As BC Labour Minister Harry Bains considers changes to strengthen protections for all workers in the province, a report and recommendations from a legal group fail overall to address the urgent need for change, says the BC Federation of Labour.
Under the BC Liberal government both basic standards and funding for the Employment Standards Branch were slashed. Workers were left with few rights and little support. Workers mistreated by their employers were abandoned and handed a self-help kit.
“The Law Institute review begins to address some of the deficiencies in the Act, but overall the recommendations are too cautious and fail to undo the 16 years of damage inflicted by the BC Liberal government,” said Laird Cronk, President of the BCFED.
The BCLI report includes some positive recommendations that the BCFED supports, including:
• ending the mandatory use of the self-help kit;
• heightening enforcement to stop the misclassification of employees as contractors; and
• returning to a minimum call-in pay of four hours.
However, the review fails to include recommendations in several significant areas. While the report recommends a review of exemptions to the Act, it does not call for the immediate elimination of differential work conditions. “Employment standards should be universal. They must apply to everyone.
This makes it easier for workers and employers to know the rules, simplifies enforcement, and treats all workers and workplaces equally,” said Cronk.
The report fails to mention paid leave for domestic and intimate partner violence. “Domestic and intimate partner violence take a toll on both the personal and work life of those affected,” said Sussanne Skidmore, Secretary Treasurer of the BCFED. “Access to paid leave for survivors of violence to find safety and seek support is a necessary step in ensuring that our laws address the whole worker.” Both Manitoba and Ontario already provide paid leave.
Finally, the report contains few recommendations to make work better. There is no majority recommendation to implement paid sick leave, increase vacation pay or better protect workers’ tips and gratuities. Unlike the BC Law Institute report, the Ontario Changing Workplace Review more comprehensively addressed today’s workplaces and the impacts of rising precarity and the gig economy. It is a far more comprehensive and impactful document.
“The BC NDP government has an opportunity to address the real needs of working people who we know are finding it harder and harder to thrive in our province. We urge the BC government to look beyond this report and make much more bold changes to our employment laws,” said Cronk.
The following is a statement from Laird Cronk and Sussanne Skidmore on December 10th International Human Rights Day
International Human Rights Day was established on December 10, 1948, the day the Universal Human Rights Declaration was declared by the United Nations.
Today on the 70th anniversary of the UN’s Human Rights Day, the BC Federation of Labour is turning its attention to article number one of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that all “all human beings are born free and equal in rights and dignity.”
Unfortunately, this has proven to not be the case for far too many of our communities. Indigenous people, people of colour, people with disabilities and LGBTQ people are disproportionately impoverished, kept out of opportunities to advance, and denied access to social services that are meant to shield people from poverty.
The BCFED has been working to make life better and raise the floor for all working people in BC for years. Recently, the Federation proposed to the Minister’s Advisory Forum on Poverty Reduction a number of initiatives that would help level the playing field for workers of equity seeking groups in the province. These proposals included strengthening and enforcing employment standards, eliminating the piece rate for farm workers, improving conditions for migrant workers, and making BC a sanctuary province.
This fall, John Horgan and the BC NDP government announced the Poverty Reduction Strategy Act, setting a target of a 50% reduction in child poverty and a 25% reduction in the overall poverty rate in the next five years.
We are encouraged by this move from the provincial government, but we know that one of the best ways to ensure equity for workers in standard of living is to make it easier for workers to join unions. A collective agreement that is enforced and upheld by a union that negotiates in its members’ best interests is an opportunity for a life free from the turmoil that poverty brings upon families.
As you celebrate International Human Rights Day today, we encourage you to urge your friends and family members to form unions in their workplaces, to guard our communities against poverty and inequity.
The following is a statement from Laird Cronk and Sussanne Skidmore, President and Secretary-Treasurer of the BC Federation of Labour regarding December 6th National Day of Remembrance and Action Against Violence Against Women:
December 6th is a day where we take stock of society’s progress on eradicating gender-based violence. But we continue to be inundated by stories of women coming forward about violence in their homes, workplaces and communities. The message this year that we are all hearing is that we are not there yet.
For well over a year now, survivors have been sharing their stories of personal violence at work, at home, in their communities, and on social media. These reports have created a worldwide outcry for real change.
The UN’s theme this year for the sixteen days of activism to end violence against women is Orange the World: #HearMeToo, and was formed in recognition of the various social media movements exposing millions upon millions of personal experiences of women and girls all over the world. Orange was chosen as the colour for this global campaign as it encourages a look to a brighter future, free from violence against women and girls.
The work of the BCFED Women’s Rights and Occupational Health and Safety committees has been largely focused on gender-based violence this year. This past spring, the BCFED lobbied the provincial government around how to make life at home and at work safer for women in communities across our province.
The work of the BCFED and many other organizations is having a positive effect. The provincial government has moved to restore some funding gutted from women’s shelters and support programs by the BC Liberals, and has enacted leave provisions in the Employment Standards Act for people fleeing violence at home.
As we remember the massacre 29 years ago of fourteen women at L'École Polytechnique in Montreal, we resolve to honour their memory and the memory of all others who have been stolen from us due to gender-based violence and keep fighting for an end to violence against women and girls in our homes, our workplaces and everywhere.
Vancouver - With the release today of details of its clean growth strategy, the BC government has taken a number of promising steps to chart a course for clean, sustainable economic growth that sets new and stringent carbon reduction targets, says the BC Federation of Labour.
“Every day British Columbians experience the impacts of climate change on our personal lives, the well-being of our families and communities, and on our environment,” says BCFED President Laird Cronk.
“Clearly we need to act. But developing a new path forward to stem the tide of climate change is an immense challenge—and one that our government has begun to address in today’s clean growth launch.
“It’s the biggest and boldest plan for economic transformation in our province’s history,” Cronk says, noting that the upcoming budget in February will spell out more financial details for the plan."
Cronk says it’s critical that any plan address the fear of the unknown that many British Columbians will feel.
“It means that government will have to deal concretely with issues around affordability so that no one is left behind by the new economic blueprint,” he says. “It also means addressing the impacts of the transition on working people, their families and communities.
“The government’s clean growth strategy represents a historic opportunity to develop a new, sustainable economy that works for working people in all communities across the province.
“We’re committed to working together on just and fair transition strategies to protect existing workers and to ensure that new employment opportunities created by the Clean BC plan are good, family and community-supporting jobs," says Cronk.
Concrete recommendations to improve the operation of the BC Labour Relations Code are long overdue. In the fifteen years since the Code was last reviewed a lot has changed.
The imbalance of the current Code, its application, and lack of coverage of certain sectors result in it being increasingly difficult for workers to form unions and regain some control over both their work and personal lives.
The Code desperately needs both modernization and balance to ensure that it reflects workers’ Charter rights and protects the needs of all workers in our province.
The BC Federation of Labour is joining with members with disabilities in celebrating the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities Day, and this year’s theme of empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.
To honour and celebrate members with disabilities, the BCFED is asking affiliates to recognize the unique needs and challenges of members with disabilities by encouraging them to form workers with disabilities working groups or committees. Workers with disabilities need a platform from which to educate and lobby on behalf of their constituents.
The Federation is also encouraging affiliates to address the accessibility needs of members with disabilities at conventions, conferences and educational opportunities. Unless accessibility needs are addressed, members with disabilities will continue to experience exclusion and disempowerment in the labour movement.
The BCFED also applauds Premier John Horgan and the BC NDP government for taking action to institute a number of changes that benefit citizens with disabilities. The new Community Benefits Agreement (CBAs) will not only ensure public infrastructure jobs help British Columbians from equity-seeking groups—including persons with disabilities—achieve improved access to meaningful employment, CBAs will also help persons with disabilities realize access to decent pay.
As part of its early learning and childcare agreement with Ottawa, our NDP government has also committed to an ambitious plan to improve access to inclusive childcare for children with disabilities, thanks to a three-year, $30 million investment. This will help children with disabilities become future leaders and activists in the labour movement.
And just recently, our government introduced legislation that will restore a human rights commission in British Columbia. Nearly half of all human rights complaints are launched by people with disabilities each year. A new human rights commission will provide improved access to legislative rights under the BC Human Rights Code for persons with disabilities.
These real and immediate changes on behalf of the province’s citizens with disabilities bring us one step closer to the dream of inclusiveness and equality, both of which will help empower our members with disabilities to fully participate in our society and in our labour movement.
Vancouver-The BC Federation of Labour has chosen new leaders to guide the province’s largest labour body for the next two years.
Red Seal Electrician Laird Cronk was acclaimed this morning by delegates attending the Federation’s 58th convention as the new president of the 500,000-member organization. Delegates also acclaimed social justice and human rights activist Sussanne Skidmore as the new secretary-treasurer.
“We are stronger and better as a labour movement when we work together,” Cronk says. “Let’s get this job done,” he told delegates. “Let’s get out there together. Let’s build!
“We have much work to do. We must lift up all workers—those in unions and those not yet in unions. We must build bridges for success and reconcili-action in our house.”
He says strengthening the labour movement and increasing its membership base ensures that the economy works for everyone.
Skidmore, an executive vice-president with the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union says she is honoured to be the new secretary-treasurer. “Together with Laird, I am committed to building a movement that is united, progressive and strong.”
A 33-year member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 230 on Vancouver Island, Cronk has been an executive officer of the BCFED for six years. A strong proponent of expanded apprenticeship and skills training programs, he is also a board member of the provincial government’s Industry Training Authority.
The BC Federation of Labour is organizing a rally Thursday at noon in downtown Vancouver in support of Canada Post workers whose collective bargaining rights are under attack by the Trudeau Liberal government.
Outgoing BCFED President Irene Lanzinger will be among the speakers.
What: Rally in support of postal workers and free collective bargaining
When: Thursday, November 29, noon
Where: Vancouver Convention Centre East Plaza
VANCOUVER - The focus will be on levelling the playing field for working people as the BC Federation of Labour’s 58th convention opens this morning at 11 am, with more than 1,300 labour activists on hand at the Vancouver Convention Centre East.
Delegates will discuss ways to work with the BC NDP government to undo 16 years of damage caused by the BC Liberals in key areas like the labour code, employment standards, workers’ compensation, and apprenticeship and skills training. They will hear Tuesday morning at 9 am from Premier John Horgan, and on Thursday, delegates elect a new president to take over from retiring BCFED leader Irene Lanzinger.
In her final convention address today at noon, Lanzinger will highlight important changes advocated by the labour movement and adopted by the Horgan government.
“In a short timeframe, we have made amazing progress for working people on issues like a $15 minimum wage, a $10 per day childcare program, the elimination of MSP premiums and measures to protect vulnerable foreign workers, just to name a few,” Lanzinger says.
Reflecting on her decision to retire, Lanzinger says BC’s labour movement is in good shape. “We are in a time of incredible opportunity, and we are strong, united and focussed on levelling the playing field for working people,” she says. “It’s a good time to pass on the leadership torch.”
In other highlights, delegates will hear from Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh Monday at 2:00 pm. On Wednesday, representatives of BC’s First Nations leadership will attend the convention and sign a new protocol agreement with the Federation for joint cooperation.
The BCFED convention runs through Friday in Exhibition Hall A of the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre East. Media attending the convention can register on site in the main lobby outside the hall.
More than 1,300 labour activists will gather in Vancouver for the BC Federation of Labour’s 58th convention starting Monday at 11:00 am at the Vancouver Convention Centre East.
They will focus their energies on ways to level the playing field for working people in BC; and how to work with the NDP government to undo 16 years of damage caused by the BC Liberals in key areas like the labour code, employment standards, workers’ compensation, and apprenticeship and skills training.
What: BC Federation of Labour 58th Convention
When: Monday, November 26 to Friday December 30
Where: Exhibition Hall A, Vancouver Convention Centre East, 999 Canada Place, Vancouver
Event highlights include:
• BCFED President Irene Lanzinger delivers her final keynote speech Monday at noon, with a tribute ceremony to mark her leadership set for Thursday at 2:15 pm;
• BC NDP leader John Horgan speaks Tuesday at 9:00 am—the first time an NDP Premier has addressed a Federation convention in two decades;
• Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh addresses delegates Monday at 2:00 pm;
• Elections Thursday morning of two full-time leaders to replace Lanzinger and outgoing Secretary-Treasurer Aaron Ekman; and
• The signing ceremony to renew a protocol agreement between the Federation and First Nations leaders Wednesday at 4:00 pm.
Media attending the convention can register on site in the main lobby outside Exhibition Hall A.