(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) The BC Federation of Labour is pleased to see that the BC Government’s announcement of temporary service fee caps for food delivery includes protection of workers’ wages and tips.
“By protecting workers wages and tips, the BCNDP government shows it understands the critical role delivery workers have played during this pandemic,” said Sussanne Skidmore, Secretary-Treasurer of the BC Federation of Labour. “And they understand taking care of workers will be a critical part of our economic recovery.”
The service fee cap is intended to support the restaurant sector, which has been hard hit during the pandemic. However, labour advocates expressed concern that delivery companies may try to make up the difference by reducing compensation for workers. This order specifically prohibits companies from reducing compensation for workers and guarantees they will receive all the tips and gratuities they earn.
When the pandemic hit, many restaurants shifted the bulk of their business to take out and delivery. “Food-delivery workers have played a vital role in keeping British Columbians safe and keeping the restaurant industry going,” Skidmore said. “Food and other delivery workers have provided critical service to their communities, and there is more we must do to support them.”
Precarious employment in sectors like the platform or gig economy has been growing over the past decade as employers have increasingly sought to reduce costs by severing their direct employment relationship with workers. Skidmore said, “We are seeing a growing number of companies exploit gaps in employment laws, and workers have been left with little control over their working conditions. That has to change.”
“This is an important first step for workers in this sector. We look forward to working with the BCNDP government as they take the next steps to develop their precarious work strategy,” said Skidmore.
We acknowledge that we are making this statement from unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories.
Today is Human Rights Day, the UN’s commemoration of the signing of the historic Universal Declaration on Human Rights on December 10, 1948.
This year’s theme, “Recover Better: Stand Up for Human Rights,“ could not be more timely. The global COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the way our social, political and economic structures push so many people to the margins, silencing and disenfranchising them: women, Indigenous people, Black people, people of colour, people with disabilities, 2SLGBTQIA+ people, those without wealth or property, and more.
From Indigenous uprisings locally and globally, to the Black Lives Matter movement, to the increase in homeless populations and child poverty, to movements for justice and freedom around the world, we cannot pretend not to see injustice any longer. What we have seen, we can’t unsee.
And what we see is this: What we had in place before COVID was a failed system, and returning to it cannot be an option. We must build back better, designing for the equitable inclusion of all members of our communities.
The BCFED worked with affiliate unions and community partners this year to create recommendations for the provincial government for an equitable recovery. That recovery must include sex workers, workers with precarious or no immigration status, and all those whose voices have too often been ignored or silenced. It must be a recovery that supports equal economic participation for all.
And it must be a recovery that recognizes that we are connected to the world outside our provincial borders. The economic decisions made by governments, businesses and individuals can reinforce and reward oppression, or they can advance justice.
Never has solidarity been more important at every level, from our local neighbourhoods to our global community. Let’s rebuild an economy that prospers by lifting up the voices and fundamental rights of people here in British Columbia, throughout Canada and around the world.
The United Nations campaign for International Human Rights Day: https://www.un.org/en/observances/human-rights-day
The Universal Declaration on Human Rights: https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html
BCFED recommendations for an equitable economic recovery: https://bcfed.ca/recovery-for-all/gender-equity
Join us for a virtual Zoom vigil to mark December 6, and remember the 14 women who died at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, as well as all those who've faced gender-based violence. Register here.
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) — Delegates to the 59th convention of the BC Federation of Labour have acclaimed President Laird Cronk and Secretary-Treasurer Sussanne Skidmore to a second term.
Elections were the final order of business of the BCFED’s two-day convention, marking the first time the biennial event has taken place online — the result of pandemic restrictions. Over 800 delegates from the Federation’s affiliated unions gathered at the virtual session for policy debates, voting and other business.
“We’re grateful that delegates have given us a second term,” Cronk said. “This is one of the most important moments in the history of working people in BC. And it’s crucial that labour speak with a clear, united voice.”
“We’ll work hard over the next two years to put the needs of workers front and centre throughout the pandemic response, and to work with the new NDP majority government to secure a future for all,” said Skidmore.
The convention also elected equity representatives, trustees and district labour council members of its executive council.
Although this convention was shorter than past events, delegates still adopted a wide range of resolutions supporting such policies as:
- a permanent safe supply program and decriminalization of personal possession of illicit drugs;
- endorsing calls for a ban on evictions and cancelling rent and mortgage debt;
- increased investment in post-secondary education;
- support for measures to strengthen public auto insurance;
- reducing the legal voting age to 16;
- returning contracted-out hospital support services, and the workers who deliver them, to the province’s health authorities; and
- a pandemic pay premium for all frontline, essential and critical workers.
An emergency resolution in response to the assignment Abbotsford schoolchildren were given to write “5+ positive stories/facts from the residential schools” passed overwhelmingly. It committed the BCFED to educating union members and the public about the damage done by Canada’s residential school system, and spurred delegates to flood Twitter with photos of themselves wearing orange shirts in solidarity.
“We missed seeing everyone face-to-face, but we were delighted at how well this worked, and how many delegates were able to participate and make their voices heard,” Cronk said. “Embracing new ways to organize and communicate is one of labour’s superpowers.”
“Our thanks to union members and activists across BC, along with our staff and officers who went so far above and beyond to make this such a success,” Skidmore said.
The BCFED’s next convention will take place in 2022.
Disability, Race & COVID-19
December 3, 2020
5:00 - 6:00 pm
Keynote Speaker: Heather Walkus
Register at Eventbrite.
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) – BC’s labour movement is urging British Columbians to comply with new regional health orders, to address rising COVID-19 cases across the Lower Mainland and keep workers safe.
“The new restrictions are targeted to the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health Authorities, but we urge British Columbians in every area of the province to be vigilant,” said Laird Cronk, President of the BC Federation of Labour (BCFED). “This is a critical time for public health and for our economy. If we want to avoid a further lockdown, our focus must be on keeping workers safe.”
Essential and front-line workers are continuing to play a critical role during this pandemic, Cronk said. “From grocery stores to hospitals, workers are taking care of us and we are all responsible for keeping them safe — including the BC government and its agencies, as well as employers and the public.”
The BC government, Provincial Health Office and Workers’ Compensation Board must ensure the new health orders are followed, Cronk said. “This should include increased inspections to enforce the orders and the issuing of appropriate penalties and fines if an employer fails to ensure a safe workplace.” The BCFED continues to call on the province to provide WCB prevention officers with all the tools and resources required to ensure they can enforce PHO orders in workplaces.
The newest public health order is clear in requiring employers to review and redouble their efforts on their COVID-19 safety plans, Cronk said. “Employers have a responsibility to collaborate with workers through health and safety committees: to develop and review safety plans, communicate those plans and make sure workers have the resources and training they need,” he said.
“Health and safety committees are the backbone of safe workplaces, and joint committees and worker representatives are required in most workplaces in BC. Workers are in the best position to identify hazards, conduct risk assessments and put solutions into practice. Effective plans are built on joint participation and strong communication.”
And finally, he said, the public has a responsibility too. “Failing to follow health orders both at home and when shopping and accessing services in their community puts workers at risk,” he said. "Everyone should be maintaining the appropriate physical distance and wearing masks when appropriate. Workplace rules are there to protect workers and to help keep us all safe. They must be respected.”
Eight months into this pandemic, everyone is feeling the strain, Cronk said. "We are very concerned about the risk of occupational disease, but we’re also seeing an increase in mental health injuries — both in the traditional workplace and among those working from home. Government, the PHO, WCB and employers have a crucial role in providing services and supports for workers who may be experiencing mental health conditions.
“We’ll only be successful in overcoming this pandemic when we all work together.”
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) Election-night returns show a strong likelihood of a clear majority mandate for Premier John Horgan and the BC NDP — which would be great news for working people, BCFED President Laird Cronk said this morning.
“We still don’t have the final result, but all the signs are tremendously encouraging. If these results hold, we can look forward to a stable majority government with a solid record of achievement for working people,” Cronk said.
Cronk offered his congratulations to John Horgan and the BC NDP on a strong, well-run campaign and a compelling platform. “British Columbians had a very clear choice in this election: go back to an economy that was leaving too many people behind, or build a future for all. And all indications show they’ve chosen to move forward toward a better, fairer province.”
Cronk recognized the results aren’t final, citing the need to respect the hundreds of thousands of mail-in votes that have yet to be tallied.
“We won’t know the final outcome for another few weeks. But however the composition of the legislature and government ends up looking, we look forward to continuing the hard work of making the progress working people need — especially as we move through this pandemic,” he said.
On behalf of the more than 500,000 members of our affiliate unions, the BC Federation of Labour calls upon the federal government to take immediate action to protect Mi’kmaq fishers from the violent, racist attacks that they have endured at the hands of non-Indigenous commercial fishers.
The treaty rights of the Mi’kmaq fishers to a moderate livelihood have been upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada. Our federal government is bound by law to enforce those rights, including preventing further violence and restoring peace for Indigenous fishers.
Reports of the RCMP’s failure to protect Mi’kmaq fishers are unacceptable and exemplify the kinds of systemic racism faced by Indigenous rights bearers in Canada. We call upon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet to rectify this gross injustice without delay.
The BCFED and the labour movement across Canada stand with the Mi’kmaq fishers in their pursuit of justice, dignity and respect. The federal government must uphold treaty rights and the rule of law — in the immediate term by enforcing the peace and avoiding further violence, and through good-faith negotiations with the Sipekne’katik First Nation to reach a durable resolution to the dispute over the lobster fishery.
Ultimately, a lasting solution relies on respect and justice. We reiterate our call on the federal government to urgently heed the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and ensure full respect for the rights of all Indigenous peoples.
W. Laird Cronk, President
Sussanne Skidmore, Secretary-Treasurer
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."