Sussanne Skidmore, Secretary Treasurer of the BC Federation of Labour (BCFED) issued the following statement:
“The current health crisis has revealed how undervalued certain critical work has been in our society. I want to start off by thanking the workers on the farms throughout BC for continuing to grow, harvest and process the food that we all need to eat during this pandemic. We are incredibly thankful to these workers, as well as the workers in grocery stores, and those performing all other critical service work, who are on the frontlines of this crisis.
The BCFED is aware of many reports from racialized communities about racism experienced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The only way to address the pandemic is through collective solidarity. We are committed to supporting racialized workers and ask that we all take the necessary steps to address racism and disrupt racist acts in order to protect racialized workers. Indeed, all British Columbians must stand up against racist comments and acts of violence toward people based on their perceived ethnicity.
During this time, it is important for British Columbians to remain calm, remain safe, and act in solidarity with one another. COVID-19 is not a reason to be racist toward any group of people, no matter where they may be from, or where their ancestors are from.
The BCFED continues to advocate for all workers in BC, especially those most severely impacted by this pandemic. We are calling upon federal and provincial governments to ensure that the most vulnerable workers in this province and across the country are not forgotten as measures to alleviate the economic security of workers are taken. One of the groups that is doing great work on this issue is the Migrant Rights Network. Their calls to action to support migrant workers can be found here.
We cannot and will not let this health crisis be used to divide, or to stigmatize and discriminate against any group. We encourage you to explore the resources available to interrupt racism and to mitigate your own biases on the BCFED equity page."
(Coast Salish territory, Vancouver BC) - The provincial response to the COVID-19 crisis includes important supports and protections for workers advocated by the BC Federation of Labour (BCFED).
Yesterday, the BC government legislated unlimited protected leave for workers who are quarantined, self-isolating, or caring for loved ones amidst the pandemic. BC also announced income supports—a $1,000 tax-free Emergency Benefit for Workers, and an increase to the Climate Action Tax Credit—that will help supplement a patchwork of federal programs.
“Protected sick leave throughout this health crisis will allow every worker to follow public health advice as we collectively flatten the curve,” said BCFED President Laird Cronk. “We are encouraged BC put forward this package as an important first step, recognizing supports needed for workers will surely evolve.” As part of its response, the BC government legislated three days of unpaid protected sick leave that will persist beyond the current health crisis.
The BCFED continues to call for proactive guidance from government and WorkSafeBC towards employers on their duties and obligations to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission and keep workplaces safe. This includes highlighting the right of workers to refuse unsafe work, developing exposure control plans, increasing WCB safety inspections, and allowing workers to work from home as much as possible. Employment Standards Branch enforcement is also critical at this time.
Government financial supports need to be timely and must reach those most in need. The BCFED continues to call on government to prevent evictions and mortgage foreclosures in BC due to COVID-19. Further, the $1.7 billion earmarked for critical services and supports should flow immediately, particularly to help those with barriers to housing and health services, and to strengthen social and disability assistance programs.
COVID-19 has highlighted glaring gaps in both federal and provincial safety nets. “The pandemic has demonstrated the need for robust worker rights and broad protections in a changing economy,” added Cronk. “More poignantly, it has revealed how undervalued certain critical work has been in our society. The myth that lower-wage workers—whether in grocery stores, food delivery, or the care sector— performed work of less value, has now been exposed.”
Understand your rights, and get the information and supports you need.
It is an overwhelming time. To help workers focus on the public health situation, the BCFED will be updating this post with resources and links to understand your rights, and get the information and supports you need.
- The BC government has announced the BC COVID-19 Action Plan in response to the pandemic.
- The provincial health officer has issued a number of industry specific guidance documents to provide clarity on what is expected from employers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, documents were issued for the retail food and grocery sector and industrial work camps. You can view all of the documents in one place here
- BC government announces measures intended to support renters and landlords.
- Vancity Credit Union, the Vancouver Foundation, and the United Way have launched a Community Respond Fund to support non-profits providing services to those most in need.
- ICBC allows payment deferrals during COVID-19 pandemic.
- Vancity Credit Union offers mortgage payment deferrals, payment flexibility, and other supports during COVID-19 pandemic.
- Community Savings Credit Union offers financial support package for workers impacted by COVID-19
- Coastal Community Credit Union offers financial relief program to those impacted by COVID-19
- The BCCDC has established health guidelines for retail food and grocery stores in response to pandemic.
- The governments of BC and Canada have compiled information on the publicly available provincial and federal programs for temporary foreign workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Emergency Program Act
BC government increases its powers by invoking the Emergency Program Act
Employment Insurance, Sick Pay, and Other Benefits
We know that with social distancing and widespread closing of organizations and businesses, thousands of workers are seeing their income vanish. There are some resources available to help you make ends meet.
- Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Provides $2000/month for up to four months to workers who have lost their job, are still employed but not earning income, are sick or quarantined, must care for someone who is sick or quarantined, or must care for a child. Workers whom are employees, the self-employed, and contract workers are all eligible. The CERB does not negate EI benefits. Applications will be open in early April.
- Application for federal Employment Insurance during COVID-19 Outbreak
- Summary of applying for EI process in BC
- BC Hydro Customer Crisis Fund available for anyone struggling to pay utilities bills during this crisis.
- Translink has suspended fare collection on buses to support social distancing
- An exhaustive list of supports compiled by the Broadbent Institute
- A how-to guide to all of the available government support programs, by Professor Jennifer Robson
Know Your Rights at Work
If you are working, your employer is required to provide you with a safe work environment. Here is some information about workplace health and safety rules as they apply to the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Occupational health and safety resource for COVID-19, from the BCFED Health & Safety Centre
- Your rights during the COVID-19 pandemic, from the Retail Action Network
- WCB Information on COVID-19 and Workers' Rights
- Section G3.12 of the Occupational Health and Safety guidelines guaranteeing the right to refuse unsafe work.
- Moore Edgar Lyster has compiled information to help BC workers navigate layoffs, termination, and serve range pay
For more general information about the COVID-19 outbreak, the government's response, and guidelines for guarding your own health, access one of the resources below, or call the dedicated government hotline.
Other Federal Supports
Unions are mobilizing to advocate on behalf of their members, and all workers. We will continue to update this with the latest activities of our affiliates.
- BCGEU is calling for suspension of rent and mortgage payments for workers impacted by the crisis.
- BCGEU has put together a step-by-step guide for applying for EI.
- UFCW is calling for increased health and income protections for the grocery store and pharmacy workers.
- UFCW sent an urgent letter to BC Minister of Labour Bains calling for several emergency actions to protect grocery and pharmacy store workers.
- UNITE HERE Local 40 has compiled information for workers applying for EI.
- HEU is keeping an up-to-date list of essential information for workers in the health care sector.
- HSA has also compiled crucial information worker health care sector workers, and has set up a dedicated email address and phone line to answer questions.
- Canadian Labour Congress calls for 14 days of paid and job-protected sick leave for all workers.
- Canadian Labour Congress calls on banks to grant credit relief and lower interest rates on credit cards.
- The Vancouver & District Labour Council has also put together a list of helpful resources
- Vancouver District and Labour Council calls on government to protect front-line workers
Please note that due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the 2020 Day of Mourning Vancouver event has been cancelled.
Please see this announcement for more information.
(Coast Salish territory; Vancouver, BC) - As rent and mortgage payments come due at the end of the month, the BC Federation of Labour (BCFED) is calling on all levels of government to co-ordinate and prevent evictions and mortgage foreclosures to ensure no one is removed from their homes in BC due to the COVID-19 crisis. In addition, BCFED is advocating that Canada follow the lead of other jurisdictions including France and consider rent and mortgage relief, at least until access to income supports and employment insurance can be accessed.
“People are worried about making rent or mortgage payments, about keeping their homes, the last thing we need is folks facing eviction” said BCFED President, Laird Cronk. “We have the fiscal resources and moral obligation to take these pressing economic realities off the table, and allow people to focus on social distancing during this public health emergency.”
The federal government recently announced a package of measures to ensure the economic security of workers, many of which respond to the needs outlined by BC’s labour movement. It is yet unclear whether Service Canada will get the resources they badly need to help smoothly administer access to Employment Insurance and other supports as the need grows.
BCFED is now asking the province to move quickly to fill in key gaps and ensure this crisis doesn’t exacerbate existing inequities. “We are encouraged that BC will be legislating job protection for workers who take sick leave”, added Laird. “BC now has the opportunity to supplement the federal programs and income supports with bold investments.” The BCFED also sees an opportunity to strengthen vital public services, especially for those already experiencing poverty and homeless.
BCFED continues to call for proactive guidance from government and WorkSafeBC towards employers on their duties and obligations to perform risk assessments and keep workplaces safe during a pandemic. This includes highlighting the right of workers to refuse unsafe work, the need for exposure control plans, increasing WCB safety inspections, and allowing workers to work from home as much as possible.
Jonathan Sas | Communications Director
604-861-4321 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Laird Cronk, President of the BC Federation of Labour (BCFED), issued the following statement for COVID-19
The BC Federation of Labour (BCFED) is moving towards the closure of our Vancouver-based office as soon as practicable to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but our advocacy on behalf of the working people of British Columbia continues unabated.
As an employer, the health, safety and well-being of BCFED staff, friends, family and neighbours are a priority. Effective immediately, we are preparing for all BCFED staff to work from home for the next several weeks.
The BCFED’s advocacy on behalf of the working people of British Columbia continues, however. In this time of public health and economic crisis, we are more determined than ever to make sure that government puts measures in place to protect the health and livelihood of the workers that built our province.
Finally, the BCFED wants to thank and recognize all the workers – whether in a union or not – who are on the front lines of the pandemic response. Thank you especially to our health care workers and community-based social service teams working to keep us all safe.
(Coast Salish territory; Vancouver, BC): As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts and shuts down BC’s economy, the labour movement is calling on the provincial and federal governments to move urgently to guarantee paid, protected sick leave and other income supports for all workers.
The BCFED is outlining five concrete actions needed immediately to ensure workers can follow public health advice and have the necessary supports to meet their needs, as the economic pressures on workers increase.
“Paid sick leave, and other income supports to workers, will help slow the spread of infection,” said Laird Cronk, President of the BCFED. “The pandemic can exacerbate existing inequities. But it doesn’t need to. Our collective response needs to take the untenable choice of working sick to pay the bills off the table for any worker.”
To support workers, the BCFED is specifically calling for:
- Legislated changes to the Employment Standards Act to secure immediate and retroactive job protection for workers who take sick leave, including workers that self-isolate, or are quarantined;
- Provision of paid sick leave for all workers, including part-time and casual workers, temporary foreign workers and migrant workers, throughout the duration of isolation or quarantine;
- Access to income supports/transfers for workers that fall outside of current definitions of employees, including independent contractors and the self-employed;
- Immediate waiving of any requirement for doctor’s notes for any worker;
- Enhancement of Employment Insurance (EI) benefits during the crisis to at least 75% of insurable income, reduction of barriers to access EI, and allocation of extra support staff at Service Canada to help smoothly administer the access to EI.
The BC Federation of Labour (BCFED) called for initial measures to support workers on March 9th. COVID-19 has brought to light serious gaps in the adequacy of sick leave benefits in BC and highlights the need for substantial reforms when the health crisis is behind us.
The BCFED continues to call for proactive guidance from government to employers on their duties and obligations to perform risk assessments and keep workplaces safe. This includes highlighting the right of workers to refuse unsafe work, the need for exposure control plans, and allowing workers to work from home as much as possible.
“Without bold investments to support workers, the economic impacts of this situation could be far-reaching and damaging,” added Cronk. “Investments in workers’ economic security will be pennies on the dollar for government should this pandemic lead to a sharp economic downturn.”
Jonathan Sas | Communications Director
604-861-4321 | email@example.com
The BCFED supports the advocacy of other labour and progressive organizations for further health and safety, social and economic policy measures during this crisis. Below is a list of key resources:
• BCGEU Calls for Suspension of Rent and Mortgage Payments for Sick/Self-Isolating Workers
• Migrant Rights Network Calls for Secure Healthcare and Labour Protections for Migrant Workers
• Canadian Labour Congress Urges Sweeping Supports for Workers
• Health Sciences Association- Information for Health Care Workers
• Health Employees Union Updates on COVID-19
• Know Your Rights at Work - UFCW 1518 COVID-19 Update
(Coast Salish territory; Vancouver, BC) The BC Federation of Labour (BCFED) is calling on provincial and federal governments to act now to ensure workers can adhere to public health advice around the coronavirus, without lost pay or the fear of losing their jobs. While BC’s response to the virus has been hailed for its thoroughness from a public health perspective, the recommended 14-day self-isolation has brought to light serious concerns for workers and their families.
“Workers should not have to choose between their health and their ability to keep their jobs and pay their bills,” said Laird Cronk, President of the BC Federation of Labour. “Ensuring paid and protected sick leave during a pandemic is an immediate and practical step governments can take to protect public health, limit the spread of infection, and remove an untenable choice for workers.”
Paid sick leave is not currently covered by the Employment Standards Act in BC, leaving many workers— including part-time and casual workers—in a precarious situation. All workers, including independent contractors and the self-employed, are facing economic pressures, not only in situations of illness or self isolation, but also with reduced work shifts, business closures and layoffs due to the impacts of the virus.
Due to the extraordinary circumstances, the BCFED is urging government to be proactive and issue guidance to employers on their duties and obligations to perform risk assessments and keep workplaces safe. This includes highlighting the right of workers to refuse unsafe work and considering waiving the need for a doctor’ notes to access leave to help limit the spread of infection.
The BCFED is also calling on the federal government to waive the one week waiting period for access to Employment Insurance for those who have lost their jobs due to the illness, and to consider other income support options depending on the scale of the spread of the virus.
“Paid and protected sick leave is not some luxury benefit. It’s an essential public health priority” added Cronk. “Let’s make sure our response to this virus doesn’t exacerbate economic insecurity”
Jonathan Sas | Communications Director
604-861-4321 | firstname.lastname@example.org