Vancouver - With millions of Canadians unable to afford to pay for vital prescription drugs to keep them alive and healthy, the BC Federation of Labour says it’s time for concerted national action through the cooperation of all federal, provincial and territorial governments to address a growing crisis.
“Canada is the only developed country in the world with a universal health care program that doesn’t include universal prescription drug coverage,” says BCFED President Irene Lanzinger. “And everyone here knows someone who isn’t able to afford to take their medication as prescribed.
“The facts are clear about the magnitude of the problem,” says Lanzinger. “About one out of three working British Columbians—close to 800,000 people—lack employer-funded prescription drug coverage.
“BC also has the highest percentage of precarious, low-paying part-time workers of the major provinces. The inequality gap here between the rich and the poor is staggering, and it puts the high cost of many prescription drugs beyond the financial reach of hundreds of thousands more workers.”
Lanzinger says the BC labour movement believes one option stands out as the best path for change. “A single-payer, universal prescription drug plan would ensure that no matter where Canadians live and work, everyone with a health card would have coverage for their prescription medications’” she says.
This evening a special federal advisory council chaired by Dr. Eric Hoskins, will hold a community consultation on a national prescription drug plan in downtown Vancouver, which Lanzinger will be attending. The Federation outlined its recommendations in a letter sent to the council today.
We are well in to the Pride Season in BC; and as we gear up for the Vancouver Pride Parade this Sunday, we turn our minds to the recent local and international events that have shaped the global discourse on LGBTQ issues.
We continue to work as a labour movement to make our organizations, workplaces, and communities safer for LGBTQ community members; and we realize that the very people who started pride have been largely left out of this picture, especially BC.
Pride, which was started by an uprising against police discrimination by trans women of colour at the Stonewall Inn in 1969, has largely forgotten the communities that stirred its origins almost half a century ago.
As we attend events in the community this year, we pay special attention to the voices we hear who tell us they do not feel safe.
We honour the voices of Muslim, Trans, Black, Indigenous and People of Colour in the broader LGBTQ community and recognize that we have not achieved victory as a society until all of these people feel safe to express themselves fully. We have not achieved success until all of these community members, including two-spirit and intersex people are able to fully exercise their rights.
As we position ourselves in Canada and in the province of BC to be a safe haven for LGBTQ community members fleeing persecution in their countries or origin, we must do the work to ensure that Canada is truly a safe space for these community members when they arrive. We cannot save people to place them into a society that oppresses them.
The BC Federation of Labour and its 500,000 members continues to learn from the people who make up the movement of working people in this province, and we take our lead from the voices who face the most oppression on hold true to our values this pride season and always: What we desire for ourselves, we wish for all.
Unions are leading the fight for a universal prescription drug plan for Canadians. Sign the CLC Pharmacare petition.
The BC government announced this morning a first step series of measures that will modernize the taxi industry and lay the ground work to introduce ridesharing services at a later date.
“Generally, these are positive moves,” says BC Federation of Labour President Irene Lanzinger, “and a good first step to improve existing services for passengers as the government moves to fulfill its promise to introduce ridesharing services under a level playing field down the road.”
- Improve service by increasing the number of taxi licenses by 15%.—that means 300 more cabs in the Lower Mainland, and 200 across the rest of the province;
- Allow the taxi industry to offer fare discounts when trips are arranged through a booking app; and
- Create a database to help identify demand issues and generate solutions and require taxi companies to collect and share a broad range of information.
Next on the government’s agenda is developing a framework that will allow ridesharing services to operate in BC. The framework must include measures to protect the safety of passengers and drivers, and create a level playing field for the traditional taxi industry and ridesharing multinationals.
The BCFED wants protections for all drivers included in the framework to create good paying stable jobs rather than adding to the crisis of precarious work. Lanzinger says workers must be classified as employees not independent contractors, be protected by a modernized Employment Standards Act, paid at least the minimum wage, and covered by the Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance at a minimum.
National, Provincial and Territorial Labour Leaders encourage Canada’s Premiers to unite behind a universal, single-payer, public prescription drug coverage program. In addition to giving every Canadian access to life-saving prescriptions, a universal Pharmacare plan will free up money for much needed investment in health care.
Saint Andrews, NB - During the Council of the Federation meeting in Saint Andrews, NB, Labour leaders from across the country united to deliver a message to Canada’s Premiers – collaboration is critical.
“Canada’s Premiers will soon be asked to support a Pharmacare plan built on a simple principle - equal access. No matter where in Canada you live, you should be able to access the medications you require to live a healthy life,” said Irene Lanzinger, President of the British Columbia Federation of Labour (BCFED).
Between 2006 and 2015 Canada wasted $62 billion health care dollars without a Pharmacare plan. We waste $7.3 billion a year, or $14,000 every minute of every day, monies, that with an additional $1 billion investment in public sector spending could be redirected within our health care system.
“The research is clear; a national Pharmacare plan could save British Columbians $1.14 billion per year. Think of the potential investment to be made in British Columbia’s health care system with a savings of that magnitude. The benefit to the people of British Columbia is enormous. $415 million could be allocated to help seniors, providing six million more public home care visits, that is nearly 16,243 more seniors who would receive daily homecare visits per year,” said Lanzinger.
“With another $415 million, we could build 78 more community health centres, providing 390,000 more British Columbia residents with high quality integrated care that would respond to both their physical and mental health needs. A $51 million investment could provide 850 more public long-term care beds per year in our province, and with the remaining $258 million, British Columbia could hire additional nurses and health care workers, invest in hospitals, put an end to hallway health care. Think of the impact and net benefit to British Columbia with those additional investments in Canadians health and well-being,” Lanzinger added.
Without Pharmacare, between 370 and 640 Canadians with ischemic heart disease prematurely lose their lives, every year. Between 270 and 420 working-age Canadians with diabetes die prematurely every year, the data suggests that between 550 to 670 older working age Canadians (55-64) die each year, before their time.
“Without a universal single-payer Pharmacare plan - up to 70,000 Canadians suffer avoidable health decline and hospitalization every year. That’s roughly the population of Prince George. Imagine if the entire population of Prince George was unnecessarily hospitalized every year, we would demand preventative measures from our government. Universal Pharmacare is that preventative measure, and we’re demanding action from our governments,” said Lanzinger.
Every developed country with a universal health care system provides universal coverage of prescription drugs – except Canada. In a country like Canada, no one should be forced to skip their medications or otherwise ignore their doctor’s orders because of costs. Doing so only leads to additional pressures on our health care systems, and that costs everyone more in the long run.
“The only plan that will deliver better health outcomes, while saving Canadians money, is a universal single-payer Pharmacare system,” said Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress.
In addition to urging that Premiers to support a universal Pharmacare plan, of which the federal advisory council is expected to make recommendations on how to implement, Presidents of provincial and territorial labour federations highlighted for Premiers the need and importance of strengthening the relationship with labour in their communities.
To build inclusive, strong and prosperous provinces, we must collaborate to support the most vulnerable among us. We must also work together to develop poverty reduction strategies that include a recognition of the needs for a living wage, decent working conditions and access to affordable housing.
Together, Canada’s provincial and territorial labour federations give voice to over three million workers, represented by the Alberta Federation of Labour, British Columbia Federation of Labour, Canadian Labour Congress, Manitoba Federation of Labour, New Brunswick Federation of Labour, Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, Northern Territories Federation of Labour, Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, Ontario Federation of Labour, Prince Edward Island Federation of Labour, Fédération des travailleurs et travailleises du Québec, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and Yukon Federation of Labour.
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.