We have a plan for paid sick leave for every BC worker: full-time, part-time, temporary, permanent and casual. And you can help.
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) — With workplace COVID-19 outbreaks fresh in the minds of political leaders and the public alike, the BCFED has released a plan to ensure paid sick leave for every worker in British Columbia.
“No worker should have to choose between staying home when they’re sick and paying the bills. And with our plan, no worker will have to,” said BCFED secretary-treasurer Sussanne Skidmore. More than 75% of British Columbians supported permanent paid sick leave for all BC workers, with employers and government sharing the cost during the pandemic, according to a May 2020 poll by Stratcom.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, several outbreaks in workplaces such as long-term care facilities and poultry and meat processing plants within and outside BC have been traced to workers who felt they had no choice but to come to work even though they were feeling sick.
“Paid sick leave is good for public health, for the economy and for workers,” Skidmore said. “It keeps workplace outbreaks from happening, and businesses from having to shut down. But over half of BC workers aged 25 to 65 have no paid sick leave at all.”
The BCFED proposal calls for a minimum of three days of paid sick leave per year for every worker — full-time, part-time, permanent, temporary and casual, regardless if they are in a union or not. Workers get more sick leave based on the hours they work, up to a maximum of 10 total days of paid sick leave every year. An employee on sick leave would receive their full wages or salary, paid by the employer.
Because of the financial impact of the pandemic on many businesses, the BCFED plan has the federal and provincial governments subsidizing up to 75 percent of the sick leave pay for new and struggling employers during the pandemic. Subsidy levels are directly tied to the pandemic’s impact on the business.
The plan also calls for 10 days of paid leave specifically earmarked for COVID-19, covering workers who contract the disease, who have to self-isolate, or who need to care for a loved one who has the virus. (Workers who contract COVID-19 at work are already eligible to make a WCB claim.)
The BCFED plan also allows for an additional 16 weeks of unpaid sick leave once an employee has used up their paid leave, during which their job will be protected and their employer can’t fire them.
“Before the outbreak, BC employment law had the worst sick leave provisions in Canada: no paid sick leave and zero job protection,” said Skidmore. “And if we look south of the border, 76 per cent of American workers have some form of paid sick leave, while less than half of BC workers do. So we have some catching up to do.”
The BCFED launched a campaign website to promote the paid sick leave plan at WorkingSickIsntWorking.ca, inviting British Columbians to sign an open letter to Premier John Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau supporting the proposal.
“It's time for BC workers to have job-protected paid sick leave. We can't afford to wait for another outbreak,” said Skidmore. Paid sick leave is crucial public health policy that is needed to fight future waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, she added.
“When sick workers can stay home, their illness is less severe and they get better more quickly. They don’t pass it on to coworkers, so fewer of them get sick. In a pandemic, preventing a workplace outbreak may be crucial to a business’s survival. Working sick doesn’t work for businesses, either.”
Both the BC provincial and federal governments have publicly committed to implementing paid sick leave, but efforts to bring other provinces on board are stalled.
“This is much too urgent and important to wait for every province to sign on," Skidmore said. “We need a made-in-BC paid sick leave now, so workers aren’t forced to choose between their health and livelihood.”
An intersectional gender lens on BC's economic recovery — and how to make it work for everyone
We’re heartbroken today at the loss of one of the brightest, warmest and most passionate people in our movement. Kim Manton passed away on Friday from cancer, but her spirit shone brightly right up the end. We’re so much poorer for her loss, and so much richer for having known her.
Anyone who ever walked a picket line with her knows the remarkable energy she brought to everything she did – and how she could see the good and hope in everything and everyone. Her trademark jazz hands and cries of “WOOT WOOT!” were more than just enthusiasm in the moment; they came from the deepest places in her heart, and they were irresistibly contagious.
Kim was just as at home at a municipal meeting in her long, successful campaign to get sewage treatment for Victoria as she was in the halls of the BC Legislature, helping to deliver on a progressive agenda province-wide. From her long service with CUPE Local 50 to her four years as labour coordinator with the Greater Victoria United Way, Kim lived her values as a believer in the strength and power of community.
We’ll be announcing the details soon of a scholarship in Kim’s honour, created in partnership with the Victoria Labour Council. (For information, contact Sussanne Skidmore at email@example.com). For now, though, our sympathies and solidarity to everyone who is grieving the loss of Kim Manton, a great labour activist and a dear, dear friend to so many.
We celebrate Pride in 2020 at a distance from each other. But that doesn’t diminish our solidarity with LGBTQI2S community members within our unions, in our province and around the world.
In a year where protests have brought so many to the streets to oppose racism and violence, we begin by honouring the lives of Black community members, and recognizing the unique experiences when race intersects with sexual orientation and gender identity.
Too often those experiences include vulnerability to terrible violence. Of the 27 murders of Trans and gender non-conforming people in the US last year identified by the Human Rights Campaign, the vast majority were Black transgender women. And of the sixteen identified killings so far this year of Trans and non-binary people in the US, over 80 percent are Black or Latina transgender women.
We recognize as well that gender non-conforming people In Canada face bigotry and violence. Anti-Trans hate crimes are on the rise, and structural violence against Trans and non-binary people is rampant in our systems. According to the Being Safe, Being Me report of the Canadian Trans Youth Health Survey, 28 percent of respondents said they had been sexually assaulted, and 33 percent said they had been sexually harassed.
BC’s labour movement is united against homophobia, transphobia and all forms of hatred and discrimination around race, Indigeneity, gender identity, sexual orientation and gender expression. And we reaffirm our commitment to building communities and workplaces that support and uphold LGBTQI2S people as their whole selves.
Sussanne Skidmore, secretary-treasurer of the BCFED, says “As a queer woman, I know that violence against members of my community is rampant, and on the rise globally, nationally and even here in our own backyard. I also know that it is worst for Trans and non-binary community members, and exponentially so for those Trans and non-binary community members who are Black, Indigenous or people of colour. We at the BCFED are committed to doing the work to end this violence.”
The BCFED stands in love and solidarity with LGBTQI2S community members during this time, and particularly Black, Indigenous and people of colour within the community. We commit to building our capacity and knowledge to be a better and more effective ally, both as an organization and as individuals.
Solidarity and Pride everyone!
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) — With employers gaining a newly-extended temporary layoff period, the province must now ensure those laid-off workers have the right to return to their jobs when the layoff ends, BC Federation of Labour president Laird Cronk said today.
“This economic recovery can’t be at the cost of workers,” he said.
“We believe there were better options than a blanket extension of the temporary layoff period. But now that the decision’s been made, we need to make sure workers affected by the extension have a right to go back to their jobs.”
The BC government announced this afternoon it has lengthened the temporary layoff period for up to 24 weeks, a 50-percent increase. The new provision will expire on August 30.
Cronk said the BCFED will continue its push to ensure workers subject to temporary layoff have the right of recall. Recall rights would ensure laid off workers are rehired if work becomes available before the temporary layoff period expires. It also prevents an employer from replacing them with other workers. Neither of these protections currently exist in the Employment Standards Act.
“If employers are getting more time to get their business back on its feet, it’s only fair that workers have the right to return to their jobs when that period ends,” Cronk said. “Employers argued an extension would help them bring their employees back — so let’s make sure they do.”
Not all employers are treating their workers fairly, he added. He pointed to the Four Points by Sheraton Vancouver Airport hotel, which not only fired its employees, but refused to honour its legal obligation to compensate them for layoff. He emphasized he has seen no indication the hotel is closing permanently.
“We have every level of government working to create programs to keep workers in their jobs and employees being asked to give up some rights so they can eventually get back to work. And now we have an employer firing workers without compensation.
“It’s not a great look for employers to be asking for help to keep their businesses going while you have an employer behaving like this.”
Cronk called on the provincial government to add the right of recall to the Employment Standards Act as soon as possible.
June 21 is a day to recognize and celebrate First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. And while we celebrate Indigenous peoples, we must also recognize that these continue to be difficult and painful times. The promise and hopes for reconciliation raised over the past few years have often failed to turn into meaningful action. And fine words from governments often turn out to mean little when money and power are on the line.
The systems and forces supposedly in place to protect Indigenous people and communities are proving instead to be far more effective at separating them from their land, their children, their heritage and their rights — and most outrageously, even their lives. The violent legacy of policing in our country echoes today; and in recent weeks we have seen story after story about beatings and deaths at the hands of police in Canada and beyond.
The need for far-reaching change is urgent. The images of assaults captured on smartphones only hint at the full impact of violence on the lives and communities of Indigenous people. And that violence isn’t limited to policing or to physical violence.
The Calls for Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls have languished without progress for more than a year. Canada’s courts and prisons disproportionately jail Indigenous people at an unacceptable rate.
There’s violence, too, in depriving communities of essentials like clean drinking water and stable Internet connection to the outside world. The economic, health and social impact of those failures has been amplified dramatically by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has threatened the safety of Elders while silencing protests that had been gathering international solidarity.
In many ways, the land itself, so central to Indigenous culture and identity, is under attack. Far too often, Indigenous peoples’ land rights have not been respected in decision-making processes that have major implications on their land and the environment.
Yet there is hope, and there are still reasons to celebrate today. BC’s implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act adopted last October creates a framework and a just and equitable path for economic development that benefits all, while recognizing Indigenous peoples' inherent right to self-determination.
We have also seen the rise of powerful activism among Indigenous communities. And there are many British Columbians who have honoured that spirit in the tradition of solidarity and justice.
There’s also a growing understanding of the connections between movements: how dismantling colonial structures is inextricable from struggles to end racism, to achieve gender equality and equity, to bring about economic and workplace justice, to address climate change and sustainability, and much more. Those connections lend new energy to all social justice movements, as well as the opportunity for each of us to understand our own roles in changing those structures.
On behalf of the labour movement, we recommit to listen, learn and grow and take meaningful action. All of this gives us hope that, next year, we may have much more to celebrate together.
Laird Cronk, President
Sussanne Skidmore, Secretary-Treasurer
British Columbia Federation of Labour
The BCFED released the following statement today from president Laird Cronk and secretary-treasurer Sussanne Skidmore:
The tragic news that a BC Ferries maintenance worker died on the job on Friday, and a CN Rail conductor was killed while working on Monday, brings the toll to five workplace deaths in the province in just the first half of the month. That’s five workers who left for work healthy and alive, and never came home.
We must never become a province where any number of fatalities or injuries on the job is acceptable, but this is intolerable. Employers throughout BC have an absolute, legislated obligation to provide a safe workplace. With a return to work under way during an ongoing pandemic, now more than ever British Columbians expect them to keep their workers safe and healthy.
And they expect the same of government. WCB must strengthen enforcement and penalties. With COVID-related oversight alone, there have been well over 9,000 inspections and only 274 orders. It’s clear prevention officers need additional tools to ensure a worker’s right to a safe workplace.
Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family, friends and coworkers of the BC Ferries and CN Railway workers, and of the three other workers in construction and rail who also lost their lives this month. We can promise you that as we mourn your losses, we will continue to fight for the health and safety of workers throughout British Columbia.
(Coast Salish Territory, Vancouver BC) British Columbians support stronger workplace health and safety protection and Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) coverage for workers who contract COVID-19 by a wide margin, according to a survey conducted by polling firm Stratcom for the BC Federation of Labour.
Asked if the WCB should provide coverage for workers infected with the virus on the job, four out of every five respondents agreed. And 76.4 percent supported better compensation for workers who are injured or get sick on the job. The survey of 2,003 British Columbians was conducted from May 14 to 25.
“There’s a new awareness of the critical importance of workplace health and safety coming out of this pandemic,” said BCFED president Laird Cronk. “British Columbians overwhelmingly want to know they’ll be safe at work, and see workers properly compensated if they contract COVID-19. They also want to see workers’ compensation improved overall.”
The results come as the WCB is consulting on adding COVID-19 to its list of occupational diseases. That measure acknowledges that workers are at a high risk of contracting the disease in their workplaces, and workers can count on what WCB calls “presumptive coverage” to support their illness claim, unless the evidence proves otherwise.
“We have to do right by these workers,” said Cronk. “Right now, the onus is on sick workers to prove workplace exposure while they are battling the symptoms of COVID-19, even if they work in essential economic sectors, which can be difficult at best.”
“Presumptive coverage means we aren’t forcing sick workers to jump through unnecessary hoops to receive worker’s compensation at a time when they need to devote their full attention to their health.”
COVID-19 is already covered as a workplace illness by WCB and presumptive coverage itself does not lead to additional costs for employers.
“Now is the time for employers to double down on safety in the workplace, per WCB requirements and guidance,” adds Cronk. Asked if their employers were doing enough to protect them from COVID-19, fewer than half of employees who responded reported their employer was doing everything they needed to protect them at work.
“Working together to improve workplace safety is the solution to keeping workers healthy and holding this virus at bay,” Cronk said. “And workers need to know that if they do get sick because of their job, the WCB will have their backs.”
These questions were part of a larger poll on a range of topics for the BC Federation of Labour. This online poll by Stratcom has a balanced sample of 2,003 BC adults, statistically weighted to match the gender, age, region and proportion of Chinese mother tongue in BC as per the 2016 Census. While online polls don’t report margin of error, a similar sized probability sample would have a margin of error of +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20.
Strategic Communications Inc. (Stratcom) is an award-winning consulting firm that has been designing and implementing strategic research, communications and message development since 1991 for not-for-profit organizations, charities, unions, professional associations, regulatory agencies, governments and government agencies.
Questions from Stratcom survey conducted May 14–25, 2020
(Coast Salish Territory, Vancouver BC) - The pandemic has affected British Columbians in very different ways depending on their gender, and an equitable economic recovery requires the provincial government to see BC through that lens, the BC Federation of Labour said today.
Among the findings of their report, titled Rebuilding With Equity, the BCFED points out that women have taken on much more of the additional domestic workload imposed by the economic shutdown; that they predominate in many of the front-line sectors most at risk of exposure; and that they’ve experienced increased domestic and workplace violence.
“COVID-19 has been a magnifying glass for all of our divisions of wealth, privilege and power,” said BCFED secretary-treasurer Sussanne Skidmore. “So although it’s given us a clearer picture of BC’s economic and social inequities around gender, it’s also made those inequities worse.”
Skidmore added that inequality is often magnified along other dimensions, such as race, Indigenity, sexual and gender identity, and ability. For example, the overall pay gap for women means they must work 26 percent more to receive the same pay as men. But that figure rises to 35 percent for Indigenous women, 41 percent for Black women, 43 percent for women of colour in general, and a staggering 46 percent for women with disabilities.
Transgender women also face economic inequity, and while Canada-specific statistics won't be available until next year, one US study found that 26 percent of trans women lost their jobs after transitioning.
“That’s why our province doesn’t need just a gender lens on this recovery, but an intersectional gender lens — one that shows how these factors interact.”
The report, which the BCFED has submitted to the province’s Economic Recovery Task Force, recommends the province adopt a wide range of measures to address women’s safety, economic security and participation in BC’s civic and economic life.
The recommendations include such steps as:
- a rapid move to universal $10-a-day childcare
- pay equity legislation
- wider application of Community Benefits Agreements for infrastructure projects
- stable funding for the BC Centre for Women in the Trades
- permanent infrastructure to protect the safety of sex workers
- more protection and clearer status for migrant workers
- increases to income assistance and disability assistance rates
- stronger employment standards protection for precarious workers and gig workers.
“We like to talk about what an unprecedented time this is, but this pandemic has at least one thing in common with past crises. And that’s the fact that its impacts are greater if you’re already on the short end of BC’s many disparities,” Skidmore said.
“An intersectional gender equity lens will let us see that a lot more clearly. And it’ll also let us chart a path forward toward an economy that genuinely works for everyone.”
The full document is available at https://bcfed.ca/recovery-for-all/gender-equity.