Voicing our concerns: BCGEU presentations regarding workers’ compensation system and B.C. Budget recommendations - BCGEU

Participating in public consultations is a valuable way to make sure our voices are heard before government makes important decisions. Two public consultation processes are currently underway that will directly impact working people in B.C. – the Worker's Compensation Review and the provincial government's Budget 2020 Consultation. Today I had the honour of presenting at public hearings for both to call for a more equitable workers' compensation system and a provincial budget that continues investing in public services and a more affordable B.C.

Workers' compensation system review

As we mentioned last week, the provincial government has initiated a formal review of the workers' compensation system. As a result of legislative and policy decisions made by the BC Liberals back in 2002, the workers' compensation system has become skewed in favour of saving money for employers rather than protecting workers. Because of this, the stated goal of the review is "to increase the confidence of workers and employers in the system and to shift the workers' compensation system to become more worker centred."

By telling our stories about the injustices within the current system, this is a tremendously important opportunity for our union to influence legislative and policy changes that will restore fairness. The review will hold 14 public hearings which began today in Surrey, and I made the very first presentation to prominent labour lawyer Janet Patterson who is leading the review.
In follow up to my presentation, the BCGEU will submit a detailed written submission addressing what we feel needs to change. And in the coming weeks, Ms. Patterson will also hear from a number of BCGEU members that have been injured on the job and struggled within a system that has been stacked against them. All of these stories and our submission will demonstrate the human costs of an unequal system, and the pressing need for change. If you have a story to tell, learn more about how you can participate before the deadline of July 19th.

Budget 2020 Consultations

Each year your union participates in the public consultation for the next provincial budget. Led by the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, the consultations lead to a report with recommendations for the next year's budget with the input they receive. Today in Vancouver I presented the BCGEU's budget submission to the committee which reflects the feedback of your senior elected leadership regarding the priorities and challenges of members living and working in communities across B.C.
Now almost two years since the BC NDP formed government, next year's budget marks an important moment. Much progress has been made to make life better for British Columbians including: making child care more accessible and affordable, launching a poverty reduction strategy, calling a public inquiry into money laundering in our province and releasing CleanBC, an ambitious and inclusive plan for emissions reduction and clean growth.

But as we all know many problems persist so our submission to the Budget 2020 Consultation includes the following recommendations: 

  • Give Together BC – our province's first-ever poverty reduction strategy – the support it needs to succeed by building capacity in key public service areas. This includes continued progress to make child care in B.C. affordable and accessible and improving working conditions for child care professionals; improving compliance and enforcement capacity in the Residential Tenancy Branch, Employment Standards Branch and other agencies; and adequately staffing and removing barriers to B.C.'s income assistance system while bringing rates above the poverty line. 

  • Take the next critical step in addressing the housing affordability crisis by investing in public supply. A major public sector investment is the only way to guarantee that affordable housing is available when, and where, British Columbians need it. 
  • Protect B.C.'s environment, natural resources, and climate goals by investing in BC Parks. B.C.'s parks and protected areas are an economic, social, cultural, and health boon for British Columbians…and they are key to protecting biodiversity. We urge the government to invest in all aspects of the parks system from conservation and protection to infrastructure, staff, recreational services and regulatory oversight.

  • Ensure working people in B.C. have the safe, healthy workplaces they deserve by putting a priority on occupational health and safety. Factors like chronic under-staffing, recruitment and retention issues, outdated facilities and inadequate training increase the risk of physical and mental injury on the job. We urge the government to invest in the safety and security of the workers who keep our families and communities safe.

The BCGEU will release the full text of our written budget submission in the coming weeks. You can find out more about the consultation process and how you can participate by the deadline of Friday June 28 at 5:00 pm here.

I want to thank the elected leadership and the BCGEU members who provided valuable input into both of the submissions delivered today – and we look forward to seeing the results. The Worker's Compensation Review report is due in September and the committee will release its recommendations for the next provincial budget later this summer.

In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith