September 30 is Orange Shirt Day, a day for us to remember and discuss the legacy of the residential school system in Canada, and honour the Indigenous survivors and non-survivors of that system.
It’s named for a story shared by Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, who had her brand new orange shirt — bought by her grandmother — stripped from her on her first day at residential school when she was six years old. We wear orange shirts today in solidarity with her, with everyone who survived the residential school system and those who did not, and with their families and communities.
The BCFED honours today as a reminder of the damage done by colonialism here in BC, across Canada and around the world. And all of us here at the BCFED recommit to reconciliation and to dismantling this system of racism and oppression here on these lands.
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) Yesterday’s election call gives British Columbians the chance to choose the future they want for their province, BC Federation of Labour President Laird Cronk said today.
"We have a choice in BC: go back to the senseless cuts that left us vulnerable and left so many people out in the cold, or build a future for all that puts working people and families at the forefront," Cronk said.
"After too many years of being ruled by a party that governed only on behalf of the most wealthy and powerful, British Columbians have had a chance to see what it's like to have a government that listens to working people. And that government has made major progress for BC workers and families, before and during the pandemic."
Cronk cited pre-COVID government initiatives like increasing the minimum wage, investing in affordable childcare and housing, eliminating MSP premiums, improvements to the Labour Code and Employment Standards Act, developing the most ambitious climate action plan in Canada and recognizing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in law.
During the pandemic, he said, John Horgan and the BCNDP government put working people at the forefront of the province's response, with such measures as job-protected sick leave, income supports, help for renters and BC's most vulnerable people, and making changes to improve worker safety and workers' compensation.
"Now is the time to keep this going, with a stable, four-year NDP government," Cronk said. "We've arrived at the point where this province needs to make decisions not just about getting through the next few months, but what BC will look like for many years to come."
He pointed to BCFED polling showing that 72% of British Columbians want to see BC make changes to support a fairer, more equal province, rather than going back to the way things were.
"There's still a lot to accomplish," Cronk said. "And we'll continue pushing for commitments on issues like paid sick leave, a truly worker-centered Workers' Compensation Board, expanding and improving public services, investing in building sustainable green infrastructure and more."
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) — The recovery plan announced yesterday by Premier John Horgan and Finance Minister Carole James looks promising, with significant investments in the province’s workers, BC Federation of Labour (BCFED) president Laird Cronk said today.
“We’re looking forward to seeing more details. But from what we’ve seen so far, this government recognizes that people are the economy.”
He said the plan has several measures that align with the recommendations set out in the BCFED’s submission to the Premier’s Economic Recovery Task Force, including investments in such areas as apprenticeship and training with targeted funding for Indigenous communities; aggressively expanding affordable childcare; and creating 1,000 new jobs to protect natural spaces and make BC more resilient in addressing the impact of climate change.
“We’ve said from the outset of this pandemic that the government’s response has to put people first. And we welcome the investment in workers, families, services and communities, especially in sectors that have been particularly hard hit,” Cronk said.
He said the BCFED would be looking carefully at the plan’s array of business incentives. Ensuring that workers laid off due to Covid-19 are recalled to their former work positions, once available, is paramount to a successful economic recovery in British Columbia, and any incentives should ensure that happens,” he said. “And we’ll be looking for further details on many of these measures, including the $470-million PST rebate on machinery and equipment, and incentives for retaining and hiring staff.”
Cronk added that the BCFED will continue to press for measures that weren’t included in the plan, including filling the gaps in the federal government’s recently-announced paid sick leave plan, so it truly and effectively covers all BC workers.
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) As BC's economy reopens, British Columbians overwhelmingly opt for building a better, fairer province over re-creating the economy we had before, a new poll has found.
In a recent poll conducted by polling firm Stratcom for the BC Federation of Labour (BCFED), 72% of respondents from across BC said they prefer making changes for a fairer province over a focus on getting BC back to its pre-pandemic state.
“The pandemic has not only exposed the gaps in our province, but it’s also shown how much we can accomplish when we pull together,” said BCFED president Laird Cronk. “And the overwhelming majority of British Columbians see the economic recovery as a chance to build a better, more inclusive province.”
The same poll saw two-thirds of respondents opting for investments in a fair recovery to put workers and families first over cutting regulations and taxes for businesses to create jobs as quickly as possible.
And 78% of respondents voiced their support for an economic recovery that includes aggressively addressing climate change and reducing pollution.
The poll comes as the BCFED launches its new campaign, geared to mobilizing British Columbians who see the recovery as an opportunity to choose — as the campaign puts it — “A Future For All.”
The BCFED campaign, created with unionized agency Point Blank Creative, includes a new video ad (http://bit.ly/futureforall) as well as a web-based action hub (https://www.FutureForAll.ca) where people can voice their support for measures like universal pharmacare, affordable high-speed Internet, a living wage and more.
“We think it’s important for all those British Columbians to have a chance to speak up for the province and the future they believe in,” BCFED secretary-treasurer Sussanne Skidmore explained. “That’s what this campaign is all about.”
Cronk pointed to a line from the video, “We can rebuild British Columbia around what really matters,” adding, “So far, a lot of the decisions we’ve been making have been about how to survive this pandemic. Now it’s time to start talking about what we’ve learned, and deciding the kind of province we want to build as we reopen.”
These survey questions were part of a larger online poll by Stratcom on a range of topics conducted for the BC Federation of Labour and fielded to a proprietary panel from August 27 to September 2, 2020. The poll has a balanced sample of 2,002 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.
STRATCOM OPINION SURVEY FOR BCFED
The following questions were fielded to a proprietary panel from August 27 to September 2, 2020.
Some people say our priority should be getting BC back to the way it was before the pandemic. Other people we should use this opportunity to move forward and make changes to support a fairer, more equal province. Which is closer to your opinion?
Make changes for a fairer province: 71.8%
Back to the way we were: 18.1%
Don’t know: 10.1%
Some people say BC should focus on cutting regulations and taxes on business so they’ll create jobs for British Columbians as fast as possible. Other people say BC needs to work together and make investments for a fair recovery for all: rebuilding our economy to puts workers and families first. Which is closer to your view?
BC needs to put workers and families first: 66.9%
BC should cut regulations and taxes on business: 21.6%
Don't know: 11.5%
Some people support using the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to make big changes to our economy: aggressively reducing carbon emissions, switching to cleaner renewable energy, and investing in things like transit and energy efficiency in order to reduce pollution and address climate change. Do you support or oppose that approach?
Strongly support: 34.8%
Somewhat support: 35.5%
Somewhat oppose: 11.1%
Strongly oppose: 8.8%
Don’t know: 9.9%
These questions were part of a larger poll on a range of topics conducted for the BC Federation of Labour. This online poll by Stratcom has a balanced sample of 2,002 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.
Let’s rebuild BC’s economy so it works for all of us.
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, when many people think about the future of work, they think about the trend toward working from home. But a research report released today by the BC Federation of Labour suggests the increasing trend toward automation deserves urgent attention.
“Anyone who thinks they’re immune to automation should think twice,” BCFED president Laird Cronk said. “This report finds that three out of five BC workers are at medium-to-high likelihood of having their jobs affected in the next 20 years.”
Automation isn’t limited to affecting only rote, repetitive jobs, the report finds; machine learning allows computers and robots to take on more and more sophisticated tasks. It can often mean taking away pieces of existing jobs from human workers, rather than replacing them outright.
“The report shows that automation is coinciding with big changes in the structure of work and our economy,” said BCFED Secretary-Treasurer Sussanne Skidmore. “And it’s not just in the shift away from industrial jobs toward service and technical jobs that we usually think of around automation. There’s growing inequality in wages within those job categories too.”
Among the report’s findings:
- Automation threatens to increase precarious employment in BC.
- Good-paying industrial jobs are declining in labour share, directly attacking the gains unionization in those sectors has produced for all workers.
- The growing gap between the average and the median wage in every employment category in BC contributes to increasing inequality — a shift that affects women, people of colour and immigrants in particular.
- Lower costs and increasing sophistication of automated systems may accelerate the displacement of workers and elimination of jobs across the labour market.
The report includes a case study into BC’s ports that illustrates the harm done when employers call the shots in implementing automation.
“This should serve as a call to action for workers and unions everywhere in BC,” Cronk said. “The issue isn’t about stopping automation, or whether it’s good or bad. It’s about making sure we’re active participants in deciding how automation will change work, workplaces and the lives of working people.”
The full report is available at https://bcfed.ca/automation-research-report-2020.
by Laird Cronk, President
and Sussanne Skidmore, Secretary-Treasurer
BC Federation of Labour
This Labour Day is a lot different from past years. You won’t see the big parades, rallies and parties we usually have. Instead it’s small, carefully-distanced backyard get-togethers and on-screen virtual celebrations.
But there’s a deeper change that’s happening too. Something important has shifted in British Columbia.
This year has reminded us all of just how utterly and completely our province relies on working people: to keep our economy going, to provide the necessities of life, to deliver the services families need.
2020 has taught us that the front lines are much broader and deeper than many people assumed. Suddenly, many of the lowest-paid workers in the most precarious jobs in BC are finally getting some long-overdue recognition. And we’ve stopped seeing workplace safety as something that only affects individual workers, and recognizing it for what it is: a vital underpinning of public health.
What’s more, we’re discovering that there’s a lot more we can be doing to make life better for all of us. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted governments to come together with quick, dramatic action on a wide range of fronts: supporting the incomes of laid-off workers, protecting vulnerable British Columbians with increases to disability and income assistance rates, providing help for renters, subsidizing wages, investing in health care and education, improving employment standards and workplace safety, and even making the first moves toward paid sick leave.
Of course, a lot of this has happened because BC has the benefit of a provincial government that listens to working people. The contrast with other provinces — and south of the border — is often stark.
But we’ve also had something else on our side: a strong, determined labour movement backed by working people across BC. And there’s every reason to believe that movement is gaining strength.
There’s a new momentum for organizing, and a big part of that comes as the pandemic shows working people that our lives are on the line. The stronger and more united we are, the better we’re able to press for safer workplaces, better working conditions and a fairer deal.
And that’s doubly important now, because we’ve learned something else in the past several months.
COVID-19 exposed how deep and wide the gaps in our province are, and how many people have been left out and sold short in BC’s economy. Those gaps and inequities weren’t just unfair in and of themselves. They were vulnerabilities the virus exploited, and left us all more exposed and at risk.
But the way we’ve responded, as communities and through our governments, shows us we don’t have to just accept those gaps. And we don’t have to recreate those inequities.
So as much as 2020 has been about shutting down, it’s also increasingly about opening up — that is, opening up possibilities for positive, lasting changes. And this year, that’s what’s really worth celebrating: this new sense of possibility and potential in the strength we have together.
The pandemic is far from over, but the rebuilding in BC has begun. And as we rebuild, we can regain what we had — but we can also rebuild something stronger and fairer.
We can build stronger, more resilient communities that are better able to grapple with big challenges, whether it’s ending this pandemic, fighting off the next one or addressing the threat of climate change. We can build a fairer, greener economy where everyone can benefit — and where we make every job a good job. We can make investments that improve crucial services everywhere from classrooms to hospitals to transit.
And thanks to the working people of British Columbia, we are going to emerge from this pandemic. So that we can hold out hope that next year, we’ll be able to truly celebrate together.
Happy Labour Day, everyone.
Given the profound impact COVID 19 is having on our workplaces and communities, there has never been a more important time for union members to be engaged in political action. The provincial and federal governments have put many good programs in place to help British Columbians weather the pandemic, but more is needed. And the work around economic recovery is just getting started. The decisions our politicians make over the next several months will have a tremendous impact on the future of our province.
Learn more about the BC Federation of Labour’s vision for economic recovery and how you can be politically active in your community. The training will be offered on-line and include guest speakers, skill-based training sessions, and group conversations.
Together for a fair recovery – Rebuilding our economy for workers and families first
Political Action training for BCFED Affiliates
Date: Friday, October 2
Location: Online, details TBC
Our first virtual convention — November 25-26.
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) Today’s release of Janet Patterson’s report on workers’ compensation in BC is a watershed moment for sick and injured workers, BCFED president Laird Cronk said today.
“For the first time, we’ve had a process that put the voices of sick and injured workers and their families and their experience with the workers’ compensation system in our province front and centre,” Cronk said. “We thank government for releasing this report, which is a mark of respect. It validates workers’ experience with a system that for too long has often been stacked against them.”
He said it will take some time to read the full 516-page report, and the BCFED will respond more substantively soon. But he added that he welcomes its release.
“We've started reviewing the report in detail, and based on our very first look, Ms. Patterson has brought a very thoughtful, thorough approach to this report. And her recommendations make it clear she has listened with care and compassion to the workers who came forward to share their insights.”
Cronk said the 47-page addendum summarizing submissions from workers, family members and others to Patterson’s public hearings is especially notable.
“That document sets a new standard for respecting the experience of sick and injured workers. And it should be mandatory reading for everyone who works in this field,” he said.
“Previous governments skewed the workers’ compensation system in favour of employers and against workers,” Cronk said. “Coming so soon after the much-needed reforms in Bill 23, the Patterson Report could put us on the road to finally rebalancing workers’ compensation in BC. And it moves us closer to the goal of a truly worker-centered compensation system.”
“On behalf of all workers in BC, and especially those who’ve been injured or made sick because of their work, I want to deliver a heartfelt thanks to Janet Patterson for everything she’s done.”