Today we learned that five people lost their lives due to the tragic crane collapse in Kelowna, and that more were injured. The BC Federation of Labour offers its heartfelt condolences to the families, friends, and colleagues of those five individuals who never returned home from work yesterday, as well as to those dealing with injuries and trauma from this catastrophic workplace incident.
We continue to call for a thorough investigation by the RCMP, the Worker's Compensation Board (WCB) and the BC Coroners Service to determine contributing factors to ensure this never happens again. While more detail comes to light, we urge the WCB to issue hazard alerts to all crane operating organizations.
As we receive more information about what led to this horrendous incident, we are resolved to ensure the fundamental right of every worker to work in a safe environment and return to their families at the end of every day. It is a stark reminder of the need for proactive and effective occupational health and safety regulations and compassionate, worker-centred support from the WCB for workers and families that experience workplace injuries.
As Pride month wraps up, it is appropriate to reflect on its origins, which are deeply steeped in protest. Pride was led largely by queer and Trans people of colour against police brutality enacted on community members. This year marks fifty-five years since the beginning of the Pride protest movement.
Nowadays Pride may appear as a celebration of diversity, one that is sometimes co-opted by elements that were once the very target of protests. The BC Federation of Labour (BCFED) recognizes and acknowledges that Pride began as a protest and remains so in the hearts and minds of many.
The Pride celebrations that we have become accustomed to--with huge floats, rainbows, sparkly dancers, candy and brand logos-- have not happened this year, as we strive to guard our communities against further spread of COVID-19. Instead, we are commemorating online and with our loved ones, and honour the memory of the origins of the movement we have come to know as Pride.
One of the first moments that sparked the Pride marches was when management called the police at Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco in 1966, where Trans women and drag queens were gathered. One of the women threw coffee in the face of one of the offending officers trying to detain her, and this sparked a multiple night protest at the diner.
In 1967, the brutal police raid at the Black Cat Tavern in Los Angeles on New Years’ saw the arrest of fourteen people. The tavern was targeted as a known hangout for 2SLGBTQIA+ community members, especially trans people of colour, and hundreds of people responded by gathering to protest peacefully on February 11, 1967 against “police lawlessness”.
And of course, one of the most pivotal moments of the movement was the Stonewall riots in the summer of 1969 in New York City. These riots lasted multiple days and were led by Black and Brown Trans and Queer community members against police brutality and political bigotry.
In 1970, the first Pride marches began, and slowly, and surely, over the years have spread to become a fixture of community life in so many of our communities worldwide. As the Pride movement has grown in popularity, so has the corporate and political interest in Pride, and the exploitation of the movement by these interests to improve their image, while simultaneously distracting us from the original meaning of the movement.
In a Canadian context, in 1981 Black and Brown and Trans communities led protests against police brutality in response to violent bath house raids by police in Toronto. The movement in Canada grew quickly and shone a spotlight on police brutality against Black and Brown and Indigenous communities.
For 2021, the BC Federation of Labour recognizes the origins of Pride. We’ve stepped back to make space for the ones who carry Pride forward as a protest. We honour the Black and Brown Queer and Trans community members who started it, and we celebrate the human rights progress that has been made so far. We invite the rest of the labour movement in BC to join us as we commit to continue to supporting Pride in all its expressions, including as a protest movement.
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) This year we mark National Indigenous People’s Day with heavy hearts and a deep sense of responsibility. In the wake of the uncovering of unmarked graves of children on multiple Residential School sites over the past weeks, we are reminded of the work we all must do to acknowledge, listen, and act.
Our thoughts are with survivors and their families, and the families of the ones who did not make it home. We expect the federal government, and indeed all levels of government, to take swift action in the wake of these findings to fully implement the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We call upon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in particular, to act on the calls related to the recovery and identification of the remains of missing children.
Now that Bill C-15 has passed, we call upon the federal government to immediately implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and move quickly to bring laws into alignment with the Declaration. We recognize the BC government for leading the country in legislating the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and remain committed to holding both levels of government accountable on implementation.
We also invite union members and the public to again read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission 94 Calls to Action, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and consider ways in which each of us might work in our own communities to help implement the Calls to Action. This work is on all of us, and all of us need to be committed to it.
Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission 94 Calls to Action here: http://trc.ca/assets/pdf/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf
Read the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples here: https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/wp-content/uploads...
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) The BC Federation of Labour Young Workers’ Committee will stage an overnight “virtual sit-in” on June 19th to highlight weak safety laws for convenience store and gas station staff working alone at night. The event honours Grant De Patie, a 24-year-old gas station attendant who died tragically in 2005 in a gas-and-dash incident while working late and alone.
“As we gather to remember Grant, our message is clear: the BC government and Worker’s Compensation Board must act now to keep convenience and gas station workers safe from incidents of violence and theft,” said Rick Kumar, Chair of the BCFED Young Worker’s Committee. “Re-instate the requirement for two workers to be working between 10:00pm and 6:00am or require a protective barrier between workers and customers that keeps them safe.”
Grant De Patie’s death sparked new safety rules, called Grant’s Law, that better protected workers. Under pressure from big corporations like Mac’s, the Christy Clark BC Liberal government watered down those protections in 2012, eliminating the need for safety barriers and loosening the requirement to have two staff working at night. To date, the BC NDP government and Workers’ Compensation Board has maintained the status quo, putting worker safety at risk.
“COVID has turned the public’s attention to the value of frontline workers and the need for strong health and safety measures,” said BCFED President, Laird Cronk. "Government knows what to do to protect these workers; what's needed now is political will." The BCFED has launched an online petition calling for the full re-instatement of Grant’s Law.
What: Protest for stronger safety protections for late-night workers
When: Sat. June 19th, 7:00 pm to 6:00 am Sun. June 20th
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(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) The BC government has announced a Skilled Trades Certification program that will provide access to apprenticeships and formal recognition of the skills and knowledge for workers within ten initial trades. The system includes a consultation process to support the transition and identify additional trades for future certification.
“Fully trained and certified tradespeople will be able to adapt to cutting-edge and emerging technologies and thrive in an ever-changing new economy,” said Laird Cronk, President of the BC Federation of Labour. “A highly-skilled and resilient workforce will set BC workers and employers up for a successful economic recovery. Choosing work in these trades will mean having more than a job; they’ll be family-supporting, community-building careers.”
As vaccination rates increase and the need for an equitable economic recovery comes into focus, this program puts BC back on the national map as a trades-training powerhouse.
“Ensuring workers have access to full training and certification means BC will avoid trades shortages, future-proofing our economy while lifting up workers with high-quality, lifetime careers,” added Cronk.
Jonathan Sas, Communications Director
604-861-4321 | firstname.lastname@example.org
The BC Federation of Labour (BCFED) is committed to ensuring a safe supply of drugs and to working with all levels of government to decriminalize personal possession of drugs. This commitment was renewed with the adoption of resolution 181 at our 2020 convention. We have been alarmed with government inaction as a toxic drug supply, harmful criminalization and stigma, and the impacts of the pandemic have combined to create staggering death rates in Vancouver and across BC.
Every day, workers, colleagues, friends, neighbours and family members are dying from toxic drugs. And it is getting worse. One hundred and seventy-six people died in April of this year alone. From January to April of 2021, 680 people died, a massive increase over the 390 deaths in the same period last year. Indigenous people are dying in disproportionate numbers. Action must be taken urgently.
It is in this context that the BCFED supports the City of Vancouver’s important proposal to Health Canada requesting an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) under the provision of section 56(1). The exemption would mean people found in possession of a controlled substance under a certain threshold, and within municipal boundaries, would not be subject to criminal sanctions or have their drugs confiscated; rather they would have the opportunity to be connected to supportive health and substance use services should they choose.
The toxic drug supply and criminalization of substance use are not often thought of as “worker issues.” For many workers, however, opioid addiction follows after a workplace injury and interaction with the workers’ compensation system. Some injured workers experience addiction because of poor pain management or because they are pushed back to work before they have healed. This is why the BCFED is also calling for reforms to the workers’ compensation system to better support injured workers.
The BCFED sees the City of Vancouver’s proposal as an important first step to halting unprecedented deaths, and a paradigm shift in our societal approach to substance use and policing. It will help reduce stigma, increase access to services and supports, and dispense with the long-lasting and negative impacts of criminalization, policing and incarceration on the lives of people who use drugs; impacts that are felt disproportionately by the poor, as well as Black and Indigenous communities. The BCFED would like to see this model apply across the province.
The Workers Deserve Better report lays out concrete changes needed to create a fair, accountable, and worker-centred compensation system.
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) The BC Federation of Labour released a report today highlighting glaring government inaction to fix BC’s broken compensation system for workers injured at work. Released on National Injured Workers Day, the Workers Deserve Better report lays out concrete legislative and policy changes needed to create a fair, accountable, and worker-centred compensation system.
“The workers' compensation system in BC is stacked against workers. It’s structured like a private insurance company with inadequate compensation and arbitrary benefit cut-offs,” said BCFED President Laird Cronk. “We must do better than a cookie cutter approach, where impersonal computer models determine injury recovery timelines. If you get injured at work tomorrow, you enter a system designed to limit costs rather than focussing on your successful return to work and ensuring you are fairly compensated for your injury.”
Workers Deserve Better was authored by Kevin Love, a lawyer with the Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) and expert on workers compensation issues. It is informed by the seminal Patterson report commissioned by Minister of Labour Harry Bains and delivered to government in October 2019. Patterson’s report was the latest in a series of four government-commissioned reports urging reforms to rebalance the compensation system administered through the Workers' Compensation Board (WCB). Despite hundreds of workers and worker advocates who came forward with painful personal stories during public consultations, recommendations have been ignored.
“I was pushed back to work against my physician’s orders on the threat of being cut off benefits,” said Owen Goodwin, an injured worker who spoke at the public hearings about his workplace injury. “Injured workers and their families need care and respect in their most desperate hour, not to be treated as a number on a spreadsheet. I shared my experience with BC’s broken employer-centric system in the hope that government would act and ensure this doesn’t happen to others.”
Workers Deserve Better focuses on legislative and policy changes for government, the Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) and the Board of Directors of the WCB. The recommendations focus on removing barriers to compensation, medical treatment, and rehabilitative services for workplace injuries.
“Every day without action is another day an injured worker is forced to navigate a complex and onerous system that lacks meaningful supports for them to return to work or be retrained,” added Cronk. “Government knows what the solutions are: it's time we change a system rigged against workers.”
The foundation of BC’s workers' compensation system is the “historic comprise,” which dates back over 100 years. Under the historic compromise, injured workers lost the right to sue employers for workplace injuries but gained a no-fault compensation system funded collectively by employers. In return, injured workers gained access to medical care and benefits through the WCB without having to prove their employer was at fault for the injury. WCB benefits are the only option for many injured workers.
In 2002, the BC Liberal government made big changes to the system. These changes reduced benefits considerably, ended life-long pensions with a 65-age cut-off, and made the system much harder to navigate.
Below are a sample of key recommendations made in the Workers Deserve Better report:
- Create a Fair Practices Commission independent of the WCB to deal with worker and employer complaints and an independent medical services office to address medical disputes;
- Include more worker representatives on the WCB Board of Directors;
- Eliminate the discriminatory barriers to compensation for psychological injury;
- Amend the Workers Compensation Act (WCA) to properly resource and personalize vocational rehabilitation while involving the worker;
- Place the needs and recovery of injured workers above the speed at which a worker returns to work as a key measure of success; stop relying on a computer system to determine when an injury will heal;
- Amend the WCA to stop deducting CPP disability from workers’ benefits;
- Provide resources to ensure appropriate engagement with Indigenous communities, farmworkers and other groups of workers that face systemic barriers;
- Improve communication with workers and employers, with more resources to help workers navigate the complicated compensation system;
- Allow the WCB to consider exceptional circumstances impacting workers' pre-injury earnings; pay interest to workers when the WCB wrongly denies a worker benefits and must endure a lengthy delay.
The full report can be downloaded here.
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We are heartbroken and horrified at the confirmation of a mass grave of 215 children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School on Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Territory.
We wish to share our deepest condolences with the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, and all the families impacted by the genocidal legacy of the Residential School System. Today we are shocked and saddened, and we mourn with you.
When called upon to do so, the BCFED is committed to continue educating BC’s labour movement on the effects of the Residential School System and acting in solidarity with survivors and their loved ones, and the loved ones of the children who never made it home.
We must never allow another atrocity like this to happen, and we must do our part to help the healing and recognition take place.
We would like to invite union members and the general public to donate to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society of BC: https://www.irsss.ca/donate.
The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide 24/7 support to residential school survivors and others who are affected. Call: 1 (866) 925-4419.
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) BC’s minimum wage will be raised to $15.20 per hour on June 1, making it the highest wage of any province. The increase will boost the income of nearly 250,000 workers according to the Government of BC and will coincide with the elimination of the discriminatory server wage. Both changes will help women and racialized workers who disproportionately work in low-wage sectors like the service industry.
"The pandemic made clear how undervalued certain workers have been,” said BC Federation of Labour (BCFED) President Laird Cronk. “Minimum wage workers, many working on the frontlines through COVID, make the profits for businesses and they deserve a dignified wage.”
The raise to $15.20 is a testament to the successful Fight for 15 campaign led by working people and supported by the labour movement during many years of poverty-level minimum wage rates under the BC Liberals. The latest increase will help to address income inequality and counter growing affordability challenges as housing, food, transit and other costs rise.
The BCFED continues to advocate for the elimination of the unfair hand harvesting piece rate and demand fair pay for farmworkers exempted from the minimum wage. This was a key recommendation of the Fair Wages Commission. While the BC government has committed to tie future minimum wage increases to inflation, the BCFED is calling for the Commission to continue its work to recommend a path to minimum wages that are living wages.
"On June 1, BC workers can celebrate a major milestone in the fight for fair wages,” Cronk added. “Everyone should earn a wage that means they can afford to live where they work and pay for the necessities.”
Jonathan Sas, Communications Director | p: 604-861-4321 e: firstname.lastname@example.org