The practice of contract-flipping typically involves mass layoffs and forces workers to re-apply for jobs that they have, in many cases, already been performing for years. When this occurs, existing collective agreements and union representation are not carried over, and contracts offered by the new service provider typically offer lower wages, reduced benefits and weakened rights for employees. In short, contract flipping is a strategy for suppressing wages and weakening employee rights in the workplace.

In B.C., contract flipping has been most prevalent in contracted healthcare, residential care, community social services, building maintenance and food services. This process has been harmful for workers in these sectors and the patients and clients that depend on them. 

The government has stated its intention to work collaboratively with various stakeholders to implement the repeal of these bills. The BCGEU looks forward to engaging in this process to support, and significantly improve conditions for workers affected by these changes. 

The BCGEU represents over 30,000 workers in the health services and community social services sectors. 

For more information please contact Bronwen Barnett, BCGEU Communications, 604-719-4713


November 02, 2018

BCGEU welcomes action plan to mitigate wildfire and flood risks in B.C. - BCGEU

The BCGEU welcomes this week's release of Government's Action Plan: Responding to wildfire and flood risks ('The Action Plan') by the provincial government, and applauds the actions outlined in the report to better prepare British Columbians for extreme wildfires and floods. At the same time, more will need to be done to mitigate the effects of what now appears to be the new normal in our province, and the BCGEU looks forward to seeing continued progress.


"The plan details important actions, both taken and underway, to improve emergency preparedness and response to wildfires and floods in B.C.," says BCGEU President Stephanie Smith. "I am especially pleased to see plans to develop mental health recovery programs and supports for workers and people from affected communities, a wide-ranging emphasis on partnership and coordination with First Nations and Indigenous groups as well as improvements to Emergency Social Services."


Earlier this year the BCGEU engaged its members working on the front lines of these disasters to develop a submission to the B.C. government's fire review. (Read BCGEU's submission here.) The resulting May 2018 report from Chief Maureen Chapman and George Abbott, Addressing the New Normal: 21st Century Disaster Management in British Columbia, (the Abbott/Chapman Report) made 108 recommendations to improve disaster response practices.


The Action Plan responds to recommendations in the Abbot/Chapman Report and demonstrates progress, or plans being developed, to address many of the recommendations brought forward by the BCGEU's earlier submission. However, more needs to be done on the part of government to strengthen risk response such as building capacity within Emergency Management BC and the natural resource ministries, addressing the serious staff turnover issue in the BC Wildfire Service, and enhancing road maintenance. The union hopes to see additional issues such as these addressed in updates to the Action Plan moving forward.


The BCGEU is one of the largest and most diverse unions in British Columbia and its members provide direct wildfire protection services across the province, as well as provincial emergency response services to B.C.'s communities.


Download a PDF copy of the BCGEU submission to the review

See also Wildfire report adopts elements of BCGEU submission, but improvement possible and BCGEU Members size up B.C.'s worst summer of natural disasters


October 26, 2018

Recommended Changes To Provincial Labour Code A Good Start – But Don’t Go Far...

The BCGEU supports many of the recommendations put forward yesterday by the independent, three-person Labour Relations Code Review Panel appointed by Labour Minister Harry Bains earlier this year.
"Our submission to the panel asked that balance and fairness be restored to the B.C. Labour Relations Code and Labour Relations Board," said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "We believe the recommendations go a long way toward achieving that balance, but they don't go far enough."

The BCGEU supports recommendations related to the constitutionally protected right of workers to unionize, including:

  • Ensuring certification votes are conducted within five business days
  • Restricting the use of mail ballots
  • Reversing the 'employer free speech' provisions that allow employers to bully and intimidate workers
  • Extending the validity of membership cards from 90 days to 6 months

The union is also in favour of recommendations regarding expedited arbitration, and changes in successorship language to end 'contract-flipping'. However, we're dissatisfied this particular proposal doesn't include food service workers, such as the hundreds we represent at BC Place.
What's also disappointing is no expansion of sectoral certification and re-introducing multi-employer certification. These are the only avenues to unionize vulnerable workers, such as women and persons of colour, in home child care. The recommendation against 'card check' is also discouraging, as is the continuation of picketing restrictions.
The BCGEU has 77,000 members in a variety of sectors and occupations in more than 550 bargaining units throughout B.C. We're a fast-growing union, and one of the most active when it comes to organizing non-union employees. We have a separate organizing department, and often appear at the Labour Relations Board. As such, we have special insight into the certification, unfair labour practice, collective bargaining and strike and lockoutprovisions of the code.


October 25, 2018

280 transition housing units to be built for women fleeing violence - BCGEU

The BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) welcomed today’s announcement by the provincial government to initiate the first steps towards establishing 1,500 new supportive housing units for women and children fleeing violence. As part of government’s Building BC: Women’s Transition Housing Fund, 280 transition housing units will be built province-wide.

This news follows their commitment earlier this year to invest a total of $734 million over the next 10 years to build supportive housing including safe homes, second-stage and long-term housing in addition to transition housing units. The housing funding will also include a range of services, including emotional support and safety planning.

“Access to safe, affordable housing is absolutely critical to supporting women and children escaping violence,” says BCGEU President Stephanie Smith. “As the first significant investment in supportive housing in 20 years, our members working in women’s support services know first-hand how urgently additional housing is needed, and the difference it will make in helping more women escape the cycle of violence. This is what a government that cares about people looks like, and I was honoured to attend the announcement this morning in person.”

Through 12 different projects the 280 new housing units will be built throughout the province based on community need and government aims to have work underway on 500 units within the next three years.

In 2017, the BCGEU released its report Collective wisdom: challenges and opportunities in B.C. women's services which described a sector greatly undermined by inadequate public funding. Among the report's recommendations was to improve women's services by investing in safe and affordable housing for women and children. 

The BCGEU is one of the largest and most diverse unions in British Columbia with over 77,000 members and represents over 1,500 workers in women's services throughout the province.


October 23, 2018

President Irene Lanzinger won't seek re-election as BC's top labour leader - ...

Sister Irene Lanzinger has announced that she will not be running for re-election next month at the 58th Convention of the BC Federation of Labour. As the largest affiliate union of the BC Fed, the BCGEU would like to thank Irene for her contributions to the labour movement in British Columbia during her time as president.

As the first woman president of the Federation, Irene redefined what is possible for all women leaders in BC's labour movement. Through her activism on issues like the $15 minimum wage she both advanced and embodied the Federation's slogan, "what we desire for ourselves, we wish for all." 

The members and staff of the BCGEU are grateful for sister Irene's dedication to making life better for all working people and, recognizing that labour activists never really retire, we wish her all the best as she moves on to new challenges.



October 22, 2018

Proposed legislation will lay foundation for improved professional reliance s...

The BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) is pleased with the provincial government's introduction today of the Professional Governance Act aimed at improving B.C.'s professional reliance system in the natural resource sector. If passed, the new legislation will lay the foundation for a series of much-needed changes to better protect and manage the province's natural resources for generations to come.

 The legislation will implement two of the 121 recommendations made in the June 2018 Final Report of the Review of Professional Reliance following an eight-month review process led by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. This includes greater public oversight over how B.C.'s natural resources are managed, and the establishment of the Office of the Superintendent of Professional Governance to ensure best practices moving forward.

"The final report released in June clearly identified the problems with professional reliance and provided concrete recommendations to make the system work better for everyone," says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "While today's legislation would only directly address the first two recommendations in the report, this is an encouraging first step towards government reclaiming its leadership role in resource and environmental stewardship. I look forward to seeing continued progress."

 The professional reliance model was adopted by the former B.C. Liberal government as part of a dramatic plan to reduce "red tape" and weaken environmental and health protection laws. B.C.'s civil service – the professionals responsible for stewarding B.C.'s resources and natural environment – was slashed by over 25 per cent. Qualified professionals, hired by industry, assumed greater responsibility for decision-making and oversight of projects, often at the expense of the public interest and the environment.

 The full set of recommendations in the Final Report of the Review of Professional Reliance also included 32 sweeping recommendations to strengthen natural resource regulatory regimes including improving laws, regulations, Indigenous engagement and improve information as well as 87 recommendations specific to environmental reform.

 The day-to-day work of thousands of BCGEU members is shaped by this regulatory model, and many members have raised the alarm about its shortcomings. As part of the public consultation process during the professional reliance review, the BCGEU made a submission to government bringing forward member concerns which is available here.


October 17, 2018

British Columbia turns over a new leaf - BCGEU

Vancouver –

With cannabis prohibition finally over in Canada, British Columbia is bracing itself for a new era of economic potential.

“Legal, recreational cannabis has the potential to be a major driver of economic growth and direct monetary benefit to the province” noted BCGEU President Stephanie Smith. “Wise investments in the regulation, sale, and distribution of alcohol provide billions in direct benefit to British Columbians, and we can expect the new cannabis industry to further subsidize government’s ability to invest in services like health, education, and seniors’ care.”

The sale and distribution of cannabis in B.C. will be managed and implemented by BCGEU members across the province working in brick-and-mortar stores, like the first BC Cannabis Store in Kamloops, as well an online store. Additional stores will begin opening in the next twelve months as hiring continues to intensify all across the province.

“Responsible retail of recreational cannabis by professional BCGEU members at BC Cannabis Stores will ensure that cannabis stays out of the hands of minors, while providing a world-class retail experience for consumers” said Smith.

Hundreds of new living-wage jobs are being filled right now in preparation for new stores opening across the province. Interested individuals should go to the BC Government website: https://www.bcldbcannabisupdates.com/opportunities/careers

The BCGEU represents over 4,900 members at the Liquor Distribution Branch and over 77,000 workers across the province.