VANCOUVER – The BC Federation of Labour supports the efforts of the federal government to close tax loopholes that disproportionately benefit wealthy Canadians.
“Tax fairness is a critical issue in Canada,” said Irene Lanzinger, president of the BC Federation of Labour. “Current loopholes that benefit only the wealthiest Canadians create an unfair system and fuel growing inequality in our country.”
In July, Finance Minister Bill Morneau proposed closing tax loopholes that, among other things, allow wealthy Canadians to pay less in personal taxes by setting up private corporations and “sprinkling” income among low-income family members.
“The programs, services, and public infrastructure that we all depend on every day can only be maintained and enhanced through a fair and progressive taxation system,” said Lanzinger. “Allowing the wealthiest to opt-out of paying their share hurts everyone.
“I am encouraged by these first steps towards tax fairness in Canada.”
The BC Federation of Labour has also joined the Canadian Coalition for Tax Fairness.
The Coalition for Tax Fairness includes organizations from different sectors across the country representing over 4 million Canadians in support of the federal government’s efforts to close unfair tax loopholes.
Victoria – Working families will see some relief and new opportunities based on the priorities set by the new NDP government’s budget update, says the BC Federation of Labour.
“Finally we see a government ready to invest in vital public services,” said BCFED President Irene Lanzinger. “After 16 years of underfunding and neglect, this budget takes the first steps to address the affordability crisis and support working families.”
“It’s a big job to fix the mess created by the BC Liberals, and this budget is a good start.”
Lanzinger said she is pleased that the NDP government is following through with budget update funding for key election commitments, including:
• almost $500 million for a $100 per month increase in social assistance rates;
• funding to restore free Adult Basic Education and English as an Additional Language training to help British Columbians develop job skills;
• increasing taxes for high income earners and corporations; and
• maintaining the previous government’s undertaking to help the resource sector maintain jobs by phasing out the PST on electricity.
Part of the BCFED’s ongoing Fight for $15 minimum wage campaign is the call for a poverty reduction strategy. And Lanzinger says she’s pleased to see a number of spending commitments that underpin a poverty reduction plan reflected in the budget.
“In a province as wealthy as BC, our poverty levels are unacceptable. We’ve been calling on government for years to establish a poverty reduction plan. Many of the initiatives proposed today by the new government—including the Fair Wages Commission—will help advance this important work,” said Lanzinger.
On the employment front, Lanzinger says a three-year commitment of $15 billion in capital funding to build schools, health facilities, housing and transit will create good-paying construction jobs and build much needed infrastructure.
“There are many areas that need attention if the government is really going to support working families, but this budget update is a step in the right direction to address affordability, create jobs and build an economy that works for everyone,” said Lanzinger.
Vancouver – Today’s Speech from the Throne highlights a new commitment to put people at the centre of government priorities, say BC Federation of Labour President Irene Lanzinger.
“For 16 years under the BC Liberals people have been left behind by a government who put their wealthy donors ahead of the everyday needs of working people and families,” said Lanzinger. “Finally, today we see a government putting people first. We are encouraged by these first steps to address some critical challenges facing British Columbians.”
“Lifting welfare rates, eliminating fees for ABE and ESL, free tuition for kids in care attending a post-secondary institution, and creating a poverty reduction strategy – these are actions that are long overdue.”
The Throne Speech also referenced the establishment of a Fair Wages Commission.
The BC NDP had campaigned on a 2021 deadline to reach a $15/hour minimum wage, but recently announced that the deadline has been removed and the Fair Wages Commission will determine the implementation timeline.
“We have long advocated for a $15/hour minimum wage in BC. Our lowest-paid workers are living below the poverty line, and it is our position that we need to reach $15/hour as quickly as possible,” said Lanzinger. “We will take the opportunity to aggressively push for a faster implementation.”
“Seattle has already implemented a $15/hour minimum wage. Alberta will get there by 2018 and Ontario shortly after in 2019. British Columbians should not have to wait, especially when we have the highest cost of living in the country.”
Vancouver-The BC Federation of Labour commends the new provincial government on the re-establishment of the BC Human Rights Commission.
For fifteen years, BC has been without a Human Rights Commission, which plays an important role in ensuring that women, persons of colour, LGBTQ persons, people with disabilities, youth and Indigenous persons are treated fairly.
“The BC Federation of Labour believes strongly that human rights are workers’ rights, and that systemic discrimination of marginalized workers needs to be addressed at the highest level,” stated Irene Lanzinger, President of the BC Federation of Labour. “The BC Human Rights Commission can help to address this discrimination.”
The BCFED remains dedicated to educating the public and union members on this issue. We look forward to working with the BC Human Rights Commission and assisting in any way we can to end systemic discrimination of vulnerable workers in this province.
The following is a statement from BCFED president Irene Lanzinger:
Vancouver - The BC Federation of Labour would like to wish working people in British Columbia a happy Pride season.
Already tens of thousands have celebrated pride in communities across the province including Prince George, Victoria, Surrey, New Westminster, and the Okanagan. Soon the biggest pride event will unfold in Vancouver August 6. In all these communities, the labour movement has been there reflecting the LGBT face of our membership to both celebrate and advocate for change.
Over the course of the last year there have been a number of successes strengthening the rights of the LGBT community. For example, the Federal Government passed legislation in June adding gender expression and gender identity under prohibited grounds for discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act.
This follows on provincial legislation first raised by NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert in 2011. Spencer and the BC NDP fought tenaciously for five years to win greater protections, finally doing so last year. It set in law gender identity and gender discrimination as prohibited grounds for discrimination in the provincial rights code.
And after an election in which a record number of openly LGBT candidates ran, our new NDP government has pledged to create a Human Rights Commission. With hate speech and hateful incidents on the rise, a new commission will have more teeth to protect rights –and to set and enforce consequences when they are violated.
It is important to recognize and celebrate legislative progress, but is equally important to continue to be vigilant on the issue of rights of the LGBTQ community, and to stand up for LGBTQ rights in the workplace.
At work, unions are the best advocates against discrimination on the job here in BC. The BCFED encourages its affiliate unions to negotiate collective agreement provisions that protect workers from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression and ensure employers are complying with the newly amended Human Rights Code in BC.
We look forward to connecting with community members this season at events across BC.
Irene Lanzinger will be attending the Vancouver Pride Parade on August 6th.
Victoria-After today’s transfer of power and swearing in of a new premier and cabinet, “British Columbia has a new government led by Premier John Horgan that will work for working people for the first time in 16 years,” says BC Federation of Labour President Irene Lanzinger.
“For far too long we’ve had a government that works for people at the top,” Lanzinger says.
“But today starts a new era with a new government that will act to deal with the real issues facing working people in BC like affordability, good-paying jobs, an economy that works for everyone, and improved public services like childcare, health, and skills training.”
Lanzinger, who attended the swearing-in ceremony today at Government House in Victoria, says she’s impressed by the cabinet team appointed by Premier Horgan. “They are a diverse and dynamic group who together with the NDP caucus will bring great energy and passion to implementing the change that’s so badly needed in our province.”
The announcement of a dedicated Ministry of Labour led by the new Minister Harry Bains is a positive sign that the new government is committed to address the priority issues of working people, she says.
“Harry Bains knows the issues that working people face,” says Lanzinger. “We’re looking forward to working together for a $15 minimum wage to lift 500,000 low-paid workers above the poverty line, improved health and safety rules, better protections for non-union workers, and improvements in apprenticeship training so that young people can truly benefit from well-paying skilled jobs.”
Vancouver-With a week left before the swearing-in of Premier John Horgan and a new cabinet, the BC Federation of Labour says it’s gearing up to work with the new government to address workplace health and safety issues, where urgent action is required.
“While BC has been gripped with the change in government over the past four weeks, there have been a succession of tragic workplace accidents where workers have been killed or seriously injured,” says Irene Lanzinger, president of the labour federation.
“With a new government committed to improving safety to protect workers, we’re optimistic that we can make headway,” Lanzinger says. “There are significant opportunities for government, the Workers’ Compensation Board, the labour movement, and employers to work together to ensure that everyone goes home safely at the end of the work day.”
In the last 45 days, tragic accidents that have resulted in the death or serious injury of workers include:
• three deaths including a Kamloops mill worker, an agricultural worker in the North Okanagan, and a transport worker who was run over at a Richmond cargo handling facility;
• high profile injuries sustained by two traffic flaggers who were run down by a speeding motorist at a Burnaby road construction site;
• a roofer who was seriously injured in a three-story fall from a Victoria construction site where a safety harness was not used nor were guard rails in place; and
• two workers who were hurt in an explosion at a natural gas facility outside Fort St. John.
In the same time frame, details emerged about the paltry fines levied on employers who are found to be at fault for on-the-job deaths or injuries. In one circumstance, a Revelstoke logging company was fined $13,800 for an accident that killed an employee. No penalty was imposed on a Chilliwack construction company after an accident caused by faulty equipment killed one worker and seriously injured another.
“Clearly more needs to be done to keep workers safe on the job and fairly compensate those who are killed or injured,” Lanzinger says.
Vancouver - An increase of 20,000 jobs in BC for June is a positive sign for the economy, though the BC Federation of Labour says that underneath the strong monthly results reported today by Statscan are continued challenges addressing the high level of part time work in the province’s overall employment numbers.
“All of the new jobs created were full time which tend to be higher paying and better able to support families and communities, so that’s a good thing” says BCFED President Irene Lanzinger.
Though Statscan reported a small drop in June part-time employment, Lanzinger cautions that BC continues to have the highest level of part-time work as a percentage of overall employment of any province in Canada. “The propensity of low-paying part-time jobs in our economy is an ongoing issue for business, government and labour to address,” she says.
Meanwhile, Lanzinger says the numbers also show job growth continues to be concentrated in Vancouver. “The Lower Mainland is booming, but other regions aren’t enjoying the benefits of employment gains,” she says.
Related to jobs, Lanzinger notes that wage data released separately by Statscan shows that BC ranks fifth in Canada in Canada for average weekly earnings, while the province has the highest cost of living in Canada. “It’s a sign of a disconnect in our job market and helps explain why issues around affordability figured prominently for working people in the May provincial election,” she says.
Vancouver - The treatment under existing laws of thousands of laid off Sears employees highlights the need for stronger basic protections and employment standards for workers in Canada, says the BC Federation of Labour.
Sears closed 59 stores and laid off 2,900 staff on June 22. Six locations and several hundred layoffs were in BC. At the same time, the company filed for bankruptcy (creditor) protection under federal law.
In doing so, BCFED President Irene Lanzinger says the company escaped its responsibility to pay severance to workers affected by the store closures. “It means that laid off workers including many long-term employees who would be otherwise legally eligible for compensation will receive nothing,” Lanzinger says. “And that’s wrong.”
Other former Sears employees who were receiving severance as part of an earlier round of buyouts had their payments terminated. Creditor protection laws also allow companies to shirk their pension responsibilities as well.
“While the company’s efforts to use creditor protection fall under federal—not provincial—laws and jurisdiction,” says Lanzinger, “the circumstances highlight why basic protections for non-union workers need to be strengthened in a number of ways here in BC and across Canada.