Vancouver - June 21st is National Indigenous Peoples Day. This is a day that is meant to acknowledge and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples.
For the last 21 years Canada has celebrated National Aboriginal Day. Now we celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day. On June 21st, 2017 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the name change to better reflect support of the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The document emphasizes the right of indigenous peoples to live in dignity; to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions; and to pursue their self-determined initiatives.
UNDRIP was developed over twenty years and was adopted by the UN General Assembly in September, 2007. Since then the document has become a point of political promises in federal and provincial elections and was officially adopted by Canada on May 10, 2016.
Shortly after the 2015 federal election, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett pledged that the new Liberal government would implement UNDRIP as part of its effort to rebuild its working relationship with Indigenous peoples in Canada.
BC Premier John Horgan has committed that his government will work to implement UNDRIP at all levels. We have seen him take action through the hiring of a special advisor to work in his office and advise him on UNDRIP and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action.
On the other hand, the federal Liberal government is in many ways showing that their support of UNDRIP is little more than lip service to Canada’s Indigenous communities.
The rushed and poorly administrated National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is an example of how the Liberal government wants to be seen to be taking steps toward implementing UNDRIP but is unwilling to do the real work required to accomplish that implementation.
As union members on mostly unceded territory in BC, there are many things we can do to practice reconciliation. The first is by electing governments that are serious about implementing UNDRIP. The second is by reading UNDRIP and the TRC’s 94 calls to action and choosing calls that we can implement in our own communities and unions.
The #next150 challenge is an accessible resource that can help activists at any level move through understanding UNDRIP and the 94 calls to action. It also provides links to many other campaigns and resources that exist for education on Indigenous rights. https://next150.indianhorse.ca/challenges/94-calls-to-action
It is all of our responsibility to ensure that UNDRIP and the TRC’s 94 calls to action are implemented in the land that we occupy. Only with all of our efforts together will we achieve a conciliatory relationship with Indigenous communities.
Vancouver - The BC Labour Relations Board has issued an important decision that is a setback for employers who conspire with rat unions to prevent workers from joining a union of their choice.
The case—decided by Labour Relations Board Vice-chair Bruce Wilkins—centers around the efforts of SEIU Local 2 and their “Justice for Janitors” organizing campaign. The union is campaigning to improve wages, benefits, and working conditions for staff of contracted-out cleaning companies at a number of publicly-funded, post-secondary institutes in BC.
Top officials from one of those companies, Best Service Pros, sought out the rat union CLAC. They wanted a deal to gain a “competitive business advantage” through signing a long-term, 10-year, no strike agreement with poverty-level wages and no benefits to start for the company’s employees. In return, Best would “voluntarily” recognize CLAC as the union for its staff.
That deal was later expanded to other post-secondary sites where the employer won contracting out bids. It was then used as a legal bar for Best and CLAC to prevent SEIU from organizing.
In a blow against unscrupulous employers and rat unions, the LRB’s Wilkins ruled June 15 that the sweetheart contract between Best and CLAC was null and void. He cited a number of reasons including:
• The employee votes on the deal did not meet the test for a ratification and failed “to respect the employees and their right to choose freely;”
• Failure of CLAC to ensure that workers were properly oriented and fully understood the contents of the agreement, in part because many workers spoke English as an additional language and were given materials only in English;
• The employer’s presence and role at these so-called ratification votes, including directly endorsing CLAC in the presence of their employees which served as an incentive to approve the deal.
The decision paves the way for SEIU to continue its organizing campaign to win decent wages, better working conditions, respect, and dignity for contracted-out cleaning and janitorial staff.
Remarkably, the facts determined in Wilkin’s decision show how far unscrupulous employers will go to prevent workers from exercising their democratic right to join a real union to improve wages and working conditions. But despite this, no penalty was imposed on the employer, Best.
The LRB decision can be downloaded here: Read the full decision.
Irene Lanzinger, President of the 500,000-member BC Federation of Labour, will be visiting the picket lines at the Mount Polley Mine site to support striking Imperial Metals miners.
The workers, who are members of the United Steelworkers Local 1-2017, have been on strike for more than three weeks.
Rights and benefits for temporary employees are the key issues for the miners.
Vancouver - Last year, a New Westminster pub worker met a tragic death when he fell on a meat slicer in the pub’s kitchen and bled out.
Now, the Workers Compensation Board has found the pub owner responsible for a series of “high risk” safety violations that caused the workplace death of Sanjeev Kainth. But the WCB levied only a meagre fine of $9,450.32.
“It’s another slap on the wrist for employers by the WCB,” says BC Federation of Labour President Irene Lanzinger. “The small penalty sends the wrong message to employers about their responsibility to keep workers alive, healthy and safe at work,” she says.
Where employer negligence causes workplace deaths and serious injuries, Lanzinger says it's time for the WCB to get tough. “We want them to impose real and meaningful penalties on employers who fail to live up to their obligations to keep their workers safe and healthy.
“More broadly, that must include the possibility of jail time for employers whose negligence kills or seriously injures a worker.”
Details of the fine levied in the pub tragedy and a summary of the investigation were just made public by the WCB.
In less than 48 hours last week, two workers died tragically on the job, and another was seriously injured in separate incidents across the province.
Earlier in April the WCB took the unprecedented step of calling out employers and reminding them in a special bulletin of their legal obligation to keep employees alive, healthy and safe at work. It was in response to a series of workplace deaths in the weeks leading up to the late April 28 Day of Mourning for workers killed and injured on the job.
Vancouver - A recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling lays down the law on employer responsibility to keep workplaces safe—and be subject to penalties when safety violations kill or injure workers on the job, says the BC Federation of Labour.
The court was ruling on an appeal from BC-based West Fraser Mills. The company—a subsidiary of West Fraser Timber—asked the SCC to overturn an WCB decision that found West Fraser responsible for the tragic death of a worker in 2010.
The worker, a faller, was employed by a contractor hired by West Fraser to fall trees in a forest license held by WFM. A rotten trap tree fell on the faller, crushing him.
The WCB investigation found West Fraser responsible for unsafe work practices. The company was fined $75,000 in the summer of 2011. West Fraser appealed the initial finding. The original penalty decision was upheld, though the company’s fine was reduced by 30%.
West Fraser then appealed to the BC Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. The WCB ruling was upheld at each level.
“It’s an important decision from the top court in the land,” says BC Federation of Labour President Irene Lanzinger. “It strikes a blow against employers who think that subcontracting work is a way of avoiding responsibilities. You can’t subcontract away employers’ legal requirement to follow proper safety procedures, and ensure that workers are protected.
“But the real tragedy in this case remains unaddressed,” says Lanzinger. “A worker was needlessly killed at work and the company at fault was fined only $75,000, then got a 30% discount on the penalty on appeal. It’s a slap on the wrist.”
The WCB and the provincial government must do more to keep workers alive and safe on the job says Lanzinger. “Employers need to pay a price for negligence that kills or seriously injures workers, including jail time,” she says.
The BCFED's Young Workers' School at Camp Jubilee is for workers aged 30 or under. The School is held in a retreat-like environment in the Indian Arm. Participants will attend courses to help them build skills related to the labour movement, political and community organizing, and leadership skills. In addition to coursework, attendees will be able to participate in a variety of outdoor activities and connect with fellow young workers.
Join young workers from around the province for a weekend of learning, connecting and fun. Learn more and register today for Camp Jubilee
Registration closes August 30, 2018
Vancouver-BC Federation of Labour President Irene Lanzinger will be available to speak with media about the $1.35 per hour increase in BC’s minimum wage that goes into effect June 1. It's the first leap in four significant increases implemented by Premier John Horgan’s government that will see BC's minimum hit $15.20 by 2021.
“Through our Fight for $15 campaign, the BCFED, its member unions, and countless volunteers won widespread public support for government action to address deep-seated economic inequality in our province,” says Lanzinger.
“Moving to a $15 minimum wage will lift 500,000 BC workers out of poverty. It’s a concrete poverty reduction strategy to address the widening gap between rich and poor.
Fight for $15 facts:
• 500,000 BC workers earn less than $15 per hour;
• 60% of workers earning less than $15 are women;
• 80% are adults;
• Four out of five work for companies with more than 20 employees; and
• One in seven poverty wage earners holds a university degree.
Responding to today’s release of a report outlining solutions to reduce traffic gridlock in Metro Vancouver, BCFED President Irene Lanzinger says she supports efforts for continued action by local governments to solve transportation congestion problems across the region.
“The completion of the work of the mobility pricing commission is an important first step,” says Lanzinger. “But the heavy lifting to fix the problem is just starting.”
“What we need is for local politicians to foster an expanded, long range public dialogue about the impacts of congestion and the changes that need to take place to reduce it.”
Lanzinger is reassured that affordability and equity are among the key principles that will guide policy discussions about any future road pricing or toll system measures.
“If the financial costs of a toll or road pricing system are unfairly levied on working people, then both will be non-starters,” Lanzinger says.
“Likewise, if the imposition of tolls or distance charges are viewed as a tax grab, then the public will understandably oppose any change.”
Congestion hits working people disproportionately hard, Lanzinger says. From transporting goods to emergency responders, hundreds of thousands of workers drive every day in ever-increasing congestion to earn a living.
And to get to and from work, Lanzinger says workers are forced to drive longer distances because of the high cost of housing.
Young workers representing the labour movement will be meeting with politicians today at the Legislature to make the case for change in key areas like strengthening employment standards laws, restoring balance and fairness in the labour code, and improving health and safety protections for gas and convenience store workers that were rolled back under the BC Liberals.
They will meet with NDP government and Green Party officials through the day, and attend Question Period this afternoon.
Young workers in particular were hard hit by the policies of the old government,” says BCFED President Irene Lanzinger. “For 16 years, the BC Liberals rolled back basic workplace standards and rights that had a disproportionate impact on young workers.
“They tilted labour laws in favour of employers to impose significant barriers for all workers to join unions to improve their wages and working conditions,” she says. “And in the aftermath of the tragic death of gas station attendant Grant De Patie, they abandoned safety rules that protected vulnerable young staff working at night.”
The lobby, part of the BCFED’s Level the Playing Field Campaign, will also talk about affordability issues and building an economy that works for everyone, including young workers.
Vancouver-The BC Federation of Labour is responding positively to today’s announcement that Victoria has substantially increased the role of working people in the BC government agency that coordinates and delivers training and apprenticeship programs for skilled trades in the province.
Melanie Mark, the NDP’s Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, made a number of appointments today to the board of the Industry Training Authority, including four labour representatives. Named to bring workers’ expertise to help solve BC’s skills training challenges are:
• Laird Cronk, International Representative from IBEW;
• Bob Davis, president of the faculty association at Kwantlen Polytechnic University;
• Lisa Langevin of IBEW 213; and
• Cindy Oliver, retired president of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators.
“The new labour representatives bring a wealth of experience to the table to work with employers and government,” says BCFED President Irene Lanzinger. “We face some significant challenges addressing the chronic shortages of skilled workers and correcting the failures of the previous government,” she says.
Lanzinger says the labour movement brings a lot to the table to help develop the substantive changes needed to solve the skills shortage. Unions in BC invest millions of dollars every year to deliver highly successful training programs. And at post-secondary institutes across the province, union members provide classroom training for thousands of apprentices in dozens of different trades.