August 31, 2018

An Open Letter from BCGEU President Stephanie Smith on Labour Day - BCGEU

As a mother and an early childhood educator l know that for many British Columbians Labour Day represents the end of summer and the beginning of school. But as a union activist the first Monday in September represents much more. Labour Day is an opportunity to celebrate working people: the ones who built our province; the ones who take care of our families and our communities every day; and the ones who will create the healthy, inclusive, prosperous society we want in the future.

Labour Day is a moment to appreciate how much workers have accomplished since Canada's first Labour Day event in 1872-when unions were still illegal-and since Labour Day was declared a national holiday in 1894. Everything from paid vacations and sick leave to occupational health and safety regulations and protections from bullying, harassment and discrimination in the workplace are part of our current reality because of the efforts and sacrifices of working people. 

Labour Day is also a moment to acknowledge how far we have left to go to create a society where all working people are truly respected and protected. There is still progress to be made, and our ability to create the future we want depends on the actions we take right now.

Representing more than 77,000 members in every community in British Columbia and every sector of our province's economy the BCGEU is always working to create that future not just for our members but for all working people. And this year our work has paid off: We grew our membership-welcoming thousands of new members in sectors like childcare, seniors' care and casinos and solidifying our position as one of the fastest growing unions in Canada; we ratified collective agreements covering more than two-thirds of our existing members-including an agreement that set a new industry standard for wages, benefits and working conditions in BC's extremely profitable casino industry; we spent countless hours travelling the province to learn about the issues our members face in their workplaces and to meet with their employers, elected officials and policy makers to address those issues; and we made substantial progress in our successful advocacy campaigns to improve affordability in childcare and housing to benefit all working people.

The BCGEU has a lot to celebrate this Labour Day. But our union, and BC's entire labour movement, also have a lot to do. Working people are finding it harder than ever to make ends meet: Rising costs for necessities like transportation, housing and childcare mean wages don't go as far as they used to. The nature of work is changing: Call it the sharing economy or the gig economy, what it means for working people is low wages, no benefits and no job security. And we continue to see a shift from family-supporting full-time jobs to lower-wage, less secure, more precarious employment in a range of sectors. All of this adds up to a robust agenda for working people and their supporters in the labour movement, elected office, community organizations, and in communities. 

The lesson of Labour Day is the power of solidarity. History shows us that when working people stand together and fight together, we win. The workers of tomorrow are counting on us to come through for them as our predecessors did for us. And this Labour Day I am full of optimism for what we can achieve together. So, what can you do to support working people this Labour Day and beyond?

  • Vote. Local election day in BC is October 20th and a federal election is coming in 2019. Do your research and support candidates who are tackling issues that matter to working people-like living wages and affordability in housing, transportation and childcare-and candidates who are committed to creating laws and regulations that make it easier for workers to unionize and that protect non-union workers in precarious and non-standard employment.
  • Respect picket lines. Members of the BCGEU in four Okanagan casinos are on strike and will spend this Labour Day on the picket line. If you see picket lines in your community, show your support by talking to the workers to find out how long they've been on strike and what they're fighting for; honking and waving as you drive by; or grabbing a sign and walking with them for a while. But, whatever you do, don't cross the lines.
  • Check out the BCGEU's campaigns website to see what we're working on to make life safer, healthier and more affordable for our members and all working people across BC and what you can do to help.
  • And if you're working in a non-union workplace and want to know more about how joining a union could benefit you and your colleagues, contact us.

In Solidarity,

Stephanie Smith
BCGEU President


August 29, 2018

Assaults at Forensic Psychiatric Hospital highlight failure to provide a safe...

BURNABY – Recent serious assaults on staff by patients at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital (FPH) in Coquitlam highlight a disturbing trend that endangers the lives of workers at the facility, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union said today.

"There have been 21 injuries to staff since May of this year, by patients who are at the hospital for committing serious crimes," said BCGEU treasurer Paul Finch. "There has been a clear and willful pattern of neglect on the part of the employer in addressing these real and substantial safety concerns."

In the last 5 years, the Workers' Compensation Board has issued 57 safety orders at Forensics and levied a $171,000 fine, along with 102 WCB inspection reports showing the employer's failure to protect its workers, but little progress has been made to secure the safety of their employees.

Unions have called for an increased security presence in rooms when staff interact with potentially violent patients. However, the newly appointed chief operating officer Connie Coniglio has refused, saying that the presence of security personnel could increase patient anxiety and trigger violent incidents.

"The Workers Compensation Board clearly stated in a March report that the presence of security personnel does not cause violent outbreaks," said Finch. "Workers are being assaulted while treating patients without risk assessments being done, with inadequate security protection. One could make the case that the employer is complicit in these attacks on hospital staff."

The BCGEU has written to the minister, calling on the government to bring the facility back into government service and to properly fund and train a sufficient number of staff at the FPH. The union has also asked the government to ensure that the employer adhere to the Workers Compensation Act and conduct risk assessments on patients, provide adequate security personnel on site and provide funding to fill gaps in risk assessments, including self-defense training for staff.

The BCGEU represents more than 270 members who work at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, with the majority working one-on-one with patients as health care workers, rehabilitation workers and forensic security officers.



August 27, 2018

BCGEU community social services members ratify collective agreement - BCGEU

The BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) announced today that its members in the Community Social Services (CSS) sector voted by 85.7 per cent in favour to ratify a new collective agreement. The three-year contract provides significant compensation increases for workers while meeting the government mandate of improving the services British Columbians count on.

CSS consists of three collective agreements: Community Living workers ratified their agreement by 82.3 per cent; General Services ratified by 95.8 per cent; and Indigenous Services ratified by 50.9 per cent. The weighted average ratification vote for all three sub-sectors was 85.7 per cent.

"After 16 years of cuts and wage restraint leading the sector into crisis, this agreement with a government that wants to put people first provides a foundation to build on," says BCGEU President Stephanie Smith. "We are pleased to see substantial gains to support the vital work CSS workers do. However, the low support among the membership for the Indigenous Services contract demonstrates how much more needs to be done. Over the next three years, the union will continue to work with CSS members to further strengthen support for the sector." 

The ratified agreement is the result of negotiations between the 10-union Community Social Services Bargaining Association (CSSBA) and the Community Social Services Employers' Association (CSSEA). 

"While our negotiating team did the very best it could, we know there is still some distance to go in getting a deal that receives strong support by all sub-sectors," says BCGEU Vice President, Component 3, Andrea Duncan. "This is the work of our union – to continue making progress and fighting for the wages and working conditions we deserve."

The new collective agreement will be in effect from April 1, 2019 until March 31, 2022.

The BCGEU is the lead union in the sector, representing two-thirds of the unionized community social service workers in British Columbia. These caring professionals provide supports, services and resources to adults and children with developmental disabilities, women and children fleeing violence, Aboriginal families in need, at-risk youth, those with substance addictions, and more.

For more information contact Bronwen Barnett, BCGEU Communications Officer at 604-719-4713 or bronwen.barnett@bcgeu.ca



August 20, 2018

Casino workers urge BCLC to investigate Gateway’s operations during strike -...

(Kamloops) Members of the BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) on strike at Gateway Casinos' four Thompson-Okanagan casinos are gathering at BC Lottery Corporation's (BCLC) head office in Kamloops on Monday, August 20 at 12pm to call upon the regulatory body to investigate whether or not the casinos are operating safely during the strike.

"We've got questions about how Gateway Casinos have been operating their Thompson-Okanagan casinos," said BCGEU President Stephanie Smith. "Based on what our members have witnessed and reports we've heard, it sounds like Gateway hasn't been living up to their obligations under BCLC and provincial gaming laws and regulations during this strike."

In a letter, delivered earlier on Monday, the union asked BCLC to investigate potential irregularities in the casinos' operations witnessed by striking workers since they walked out in late June. The alleged incidents range in seriousness from failing to comply with regulations around ID'ing patrons to a failing to identify what would normally be flagged as suspicious behaviour possibly related to money-laundering.

"At a time when the entire casino industry is supposed to be under increased scrutiny, we believe the BCLC should shut down Gateway's casinos until the company can demonstrate that they are willing and able to operate responsibly," said Smith.

Gateway workers and their union are asking BCLC to investigate specifically whether the casinos are maintaining the security of casino assets at all times, properly safeguarding against corruption and money-laundering, complying with BC's liquor policies, and adequately ensuring the safety of staff and patrons.

Almost 700 BCGEU members working at four Gateway Casinos in the Thompson-Okanagan walked off the job on Friday, June 29 after mediation broke down with their employer. Workers are fighting for living wages, better working conditions and respect on the job.

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.



August 13, 2018

Three-year agreement for thousands of B.C. government workers - BCGEU

VICTORIA - Thousands of British Columbia public service workers have ratified a three-year contract agreement giving them an annual 2 per cent wage increase.

The agreement covers workers who provide social, environmental and pubic safety services, as well as Liquor Distribution Branch employees and some of those who work at the BC Pension Corp.




August 10, 2018

BCGEU public service members ratify collective agreement - BCGEU

BURNABY – The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union announced today that its members in the B.C. public service sector have voted to ratify the tentative agreement reached with the B.C. government in June. The final vote was 62.7 per cent in favour.

"After 16 years of staff cuts and wage restraint, there was a lot of pent-up demand for positive change from our membership," said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "We knew that we wouldn't make up all the lost ground in one round of bargaining, but this agreement will provide a good foundation for us to build on." 

BCGEU members ratified a three-year agreement that features a two per cent general wage increase in each year, and addresses labour market pressures in specific occupations as well as expanded bullying and harassment language and the achievement of special leave for members experiencing domestic violence.

The effective dates of the new agreement will be April 1, 2019 – March 31, 2022

"This collective agreement will improve wages and working conditions for our public service members," said Smith. "But we know there is still work to be done and we're looking forward to putting this agreement to work."


August 10, 2018

The Provincial - Summer 2018 - BCGEU

The digital version of the Summer 2018 issue of The Provincial is available to download online. In this issue:

  • MMIWG Inquiry
  • Professional reliance
  • Labour review
  • Bargaining update
  • Affordable BC campaign
  • Events and more…


Download the Summer 2018 issue 

Download the consolidated financial statements of B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union Dec 31 2017 here


August 03, 2018

President's message on 40 years of Vancouver Pride - BCGEU

Forty years ago, Vancouver Pride started with a handful of people struggling against homophobia and transphobia coming together in solidarity. In the beginning, it was a small group of activists that wanted to be proud of who they were and who they love, and has now grown into a vibrant celebration enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people. 

Today, there are Pride parades in communities large and small across British Columbia that embody what Pride is about- visibility and community for two-spirited, trans and queer folks.

This year, the BCGEU is proud once again to march in solidarity with the LGBTQI2S+ community alongside our members at the 40th Vancouver Pride parade. As a union committed to social justice, we have always supported equity and diversity in our union, in our workplaces and in our communities. 

But Pride is more than a parade and more than a celebration. Pride is a movement. And the Pride movement and the labour movement are united by common values and common goals. 

The Pride movement was started by activists demanding visibility, equality, rights, and respect. The Pride movement has made colleagues, friends and loved ones into allies, advocates, and activists. And the Pride movement has survived and thrived in communities on every continent, in every country, across the world- because the values it espouses are universal. 

We have come a long way, but there is still much more work to do to advance rights for all. That's why our union has a dedicated equity and human rights committee that meets regularly to raise awareness, deepen our knowledge and strategize to end discrimination in all its forms. 

The Pride parade is a moment to remember where the movement came from, to appreciate and celebrate everything the movement has achieved, and to recognize how much further we have to go.


In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith
BCGEU President


August 03, 2018

An Open Letter from Gateway Casino Workers in the Thompson-Okanagan – OUR COM...

Friday, August 3, 2018 

An Open Letter from Gateway Casino Workers in the Thompson-Okanagan – OUR COMMUNITIES DESERVE BETTER! 

Dear Community Members,

For over five weeks, almost 700 community members in the Thompson-Okanagan have been on strike. We are Gateway Casino workers fighting for respect and the ability to live in the communities we serve. We are parents, students, long-time employees – we are your neighbours and we're asking for your help.

We don't have to tell you the cost of living is rising in the Thompson-Okanagan region – you feel it as much as we do. Housing prices and rents are increasing, groceries are more expensive here than in larger urban centres and rising gas prices make life unaffordable for those who need to commute from smaller communities. It's no surprise that living wages, the base amount it takes to survive in our region, are around $17-18/hour.

Knowing this, Gateway Casinos, the largest gaming company in Canada, still refuses to offer decent wages. They use smokescreens and percentages designed to make us look greedy, out-of-touch, and unrealistic. The truth is, we are among the lowest-paid casino workers in Canada. Many of us, even those who have been with the company for over 10 years, still make $12-13/hour.

Gateway's wage offer will not stay ahead of planned minimum wage increases.
This is not an "offer," it is merely compliance with government law. To insist on paying employees the lowest wage legally allowed in BC is heartbreaking; it is a testament to what they believe their employees are worth – what they believe people in our communities are worth.

When Gateway says we don't deserve to be paid as much as casino workers on the coast,what they are really saying is the service they offer you in the Thompson-Okanagan is second-rate. We don't agree. We love our jobs. We work hard, in high-pressure environments, to offer you a top-notch entertainment experience.

The company has been taking aim at our tips. A tip is a reward for good service, it was never designed to be a supplement for poor wages. Gateway Casinos should not download the responsibility of paying a living wage onto our guests.The government does not even consider tips a dependable source of income and cannot be used towards things like CPP, mortgages, parental leave, EI and so on. Many casino workers don't receive tips at all.

In the last few years, Gateway Casinos has invested nearly half a billion dollars in various development projects – it's time they invest in their employees.When they pay living wages that allow us to live and shop in our communities, that money stays in the local Thompson-Okanagan economy rather than going to Gateway's holdings in Metro Vancouver, Alberta and Ontario.

We are not on strike to cash in – we are fighting a wealthy employer for the ability to survive. We have families, student loans and the same daily expenses as many of you, and we are struggling to get by. It's time for Gateway Casinos to stop profiting off our poverty.

Please help us in our fight by not crossing our picket lines and by telling Gateway how you feel. Call them, email them, write letters to the editor of our local papers. Visit our website at casinoworkers.ca for more ways to help.

So many of you have already come out to show your support and it means everything to us. Let's show Gateway Casinos that the people of the Thompson-Okanagan are not second-rate – that we deserve better!


Workers from Cascades Penticton, Playtime Kelowna, Lake City Vernon and Cascades Kamloops