When the provincial government first declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March, BC Liquor Distribution Branch (BCLDB) workers were deemed essential workers. But when the provincial government announced the Temporary Pandemic Pay program (TPP) in May, we were unfairly excluded from the vital support and recognition that the program was designed to offer.
We came together like never before to push for change; launching a petition and a letter-writing campaign targeting MLAs. Of the 5,700 people who signed the petition, 40 percent are Component 5 members and 97 percent are active BCGEU members. And of the 2,100 letters sent to MLAs asking for pandemic pay for frontline workers (including BCLDB workers), 35 percent were from the public.
As we worked in solidarity, our union backed our efforts by writing a letter directly to B.C.'s Minister of Finance, making a call to the provincial government, and using the media (CBC, Vancouver Is Awesome, CKNW and CFAX) to pressure government to change their minds.
We have been advocating for months for BCLDB workers to be included in the TPP, and we've done it smartly. Our efforts initially focused on the provincial government as sole decision-maker for the program. When the government declined to make the changes we were asking for 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," we assessed the BCLDB's higher-than-usual revenue during the pandemic and redirected pressure to our employer – with this letter.
Disappointingly, our employer also declined. And now we're in an election campaign, which means our government currently lacks the authority to make the changes we want.
So it is time to once again redirect our efforts towards building internal capacity so that, as soon as the next provincial government is sworn in, we are energized, focused and ready to renew our push for the government and our employer to properly recognize BCLDB workers.
Let's talk and build a new plan. What do YOU think we can accomplish together? What ideas do you have to solve our collective challenges? Fellow members of our union component will be reaching out to you in the next few weeks to discuss how you're feeling about pandemic pay, the election, and any other issues challenging you, and what each of us can do about them. Please use this form to update your contact information so we can reach out.
I'd also like to invite you to a Candidates' Forum that the BCGEU is holding this Friday, October 16. I will be asking the BC NDP, BC Liberal and BC Green candidates about their support for pandemic pay directly. Join the event here at 5:00 pm: https://www.facebook.com/events/342589333631879
Kusam Doal, Vice President of Component 5 (Retail Stores and Warehouses)
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