(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) The BC Federation of Labour welcomed today’s announcement that the BC government has improved regulations to ensure workers have job-protected leave to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
“With COVID-19 infections rising sharply, we are at a pivotal moment in BC. Ensuring all workers are vaccinated is critical to overcoming the surging pandemic,” said BCFED Secretary-Treasurer Sussanne Skidmore today. “But while job-protected leave is crucial, many workers can’t afford to take that time off if it means losing wages.”
She called on the government to move quickly so workers don’t lose pay for the work they miss while getting their vaccine. Skidmore noted that the Saskatchewan government recently introduced provisions allowing workers up to three hours of paid time off so they can get vaccinated against the virus.
“British Columbians have seen what Saskatchewan is doing, and we’re glad the province is looking for ways to ensure workers don’t have to give up pay to get vaccinated,” she said.
“By removing this barrier we’ll be making it possible for every BC worker to get their COVID-19 shot and collectively help stem this latest surge in the virus and its more dangerous variants.”
Skidmore said ensuring workers can be vaccinated without losing pay is an opportunity for employers to invest in the safety of their workers and their own success — while increasing customer confidence in their businesses and contributing to the greater good of the community.
“The more quickly and easily workers can get immunized, the lower the risk of costly outbreaks and shutdowns,” said Skidmore. “This is an investment in our province’s future.”
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) — The BC Federation of Labour issued the following statement today on the International Transgender Day of Visibility:
Today, on the International Transgender Day of Visibility, we celebrate transgender, non-binary, two-spirit and gender-nonconforming people throughout BC and around the world.
British Columbia’s unions reaffirm that trans rights are human rights. We stand in solidarity with our trans friends, family, coworkers, neighbours, and allies everywhere.
We also recognize that the pandemic has had a harsher impact on those already contending with exclusion, discrimination, prejudice and hate. Solidarity is always important, but never more than today.
People of all gender identities deserve to feel safe in their workplaces, their homes and their communities. We call on BC’s employers to do all they can to speak out against hate and to create safe, welcoming workplaces. And we call on our entire community to ensure workers, especially on the front lines, are protected from anti-trans hate as well as all other forms of hatred.
And to all of our transgender, non-binary, two-spirit and gender-nonconforming friends, please know that we see you, we love you, and we stand with you in solidarity.
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) The Canadian Labour Congress and provincial and territorial federations of labour find Uber's self‑serving proposal for Flexible Work+ dangerous, undermining and offensive to the rights and dignity of workers. The plan, rolled out over the past few weeks, signals the companies’ intention to pressure governments to invent a niche category for app-based employment. Like Proposition 22 in California, Uber now wants to enshrine insecurity and inferior work conditions into Canadian legislation while undermining the right of workers to organize.
The Canadian labour movement stands united with the growing global movement demanding full rights and protections for gig economy workers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us many lessons. It has shown the depth and breadth of precarious work in our country. And it has shone a light on the essential labour delivered by many workers — work that is typically underpaid and undervalued. Grocery store workers, delivery drivers, bike couriers and many others play a critical role in keeping our economy moving and ensuring that we have essential supplies. This work matters, and these workers matter.
Governments have a responsibility to make work better – to provide workers with security, safety and fair pay. Workers are making it clear they want this too. Globally, app-based workers are standing up, overturning misclassification as independent contractors and coming together to improve their working conditions. The recent Supreme Court decision in the UK and similar decisions in Spain and South Korea show us that around the world, the tide is turning towards rights for app-based workers.
Uber is playing hardball politics while attempting to block the movement for fairness and justice for gig economy workers. If Uber wanted to provide its workers with benefits or enhanced training, it could do so right now.
Further, workers drawn to Uber and other app-based employment by the promise of flexibility find they are left at the mercy of swings in consumer demands and algorithms that determine when they should work and how much they will earn. They have little to no protection or recourse from arbitrary deactivation or changes in the terms and conditions of their work. Many workers report their pay has steadily declined, and during the pandemic, they experience working conditions that endanger their safety.
App-based workers should have the same full protections and employment rights as other workers. They must also have the fundamental right to organize and bargain collectively. There is too much at stake for us to get this wrong. Worker rights are about more than just individuals; they are the foundation of many of our most important social programs. The Canada Pension Plan, the Quebec Pension Plan and Employment Insurance rely on the participation of workers and employers. It’s a commitment to our economic security while at work and in retirement. The rights of gig workers are entwined with all of us.
We call on the provincial, territorial and federal governments to protect gig and app based workers by:
Applying employment standards universally and eliminating exceptions and special categories that restrict worker rights;
Proactively addressing the misclassification of workers as independent contractors and reversing the legal onus so employers must prove a worker is not an employee and is truly an independent contractor; and
Ensuring all workers have the right to organize into a union should they choose and making that right meaningful by addressing barriers to organizing.
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) The BCFED released the following statement on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination:
Sixty-one years ago today, police officers in Sharpeville, South Africa opened fire on a crowd peacefully protesting apartheid laws, killing 69 people. Since 1979, we have marked the anniversary of that massacre with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, a day to recommit ourselves to eradicating the profound injustice of racism and rectifying its violent, painful legacy.
This day has particular resonance for Canadians, knowing as we do that much of the apartheid system mirrors the historical treatment of Indigenous peoples. And it reminds us that the end of legal structures of racism and colonialism isn’t enough. We celebrate real progress such as the passage of the B.C. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, and support the work of Rachna Singh, B.C.’s first Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives. We recognize as well that Indigenous, Black and People of Colour have for far too long carried the burden of anti-racism work. The pandemic has exposed the virus of racism as a force of violence and brutality. The work of anti-racism and decolonialization is far from done, and demands our unceasing commitment.
This day is also a reminder that the resistance to that work can be brutal and sometimes lethal — from the violence that Indigenous people, Black people and people of colour experience from police, to the recent surge in hateful attacks on members of the Asian community. The labour movement must do all we can to defend those facing hate and racist violence.
Our recovery from this pandemic must include everyone, and that we rebuild our economy on a foundation of intersectional equity and justice. We are especially inspired by the guidance of Indigenous leaders who have stressed the importance of building community in all we do. As the pandemic has shown us yet again, our well-being truly is collective; an injury to one is an injury to all. We aren’t free until all of us are free; we aren’t safe until all of us are safe; and there is no justice until there is justice for all of us.
Let’s take the energy we’ve harnessed in fighting back the COVID pandemic, and channel it into fighting the pandemic of racism — from individual acts of hatred to the institutional systemic racism too many must endure. The BC Federation of Labour stands in solidarity with all who are part of that fight, and who endeavour to eradicate racism once and for all.
by Laird Cronk and Sussanne Skidmore
There are many measures we’ve taken as a province and a country to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19: Physical distancing, mask mandates and more.
But there’s one measure we could be taking that would get us through this pandemic with fewer cases and a lower toll. What’s more, it would make our community and our economy stronger in the face of everyday infectious diseases as well as future pandemics.
That measure is paid sick leave for every worker.
Right now, over half the workers in B.C. have no paid sick leave at all; if they miss a day’s work, they lose a day’s pay. When they wake up feeling sick, they face an impossible choice between staying home and paying the bills.
That dilemma isn’t just a personal one. When we penalize sick workers for staying home, the result is more — and more severe — workplace outbreaks.
The new federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, introduced last fall, is a stop-gap measure that certainly helps, but falls far short of what workers need. And while that hasn’t stopped some conservative premiers from using it as an excuse not to bring in true paid sick leave, the gaps are glaring.
The federal sick benefit doesn’t replace a worker’s full wages; the maximum amount works out to less than the equivalent of a full-time minimum wage. It’s only for COVID-related leave, and it ends when the pandemic does. If you’re away for less than half a week, you get nothing. And when you do claim it, you must absorb the lost pay and wait to find out if you’ll be reimbursed.
No wonder there’s so much momentum for universal paid sick leave building across the country. In B.C. alone, our polling has consistently shown three-quarters of the population supports it. Vancouver’s city council voted unanimously last month in favour of paid sick leave, and the mayors of Ontario’s 29 largest cities have said it “is needed immediately as a measure to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of essential workers.” And last month, every provincial and territorial federation of labour released a united statement calling for paid sick leave for every worker throughout Canada.
Once paid sick leave is in place, we’ll all come out ahead: Governments will see lower health costs, and our communities will benefit from a healthier, safer population. Employers will also benefit from paid sick leave with higher productivity, fewer days lost to employee sickness and higher customer confidence in their own safety — not to mention the reduced likelihood of an outbreak triggering a shutdown. And labour’s call for paid sick leave includes a provision for initial financial support from government to lend a hand to employers that are still struggling from the pandemic.
The benefits from paid sick leave go beyond COVID-19. It helps prevent the spread of all infectious diseases, from the common cold to seasonal flu — including its deadlier variants. And we’re far better protected from future pandemics when workplaces serve not as microbial incubators but firebreaks.Since the pandemic began, British Columbia has consistently led Canada with steps to ensure workers are at the forefront of our response — from being early out of the gate with job-protected sick leave to financial support and rent protections for laid-off workers and presumptive workers’ compensation coverage for COVID-19. Our country continues looking to B.C. as the leader in protecting workers, and this is the time for our province to once again rise to that challenge.
But we need to act now. While the vaccine rollout is in its early stages, the pandemic isn’t done with us yet. With contagious new variants on the rise and the clock ticking on vaccine deliveries, it’s urgent that we move now so we don’t lose ground on the progress we’ve made. You can learn more and add your voice at FutureForAll.ca.
This has been a difficult year for businesses, communities, families and workers alike. We’ve all paid a heavy price in this pandemic. But by bringing in paid sick leave coverage for every worker, B.C. has an opportunity to ensure a legacy that lasts long after the last dose of vaccine is administered.
Rental relief needed, renters require continued support through the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has passed its one-year anniversary, and its devastating economic impact is still far from over. Working people continue to shoulder an enormous burden, with job loss and uncertainty disproportionately affecting women, IBPOC people and those holding low-paying and precarious jobs.
Renters are especially vulnerable. Thousands of British Columbians have missed some or all of their rental payments — and with no immediate prospect for continued income, their housing is on the line.
Further to a recently-passed convention resolution, the BC Federation of Labour endorses the Vancouver Tenants Union’s No Rent Debt petition which asks for ongoing supports for renters during this crucial time. No Rent Debt asks for reinstatement of the eviction ban, cancellation of existing eviction notices and forgiveness of accrued rent-debt.
Last year, the provincial government responded to the crisis through a ban on evictions which has now ended, and they extended the rental increase freeze until July 2021 as a measure to support renters through COVID-19. With so many renters still facing economic uncertainty, continued support is essential and we encourage the government to address these issues. Additionally, if you are looking for support, we encourage you to add your voice to the petition here.
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) Sussanne Skidmore, secretary-treasurer of the BC Federation of Labour, released the following statement today on International Women’s Day:
Today, all over the world, we celebrate the accomplishments and progress of women. We acknowledge the courageous work being done by so many in the struggle for justice and equality. And we rededicate ourselves to the work of true gender equity, as we recognize the long road still ahead of us.
This pandemic has both exposed and deepened inequities for women, gender-diverse individuals, Indigenous, Black and other people of colour, and people with disabilities. Many of them have been on the front lines, getting us through this pandemic even while they were among those most exposed to its dangers. Thousands of others saw their jobs disappear almost overnight. And with the disruption of schools and child care, countless families were left balancing work and child care — a responsibility that fell overwhelmingly to women.
It’s clear we need to do more to support women through this pandemic. Perhaps even more important, as our province reopens and recovers, we must make the very most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a province that truly upholds our values of equity and justice.
Last year, we crafted a course for recovery charted through an intersectional gender equity lens. It includes specific actions that range from pay equity legislation and an anti-racism strategy to additional investments in childcare and support for programs that lift up women and other underrepresented groups in the workplace.
That’s a start. But no recovery can really succeed without far more representative participation in the rooms where decisions are discussed and made. That means including women – and particularly Indigenous women, Black women and women of colour – and gender-diverse people at decision-making tables in all levels of government and within our organizations.
And for those of us in the labour movement, even as we celebrate the remarkable progress we’ve made in recent years, we embrace our responsibility not to close the door behind us — but to open it wider. To claim power so we can share it. To make this movement bigger and broader by opening it to all who share a commitment to justice and equality.
To all who share that commitment, here in British Columbia and around the world, a very happy International Women’s Day.
Joint Statement by Canada’s Provincial and Territorial Federations of Labour:
In advance of the federal, provincial and territorial labour ministers’ meeting, provincial and territorial federations of labour are united in demanding that provincial and territorial governments guarantee seamless access to universal, permanent and adequate employer-provided sick days for all workers.
More than half of all Canadian workers have no access to paid sick leave. When they’re sick, they face an impossible choice between making ends meet and staying home to protect public health and get better. It’s a decision nobody should have to make.
Workplace outbreaks and transmissions during the COVID-19 pandemic have made it clear that paid sick leave is critical to protecting public health. Yet the gaps in coverage are huge, especially among low-wage workers. There’s an urgent need for immediate government action — especially with new, highly-contagious variants now spreading through our population.
It’s a public health imperative that sick workers stay home from work, and not just during the pandemic. Illnesses like influenza cause thousands of hospitalizations and deaths in Canada every year. By curbing the spread of infectious diseases, employer-provided sick days would protect public health while increasing workplace productivity, offering more stable income for workers and reducing health costs for governments.
The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit is a small step forward, but it falls far short of what is needed. It’s temporary by design and restricted to COVID-related illness. It interrupts workers’ income, making them apply and then wait for the benefit to arrive. And the benefit itself only replaces a fraction of lost pay for many workers. While this new benefit helps, it isn’t universal and permanent paid sick leave.
Initially, some level of government support may be needed to offset costs for small and medium-sized businesses that have been severely affected by the pandemic. But the ultimate goal, in every province and territory, must be to ensure that every worker knows that when they are sick, they will not pay a financial penalty for doing the right thing and staying home to protect public health.
Public support for employer-provided sick days is strong throughout Canada. The need has never been more apparent or more urgent. We call on Canada’s labour ministers to prioritize the implementation of universal, permanent and adequate employer-provided paid sick leave for all workers now.
This joint statement is being distributed on behalf the Alberta Federation of Labour, British Columbia Federation of Labour, Manitoba Federation of Labour, New Brunswick Federation of Labour, Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, Ontario Federation of Labour, Prince Edward Island Federation of Labour, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and Yukon Federation of Labour.
This annual memorial honours Amarjit Kaur Bal, Sukhvinder Kaur Punia, and Sarabjit Kaur Sidhu, the three farmworkers killed on the morning of March 7, 2007, while being transported to work in an overloaded passenger van. This ceremony also honours all farmworkers in recognition of the important work they do and their ongoing struggle for dignity and safety.
While we can't gather at the Golden Tree Farmworkers' Monument as we have in past years, we will still join in remembrance here for a virtual video ceremony at 1:00 pm on Sunday, March 7:
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) — The British Columbia Federation of Labour released the following statement today:
Our province’s labour movement joins British Columbians everywhere mourning the death of Charan Gill. We will always remember his courage, warmth and compassion, along with his lifelong commitment to justice.
Co-founding the Canadian Farmworkers Union took extraordinary courage, vision and an unshakeable belief in the power of people working together for a greater good. He, Raj Chouhan and the farmworkers they organized stood their ground against bitter opposition from wealthy, powerful forces. They prevailed, dramatically improving the laws and working conditions governing farm work in our province.
That same bravery allowed Charan to stand up to neo-Nazis and the KKK, stemming their growth here with the creation of the British Columbia Organization to Fight Racism. And his faith in collective action led him to found what has become the Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society, an invaluable lifeline for the South Asian community, new immigrants, seniors, farmworkers, women and at-risk youth to this day.
We feel Charan’s absence especially keenly with the approach of the annual Golden Tree memorial ceremony next month. He was instrumental in winning stronger safety rules in the aftermath of the terrible accident that claimed the lives of three farmworkers, and he has played a prominent role in every one of these memorials. That he won’t attend this one simply feels impossible.
Countless thousands of British Columbians are living better, happier lives today because of Charan Gill. Nobody has done more to embody the value of solidarity. He changed our province for the better, and we will always be grateful. Now Charan will be with us all in spirit.
To Charan’s family, our deepest condolences on your loss. We grieve with you, and we offer our profound appreciation for sharing him with us all for these many years.