Vancouver – The following is a statement from Laird Cronk, president and Sussanne Skidmore, secretary-treasurer of the BC Federation of Labour:
“Today our thoughts are with the people of New Zealand after yesterday’s devastating shooting in Christchurch.
While information is still being gathered, we feel it’s critical that the labour movement respond quickly to condemn this shocking attack.
Hate crimes like this are intended to spark fear and divide us. We will not be divided.
Early this morning the leadership of the Federation came together to express our solidarity with all people affected by this terrorist attack. There is no place for Islamophobia, racism and hate in our world.
To all Muslim people and especially those in British Columbia, we want you to know the labour movement stands with you today and everyday.
Join us for the National Day of Mourning on April 28, 2019
10:30 am - 11:30 am Jack Poole Plaza - 1075 Canada Place, Vancouver
Co-hosted by: BC Federation of Labour, Vancouver & District Labour Council, Workers' Compensation Board of BC and Business Council of BC.
The following is a statement from the BC Federation of Labour leaders Sussanne Skidmore and Laird Cronk on International Women’s Day:
This year, the Federation is focusing on shifting the culture in B.C. with respect to women’s’ rights and safety.
Sussanne Skidmore, Secretary-Treasurer of the BCFED and long-time feminist and human rights activist encourages men to speak up when they see sexism, bullying or harassment in the workplace; “Every day in this province, women face tremendous barriers. Women make 88.5 cents for every dollar a man makes. Women continue to remain under-represented on Boards and senior leadership teams. There are so many systemic barriers to women’s equality, the challenge can feel overwhelming, but individual men can help make a difference.”
Laird Cronk, BCFED President recently rose to the challenge. “Last month I attended a Be More Than A Bystander training session for men, through the BC Centre for Women in the Trades (BCCWITT), which educated the male participants on the everyday threats and sexism women face. The program was not only eye-opening, but it also gave us the skills to really identify this behavior and appropriately intervene.”
Last year, the BC Federation of Labour—through the BC Centre for Women in the Trades —partnered with the Ending Violence Association of BC (EVA BC) and the BC Lions to modify the Be More Than A Bystander program for the construction sector. BCCWITT’s program provides men from the construction industry with the skills to identify and counter sexism in the workplace and to bring these teaching to other men in the industry.
The BCFED encourages anyone who works in a sector where there are more men than women working, to contact BCCWITT and ask them how to get this training for your workplace. They can be reached at email@example.com or on their website at www.bccwitt.ca
“Together, we can change the culture in our workplaces,” said Skidmore. “The BC Fed is committed to connecting workers with the skills needed to transform industries like construction.”
BC Insulators Union and BC Federation of Labour call for immediate BC government action to provincially license asbestos removal firms after BC Supreme Court ruling permanently banning company that broke rules over 230 times, has not paid fines of $635,000 over 9 years
Asbestos leading cause of workplace deaths, yet 2 violations a day reported by WorkSafeBC
VANCOUVER – After the BC Supreme Court permanently banned asbestos removal firm Seattle Environmental Consulting Ltd. and owner Mike Singh from the industry, the BC Insulators Union and BC Federation of Labour are calling on the provincial government to take immediate action to license all asbestos abatement companies.
The two labour organizations say with asbestos exposure being the leading cause of workplace death in BC – killing 53 workers in 2017 from asbestos-exposure related illnesses, predominantly mesothelioma – both workers and nearby residents need to be protected from asbestos.
Seattle Environmental Consulting Ltd. and owner Mike Singh have been permanently barred from working in the asbestos removal business by the court after WorkSafeBC issued over 230 orders to comply with health and safety laws designed to protect workers and communities from asbestos exposure – and after Singh and his companies were fined over $630,000 since 2010.
“This is one of the most outrageous cases of an employer exposing his own workers and nearby residents to deadly asbestos by repeatedly refusing to follow the law,” says Neil Munro, BC Insulators Union Business Manager, whose union represents trained, certified asbestos removal workers.
“But unfortunately, Seattle Environmental and Mike Singh are far from the only repeat offenders – there are more reported every single month by WorkSafeBC – and that has to stop,” Munro said. “Licensing all asbestos abatement firms and consultants would let the province pull their license and put them out of business immediately if they broke the law and refused to comply.”
BC Federation of Labour President Laird Cronk said the BC Supreme Court contempt decision shows the need for a wholesale series of changes to protect workers and also to create a comprehensive national strategy to ensure the federal government commitment to ban asbestos is implemented.
“The fact that a company could blatantly break health and safety laws regarding a known cancer-causing material, to expose workers and homeowners while knowing asbestos is the worst workplace killer in BC, is simply disgusting,” said Cronk. “This BC Supreme Court decision is a wake-up call to the province and to the federal government that action is needed to protect lives right now – there is no time to delay.”
Cronk said the recent federal pledge to ban asbestos was both welcome and overdue but a national plan to take strong action to enforce it is essential.
“We have asbestos in homes, in commercial, industrial and government buildings and we also have it in hundreds of thousands of brake linings in cars and trucks across Canada – any exposure to asbestos fibers can lead to mesothelioma and other fatal diseases, so we have to act now,” Cronk said.
Munro said provincial licensing is the key request his union made to the BC government’s recent asbestos regulation consultation – but there are far more changes needed to protect British Columbians.
He said an asbestos abatement licensing system would allow WorkSafeBC to stop companies violating health and safety laws from continuing to do business. Washington and Oregon states, the United Kingdom and Australia are among jurisdictions that already license asbestos firms.
In a detailed submission to the BC government review, the BC Insulators Union says WorkSafeBC issued 764 compliance orders in 2018 – on average two orders every day.
And even more disturbingly, WorkSafeBC also issued 95 immediate stop work orders to asbestos abatement employers because of the seriousness of the violations and risk to workers.
“Two compliance orders every day shows a blatant disregard for laws to protect workers from a cancer-causing substance that is BC’s number one workplace killer – that is outrageous and has to stop,” says Neil Munro, BC Insulators Union Business Manager.
“We have seen multiple occasions where asbestos removal health and safety laws have been violated in residential communities where older homes or buildings are being demolished or renovated – and where nearby residents are simply not being protected from potentially inhaling asbestos fibers,” Munro said. “And we have seen several media reports about unscrupulous contractors dumping bags of asbestos contaminated materials in back alleys in Vancouver and Burnaby instead of safely disposing of it.”
Munro says that in 2018 alone, WorkSafeBC issued 37 administrative penalties related to violations of asbestos regulations totaling $237,386 in fines – but only 17 have been paid in full, with $66,256 collected to-date.
There are other firms that owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid fines, with one company at well over $1 million owed to WorkSafeBC, Munro added.
And BC Supreme Court has issued 12 injunctions against asbestos employers at WorkSafeBC’s request – to force them to obey the law, Munro says.
The BC Insulators Union, which represents trained asbestos removal workers across the province, says there are several other important steps government needs to take in addition to provincial licensing to make the removal, transportation and disposal of asbestos contaminated materials safe, including:
• Training and certification of asbestos workers, consultants and surveyors;
• Creation of new disposal sites across BC;
• Establish a rebate program for safe asbestos disposal;
• The Labour Ministry be the lead ministry to implement licensing and changes in coordination with WorkSafeBC;
• Develop BC-wide laboratory standards for asbestos testing;
• An awareness program on asbestos exposure in the automotive repair sector, where asbestos lining in brake pads and other parts can put workers at risk;
“Too many BC workers have already died from asbestos exposure – but we can and must save the lives of workers and residents who have not been exposed to asbestos – but could be any day due to a lack of adequate protection from this deadly substance,” said Munro. “It’s time to act, not delay.”
The full BC Insulators Union submission to government can be found here.
VICTORIA – Budget 2019 focuses on measures that will benefit thousands of working families, create opportunities for new and under-employed workers to access good, green jobs and strengthen employment standards.
“When you start to add up the increased infrastructure funding ($20 billion), the jobs created through retrofits of public buildings ($40 million) and private homes ($41 million), there is funding in this budget for a lot of good, green jobs being created,” said Laird Cronk, President of the BC Federation of Labour. “An initiative near and dear to my heart is the addition of $6 million from CleanBC to support training programs for automotive technicians and electricians in the zero emission vehicle sector”.
Budget 2019 also strengthened protections for vulnerable workers with an increase in Employment Standards funding of $14 million over three years to facilitate the removal of the self-help kit, double staff to conduct investigations and create a registry as introduced in the Temporary Foreign Worker Protection Act.
“Workers fought long and hard for the rights entrenched in the Employment Standards Act. For more than 16 years, those rights faced daily attacks with the underfunding of the Employment Standards Branch,” said Cronk. “Budget 2019 takes an important step forward in providing the Employment Standards Officers with the resources to proactively investigate violations and enforce workers’ rights.”
“Safe and secure employment is life changing. We were proud to see commitments in Budget 2019 that help to meaningfully expand employment opportunities for some of the most vulnerable workers,” said Cronk.
Budget 2019 commits increased funding to WorkBC, makes post secondary education more affordable by eliminating interest on BC student loans and expands opportunities for adult learners.
Vancouver – In its third Speech from the Throne, B.C.’s NDP government renewed their commitment to improving affordability and expanding services for British Columbians.
Key steps included the introduction of B.C.’s first ever Poverty Reduction Strategy, the full elimination of MSP premiums and maintaining the freeze on major ferry routes and discounts on minor routes.
BC Federation of Labour President Laird Cronk and Secretary Treasurer Sussanne Skidmore were in the Legislature to listen to the speech.
“The affordability and service measures outlined in today’s Throne Speech will have a meaningful impact on working people across B.C.,” said Cronk, “Improving the services British Columbians depend on is also a tremendous opportunity to expand on good jobs across our province.”
Today’s Throne Speech touched on reducing class sizes with the hiring of 3,700 teachers and education assistants; increased staffing levels in seniors care facilities and increasing surgeries.
The speech also reinforced the important role resource sector jobs play in B.C. and focused on government’s commitment to increase local processing of resources and job creation with the Forest Sector Revitalization Initiative and the Mining Jobs Task Force. The speech also highlighted last year’s commitment to build publicly funded infrastructure projects through Community Benefits Agreements.
“We’ll be watching for more information on the CleanBC initiative over the coming months to see how we can harness the opportunities to create good, family supporting jobs while reducing emissions and meeting our climate change obligations,” said Cronk.
“We were especially pleased to see the commitment this government is making B.C.’s Indigenous communities with the introduction of legislation to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” said Skidmore.
Key factors in the success of future job creation will be the legislation the government is expected to introduce to modernize the Labour Code and strengthen Employment Standards.
“After 16 years of BC Liberal neglect, we will be vigilant to ensure the Horgan government continues to build on its plan to put working people first,” said Cronk.
With advance polls open for voting in the important Nanaimo provincial by-election, the BC Federation of Labour is encouraging union members in the Hub City to get out to vote to elect the BC NDP’s Sheila Malcolmson.
“It’s a crucial election and the choices are clear,” says BCFed President Laird Cronk. “John Horgan’s government is working hard to fix the damage caused by 16 years of BC Liberal rule. We can’t let the Liberals turn back the clock,” says Cronk, who was born and raised in Nanaimo.
In just 18 months, the Horgan government has implemented a host of programs and policies along with new spending priorities that will make life better for workers, their families and communities. For workers in Nanaimo, that means:
• the elimination of MSP premiums;
• funding to improve care for seniors;
• more childcare spaces and reduced costs for 2,700 kids in the city;
• expanded skills training programs and facilities at Vancouver Island University;
• funding for a new shelter for women and children fleeing violence;
• $15 minimum wage, and a pledge to reform employment standards and labour laws for the benefit of working people; and
• the promise of a new urgent care centre and intensive care ward at the local hospital, just to name a few of the NDP’s many accomplishments.
Advance polls are open 8 am to 8 pm through Sunday, January 27. And general voting day is Wednesday, January 30. Download more detailed information about polling places here.
James was appointed to his position amid much controversy by the Christy Clark BC Liberal government.
The Plecas report revealed that James had at least 24 meetings at taxpayers’ expense with BC Liberal Party insiders including many after the Liberals lost power in 2017.
The BC Federation of Labour says Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson has a lot to answer for.
Download this shareable here
Eleven years ago in March 2007, three women— Armajit Kaur Bal, 52, Sukhvinder Kaur Punia, 46, and Sarbjit Kaur Sidhu, 31—tragically lost their lives when a 15-passenger van carrying 17 women farm workers to work skidded out of control on the Trans-Canada Highway near Abbotsford, BC.
Multiple investigations revealed that the employer was at fault for this tragedy. The van was illegally overloaded, had only two seat belts, was riding on mismatched and bald tires, had a wooden bench in the back, a fraudulent safety permit and was driven by someone who did not have the proper license.
Every year since the tragedy, the BC Federation of Labour has organized a vigil on the first Saturday in March to honour the three women and to renew our commitment for healthier, safer workplaces.
This year’s vigil is set for Saturday, March 2 at the Matsqui Centennial Auditorium at the Golden Tree Memorial sculpture commissioned to pay tribute to the three workers. Download an event poster here.
On March 7, 2007, three farm workers were killed and other workers were injured in the roll over of an overloaded van taking them to work. Sukhvinder Kaur Punia, Amarjit Kaur Bal and Sarabjit Kaur Sidhu died in the accident. Since this tragic incident, the Federation has worked with the families to highlight health and safety issues for farmworkers, including the installation of the Golden Tree Monument in the memory of all farmworkers killed and injured on the job.
Please join the BCFED and the families at the 2019 vigil. Reception begins at 11:30am with ceremony at 12:30pm.