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B.C.'S UNION SINCE 1919

NEWS

August 29, 2019

A message for Labour Day from Stephanie Smith - BCGEU

Like thousands of labour activists, I’ll spend the first Monday in September surrounded by my family—my labour family. It’s a family I’ve been a part of since I first joined a union as a childcare worker more than 30 years ago. It’s a family I cherish.

Labour Day 2019 is special for me and every member of the BCGEU because this is our centennial year. The Provincial Civil Service Association of B.C. opened its first convention on July 26, 1919 in Vancouver’s Eagle Hall. That convention was attended by 37 delegates representing a total membership of 980—all of whom worked directly for the provincial government.

What a difference a century makes.

The BCGEU’s membership is now over 80,000 strong and growing. And, while we still proudly represent tens of thousands of provincial government workers, well over half of our members work outside government in the broader public service and the private sector.

But one critical thing hasn’t changed.

One hundred years ago, those convention delegates and the workers they represented came together because they shared values—values like dignity and respect; equality and fairness; opportunity and security—and they knew that by working together in solidarity they could bring those values to life in their workplaces and their communities.
One hundred years later, those values are still the foundation for everything the BCGEU stands for and fights for.

Labour Day 2019 is a chance for BCGEU members to celebrate those values and what we’ve achieved because of them. It’s also a chance for us to acknowledge how far we still have to go to create a society where those values are a reality for all working people.

Unions are under attack across the world and in our own country; the cost of necessities like transportation and housing continues to grow faster than wages; and, we continue to see a shift from family-supporting full-time jobs to part-time, more precarious employment.

The workers of tomorrow are counting on us to come through for them as our predecessors did for us. And this Labour Day I’m full of optimism for what we can achieve together.

So, what can you do?
  • Vote. There is a lot at stake in the upcoming federal election. Get the facts about when, where and how to vote. Then do your research and support candidates who are tackling issues that matter to working people—like living wages, job security, affordability, the environment and protecting public services.

  • Support working people in your community by making sure the businesses and corporations you deal with every day reflect your values.

Happy Labour Day,
Stephanie Smith
BCGEU President

Download Labour-Day-Message-2019.pdf


UWU/MoveUP

August 29, 2019

Kootenays inland ferry workers serve 72-hour strike notice - BCGEU

On Wednesday, the 80 members of the BC Government & Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) employed by Western Pacific Marine issued a 72-hour strike notice, making it all but certain that the Kootenay Lake ferry will be shut down to routine travel over the Labour Day long weekend.

The move comes after several months of unsuccessful negotiations for a new collective agreement that the ferry workers are hoping will address long-standing issues with substandard wages, benefits and training that have created a staffing crisis for the ferry service.

"Our members don't just work on these ferries, they live in ferry-reliant communities," says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "They know how important this service is to their friends, families and neighbours and they know what it's going to take to make it safe and sustainable for years to come. That's why they're fighting for a contract that prioritizes the recruitment and retention of highly-skilled staff in a highly competitive industry."

If the ferry workers and their employer can't reach an agreement before the 72-hour notice is up, the workers will conduct a 3-day strike beginning Saturday, August 31st at the Balfour Terminal of the Kootenay Lake Ferry. Under the terms of an essential services ruling issued by the Labour Relations Board, the Balfour ferry will be shut down to routine travel over the long weekend but will be available for emergencies and disaster response. The ferries serving the communities of Harrop and Glade, also operated by Western Pacific Marine, will remain 100 per cent operational.

Ferry workers and their supporters have spent the last few days talking to ferry users and other community members about their job action, including issuing notices warning of the possibility of a 3-day strike over the Labour Day long weekend.

"Our goal from the beginning of these negotiations has always been to get a collective agreement that these workers and ferry-reliant communities deserve," says Smith. "As the cost of living continues to rise employers should be doing everything they can to support services and preserve family-supporting jobs in B.C.'s small towns and rural areas, instead of prioritizing profit margins by suppressing wages, eroding benefits, and reducing funding for training, safety and career development."

Inland ferries were contracted out under the previous BC Liberal government. As operating costs have increased, Western Pacific Marine has not maintained adequate training, wages and staffing levels. As a result, the Kootenay Lake ferry has become heavily dependent on overtime, short-term hires from other regions and even contracting retired employees to maintain existing services. With this kind of instability, sailings are at risk of cancelation on a daily basis.

As per the Labour Relations Board ruling on essential services ferry crews on the picket line will be on standby to provide on-demand sailings of the Kootenay Lake ferry for emergency response and the ferries serving the communities of Harrop and Glade will remain 100 per cent operational. For full details on schedules and service levels of the inland ferries in the West Kootenays over the Labour Day weekend, visit ferries.bcgeu.ca

BCGEU members work on most of B.C.'s 13 inland ferry routes including Adams Lake, Arrow Park, Francois Lake, Glade, Harrop, Needles, Kootenay Lake and Upper Arrow Lake ferries.

The BCGEU is one of the largest unions in B.C. with over 79,000 members in almost every community and economic sector in the province.



UWU/MoveUP

August 27, 2019

BCGEU calls on BC government to scrap detrimental pension rules

The BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) is calling on the BC government to scrap outdated rules that compromise private sector defined benefit pension plans by inaccurately measuring their value and creating unnecessary volatility. The union's call to action on this issue follows the release of "A Review of the Solvency Funding Framework under the Pension Benefits Standards Act: Report on Stakeholder Committee Process August 2019" by the Ministry of Finance earlier this month.

Defined benefit pension plans are the best guarantee of retirement security currently available to workers in Canada, but in B.C. they are subject to a type of valuation that can paradoxically weaken their value. This is the solvency valuation which calculates whether the plan has sufficient assets to cover its liabilities if the plan were to terminate. This requirement is currently 100 per cent – enough assets to pay all benefits owed to pensioners at a given time. Plans valued at less than 100 per cent are considered to have a "solvency deficiency."

"The current solvency funding requirements are unrealistic because they were not designed for our current investment environment of very low interest rates and bond yields," says BCGEU treasurer Paul Finch. "As a result, plan administrators are obliged to significantly scale up contributions in the short term, creating volatility and potential cost problems for employers and employees."

To strengthen and protect defined benefit pension plans and to guarantee their security, the solvency valuation requirement must be replaced with a going concern valuation. As opposed to the assumption of termination in the solvency valuation, the going concern valuation calculates continued contributions to the plan and accumulated assets. A well-formulated going concern valuation would more accurately capture the actual value and risks associated with defined benefit plans, while reducing unnecessary funding pressures that have been proven to jeopardize them.

In 2018 the administrative committee of the United Way Pension Plan advised its members that the most recent valuation indicated funding of 119 per cent on a going concern basis; however solvency funding was just 91 per cent so these members lost their defined benefit pensions due to this faulty valuation system. As a result, use of the solvency funding requirement has already been dropped in other provinces.

The BCGEU is also disappointed that the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) is advocating that the provincial government maintain required pension solvency funding at 100 per cent in response to the ministry's recommendation in their report to lower it to 85 per cent.

"CARP's position is based on an understanding of Ontario's regulatory framework for pensions, not B.C.'s, making their comments potentially harmful to the retirement security of B.C. workers and pensioners," says Finch. "To protect pensions, solvency funding must be replaced by the going concern valuation and plan costs should not be based on bond yields."

Read the BCGEU's detailed response to the report released by the Ministry of Finance here.

The BCGEU is one of the largest unions in B.C. with over 79,000 members in almost every community and economic sector in the province.



UWU/MoveUP

August 26, 2019

Self-Checkouts in our Libraries - BCGEU

 

More and more nowadays, we encounter machines where once we would have encountered a person. Have you ever stopped and wondered how often you interact with a machine in your daily life? We're talking about self-checkouts and self-check ins. They are in many large retailers and grocery stores, at the airport, fast food chains, and even one of our most community orientated spaces: libraries.

On a recent visit to Merritt, BCGEU leadership became aware of frustrations caused by these automated checkouts. Seniors and others in the community are now forced to use self-checkouts and when problems arise, they then have to go to the front counter and ask library staff to assist them, back at the self-checkout! The whole process is unnecessary and embarrassing.

In some cases, machines are a good thing. Automation can free up staff from certain tasks so they can focus on other work. However, all too often automation is implemented to cut labour costs, and that means eliminating jobs. That's why it's important to view "improvements" such as these with a critical eye.

In the case of the library in Merritt, patrons prefer to deal with a staff member than with the automated checkouts that dehumanize daily life. It seems we still prefer human-to-human contact, especially at a community space like libraries. In addition to potential job loss, there are other problems with self-checkouts. For example, higher-than-expected levels of shoplifting are often seen. In the U.S., Ikea discovered it took longer for customers to use the self-checkout than the checkout with a staff member present.

Job losses, shop lifting, frustration and delays. They sound like good reasons to move away from machines and back to people. And that is what's happening. Some retailers have removed self-checkouts or cancelled plans to introduce them. However, in Canada, local librarians say self-checkouts are on the rise, even in small libraries with one or two staff.

Librarians are working hard to prevent the decline of jobs and the rise of self-checkout machines, and they need your help. An effective way to make a difference is by sharing your thoughts with management and decision makers. Ultimately, show your support for library staff by not using self-checkouts whenever possible. You'll probably get a smile and a thank you too. Importantly, that librarian will also get a pay cheque.
 
In solidarity,
BCGEU



UWU/MoveUP

August 15, 2019

2019 PAC Survey - BCGEU

The federal election is fast approaching and union members will be voting based on key issues. We are asking you to fill out the below survey to identify what is most important to members. 

The results will be shared mid September and resources relevant to these issues will be provided to members. 

To ensure only one submission per person, please enter your name and email.

UWU/MoveUP

August 13, 2019

BCGEU Centennial BBQ Celebration - BCGEU

Cariboo Area 06 Members

Sunday, September 1, 2019

11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

BCGEU Centennial BBQ Celebration

Boitanio Park, Williams Lake

 

 

Come celebrate 100 years of the BCGEU with a Centennial BBQ in the Park!

Bring the family; we will have a bouncy castle, face painting and bungee run.


Download Centennial BBQ Sept 1 invite.pdf

UWU/MoveUP

August 09, 2019

Government includes BCGEU recommendations in Budget 2020 report

Last month our union participated in the public consultation to offer input into next year's budget by submitting recommendations to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services (more on this here). The Committee has now reported out on the results of this process and we are pleased to let you know that government listened to many of our positions and put a number of them into their recommendations released this week in Report on the Budget 2020 Consultation.

Some key recommendations that closely align with the BCGEU's submission include:

  • Continuing to make comprehensive investments in child care to improve access and affordability.
  • Ensuring investments in the continuum of services for mental health and addiction needs, including funding for integrated, wrap-around support services with housing.
  • Ensuring stable, quality care in residential care facilities by reviewing and establishing minimum staffing levels, equalizing compensation, reviewing sub-contracting of care and services, and addressing recruitment and retention challenges.
  • Ensuring adequate funding and staffing for the Employment Standards Branch and Labour Relations Board to enable them to effectively enforce employment law.
  • Continued investment in prevention, mitigation, adaptation, response and recovery for wildfire, flood and climate-related natural disasters, with an emphasis on cooperating, collaborating and partnering with local and Indigenous communities.
  • Increasing operational funding for BC Parks and Recreation Sites and Trails BC to support staffing, monitoring and enforcement, maintenance, public safety, and recreational infrastructure and services.
  • Fully funding and supporting the CleanBC strategy and increasing investments in shifting to clean and renewable energy, including expanding electrification for energy use.

Our union is disappointed to see that our call for accelerated and expanded investment in affordable housing, and our call for improved staffing ratios and safety measures in the corrections sector were not included. However, we will continue to lobby government and increase public pressure in regard to these and other issues that are important to BCGEU members.

We hope to see the above recommendations included in the upcoming 2020 Budget to be presented in February. Once Budget 2020 has been released, we will present our analysis on our website and social media channels.

In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith
President



UWU/MoveUP

August 08, 2019

Affordability experts respond to announcement to build 1,100 housing units in...

MEDIA ADVISORY
For Immediate Release

 

Affordability experts respond to announcement to build 1,100 housing units in Vancouver

WHAT: The BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) will hold a press conference at its Vancouver Area Office Friday at 10:00AM in response to the federal government's announcement of $180M in loans and funding for affordable housing in Vancouver.

The federal money will help build a small portion of the housing needed in Vancouver, but it does not represent the kind of long-term funding required to address the housing crisis in a stable and responsible manner. The authors of the report Building an Affordable B.C., BCGEU Treasurer Paul Finch and Vice President of CUPE Local 1767 representing union members at BC Assessment Authority Harpinder Sandhu, will offer a critical analysis of the announcement. They will also discuss how local governments can use a land value capture tax to generate stable funding for the public build-out of affordable housing.

Paul Finch and Harpinder Sandhu will then respond to questions from the media. Individual interviews immediately after the conference will also be possible.

WHEN: Friday, August 9, 2019, 10:00AM

WHERE: BCGEU Lower Mainland Area Office, 130 - 2920 Virtual Way, Vancouver
(Please check in at reception.) 

View the report Building an Affordable B.C. here: https://www.affordablebc.ca/our-plan 
Opinion: Land Value Capture idea gaining traction as housing affordability crisis continues



UWU/MoveUP

August 07, 2019

BCGEU members in the public service – your new collective agreement between t...

The new 18th Main Public Service Agreement and Component Agreements are in effect as of April 1, 2019. BCGEU members who work in the B.C. public service ratified these agreements last year following five weeks of negotiations.

The agreements are for three years and expire on March 31, 2022. The main agreement features many improvements, such as:

  • a two per cent general wage increase in each year of the agreement;
  • improvements in benefits and the addition of dual coverage;
  • addresses labour market pressures in specific occupations;
  • expands bullying and harassment language;
  • achieves special leave for members experiencing domestic violence.

We're finishing up the editing and other housekeeping on the agreements. Download the draft version of the main agreement here.

Download PDF files of draft component agreements:

Draft Environmental, Technical and Operational Component 20 agreement
Science, Information and Health Component 6 agreement

We will update you again when printing and distribution details are finalized.

-Your BCGEU public service bargaining committee



UWU/MoveUP