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Updated: 1 day 13 hours ago

Injured Workers’ Day Highlights Need for Improved Compensation System

Fri, 05/31/2013 - 15:42

Vancouver, BC – The B.C. Federation of Labour is marking June 1st as Injured Workers’ Day with a renewed call for improvements to BC’s workers’ compensation system and a restoration of benefits for injured workers, Federation President Jim Sinclair said today.

The B.C. Federation of Labour and its affiliates recognize June 1, 2013 as Injured Workers’ Day in BC – a day to fight in solidarity with injured workers for the restoration of dignity, respect and justice for injured workers.

 “Workers’ Compensation Boards across Canada have buckled to corporate pressure to cut benefits and compensation in order to lower premiums,” said Sinclair.  “These one-sided changes leave injured workers without adequate coverage of the principles of the historic compromise agreed to by labour and business 100 years ago.” 

Sinclair said that government has a responsibility to ensure that the workers’ compensation system provides full compensation for all workers injured, made sick and disabled at work, including full cost of living protection, real jobs and job security, or a pension for life if workplace injuries or disease result in a permanent, lifetime disability.

To renew BC’s workers’ compensation system, the B.C. Federation of Labour is urging the BC government to:

  • Re-establish equity on the WCB Board of Directors;
  • Re-establish the WCB mandate to “make injured workers whole,” i.e., provide full compensation;
  • Provide lifetime pensions to those with permanent, lifetime disabilities; and
  • Re-establish vocational rehabilitation benefits that meet the needs of injured workers by improving both their employment qualifications and options for employment and thus improving their quality of life.

Injured Workers’ Day commemorates the events of June 1, 1983, when over three thousand Ontario injured workers, family members and advocates traveled to Queen’s Park to oppose the Ontario government’s proposal to eliminate the permanent disability pension.  The Ontario government retracted its proposal as a result of the outcry from injured workers on this day.

Categories: Labour News

Rally to Support HEU Members

Tue, 05/28/2013 - 16:33

Rally to Support HEU members bargaining for a fair contract with hospital service companies. (Image only)

Categories: Labour News

RBC Responds to Union Concerns on Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) and Offshoring

Fri, 05/24/2013 - 09:16

The B.C. Federation of Labour welcomed today’s announcement from Gord Nixon, CEO of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), that committed RBC to restricting the use of TFWs and restricting the offshoring of Canadian jobs.

“RBC has recognized that Canadians expect Canada’s banks to provide good, family-supporting jobs, in Canada,” said B.C. Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair. “RBC’s new policy restricting the use of foreign workers is a direct result of action taken by BC’s labour movement to protect Canadian jobs.”

Following media revelations earlier this year that RBC was outsourcing work to a supplier hiring TFWs, BC’s labour movement threatened to withdraw more than $5 billion in union and pension funds on deposit with the bank.

In a press release issued today, RBC announced key policies to ensure Canadians are hired for work with the Bank and its major suppliers:

The bank and its suppliers “will not hire foreign workers from outside of Canada when performing services on behalf of RBC, where a worker eligible to work in Canada is available and able to perform the service;”

  • RBC will only use the TFW program in limited circumstances to fill senior executive and skilled positions where no Canadians are available; and
  • Offshoring of work will be restricted, and will not be done to capitalize on lower wage costs in other countries.

The Federation will continue discussion with RBC on establishment of an independent monitor to review RBC’s implementation of its new Code of Conduct and further develop policy in this area.

“Canadians, whether through their unions or as individual community members, are prepared to take action to defend local jobs from offshoring and prevent the exploitation of temporary foreign workers,” concluded Sinclair.

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Media Availability with Jim Sinclair:  2:00 pm, today, Friday, May 24 at 1025 West Georgia Street (outside of the RBC)

For more information contact: Michael Gardiner 604-436-7030.

 

Categories: Labour News

HD Mining Court Ruling Puts Temporary Foreign Issue Squarely Back in Government Hands

Tue, 05/21/2013 - 14:02

The B.C. Federation of Labour is calling on the federal and provincial governments for a complete overhaul of the Temporary Foreign Worker program following today’s dismissal of a judicial review challenge of Temporary Foreign Worker permits issued to HD Mining.

“When the court determines, that despite the lack of full disclosure of documentation by the federal government, that the company followed the rules, the only conclusion fair-minded Canadians can make is that the deck has been stacked against Canadian workers by the very governments purporting to represent them,” said Jim Sinclair, President of the B.C. Federation of Labour.

“If the company followed the rules, despite piles of evidence showing not only willing Canadians ready to take these jobs, and evidence the company and the government had no intention of training Canadians for years to come, then clearly the rules do not exist in the interest of Canadian workers,” Sinclair added.

Sinclair noted that unlike other provinces where the provincial government has been a tempering force on the federal government, here in BC, the provincial government was pressing the federal government to expedite the work permits.

Sinclair also noted that recent changes announced by the federal government would have done little to prevent the company’s application to import temporary foreign workers. “While the clarification around language issues may have encouraged more Canadians to apply, the recent changes announced by the Harper government only restore the same conditions under which these mining companies applied for permits in the first place.”

“Whether it’s the Royal Bank, HD Mining, or Tim Horton’s, Canadians want to know that they will have access to these jobs. Canadian also support continued immigration to Canada, not the recipe for exploitation that the Temporary Foreign Worker program has become,” concluded Sinclair.

Sinclair also thanked the Operating Engineers Local 115 and the Construction & Specialized Workers Union (CSWU) Local 1511 for their efforts to bring this case forward and their ongoing work to draw attention to the TFW Program.

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For more information contact: Michael Gardiner 604-436-7030.

Categories: Labour News

POLICY STATEMENT A LEGISLATIVE AGENDA FOR WORKPLACE HEALTH AND SAFETY

Tue, 05/14/2013 - 11:56

Unlike other jurisdictions in Canada, British Columbia has combined its workers’ compensation and occupational health and safety legislation into the Workers’ Compensation Act.

Health and safety issues are addressed in a few sections of the Act while most of the statute pertains to claims issues.  Virtually no worker rights are guaranteed in this province’s legislation.

The B.C. Federation of Labour has identified the need to remedy a number of fundamental weaknesses in the health and safety provisions of the Act.  These include the need to:

  • articulate the purpose of the Act and the mandate of the Workers’ Compensation Board;
  • define the rights and obligations of workers and employers;
  • establish effective protection from discrimination for safety-related activities;
  • ensure education and training requirements are met;
  • introduce protective reassignment of workers;
  • refine the safety incentives in assessment systems; and
  • mandate ongoing regulation review.

At present, our Act is one of the most outdated in the country.  It lags far behind legislative provisions in Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan, as well as many other jurisdictions.  Even within our province, workers in B.C. under the Workers’ Compensation Act enjoy fewer rights in crucial areas than those covered by the B.C. Mines Act.

The Federation believes the B.C. government must introduce substantial changes to the Workers’ Compensation Act in order to ensure B.C. workers enjoy rights equivalent to those enjoyed by others in the country and enshrined in social democratic labour legislation in other parts of the world.

This legislative change is not only necessary to recognize fundamental rights of workers, but is also necessary to give the Workers’ Compensation Board the legal jurisdiction to enact necessary regulations.  Employers are currently challenging some regulatory proposals on the grounds that the Workers’ Compensation Act does not give the Workers’ Compensation Board the mandate to implement them.

We believe it is absolutely essential that a strong, concerted, organized effort be made to convince the people of British Columbia that changes to the Act are necessary.  The changes proposed here will go a long way towards improving the status of worker health and safety in the province,and will directly reduce the cost of injury and occupational disease in our society.

Some key amendments to the Act that must be made are summarized below:

1.         PURPOSE CLAUSE

The stated purpose of the Act should be the promotion of occupational health and safety and the prevention of occupational injury and disease.  It should incorporate the definition of occupational health adopted by Canada on behalf of all provinces as part of the World Health Organization.  It is necessary to articulate this purpose in order to ensure that the Board enacts regulations and policies that not only prevent injury or disease but also promote a healthy and safe work environment.

2.         WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BOARD AUTHORITY AND MANDATE

The Board should be held accountable for its enforcement and prevention activity, and the Act should require the Board enforce all of its regulations.  The mandate and the authority of the WCB needs to be fully articulated.

The statute should also set a standard requiring the Board to provide regulatory protection to workers.  An example of this is in the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) legislation, which states:

“OSHA shall set the standard which most adequately assures, to the extent feasible, on the basis of the best available evidence, that no employee will suffer material impairment of health or functional capacity even if such employee has regular exposure to the hazard by such standard for the period of his working life.”

3.         ONGOING REGULATION REVIEW

The Act should ensure that there is an ongoing review and updating of the occupational health and safety regulations.  The statute should also establish a permanent occupational health and safety consultative body to recommend regulatory changes to the Board, to be brought forward to public hearings.  This amendment will give statutory protection to the Board’s current commitment to ongoing review.

4.         JURISDICTION

All worker health and safety statutes in British Columbia and the jurisdiction to enforce them should be consolidated under the Workers’ Compensation Board.  This includes, among others, responsibility for mines, provincial railroads and industrial camps.  Workers should not be pushed from pillar to post to find an agency to deal with a workplace health problem because of divided jurisdiction among several agencies.  Consolidation of these agencies would be efficient and ensure equal treatment for all workers.

5.         EMPLOYER OBLIGATIONS

Legislation should clearly spell out the employers’ responsibility to exercise due diligence to provide a safe workplace and respond to worker health and safety concerns in a timely manner.

6.         PROTECTION FROM DISCRIMINATION

The Board needs to be empowered to assist any worker who is discriminated against for compliance with the Act or regulations.  Where a worker suffers any form of discrimination as a result of:

  • observing or reporting a hazard to the employer, safety representatives and committees, or the Board,
  • refusing to work in hazardous situations,
  • reporting an injury, making a claim or missing work because of a work-related disability.

The Board must be empowered to order the employer to cease the discrimination, reinstate the employee and pay any lost wages or other expenses incurred by the worker.  Section 14 of the B.C. Mines Act contains similar provisions that could be incorporated into the Workers’ Compensation Act.

7.         RIGHT TO KNOW

Workers must be given the right to know the nature and risk of the hazards they are exposed to in the workplace.  This right must also overrule the protection of intellectual property rights.

8.         RIGHT TO REFUSE UNSAFE WORK

The individual and collective right and obligation to refuse unsafe work must be protected in the statute.  Safety and health representatives should have the right and obligation to stop unsafe work or procedures when they observe them.  Any worker or workers who suffer loss of wages as a result of a work interruption due to unsafe conditions must be reimbursed.

9.         RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE

Workers must be given the right to participate in decision-making about their health and safety.  Committees must be mandated in all workplaces with ten or more employees.  Safety representatives must be required in all other workplaces.  Worker representatives must be selected through their trade union or, where a trade union does not exist, directly elected by all employees.

A worker’s union, as well as worker safety representatives, should have the status of a legal party in regard to any Board proceeding affecting the health of its members.

10.       AUTHORITY OF HEALTH AND SAFETY COMMITTEES

There should be a statutory requirement for the employer to cooperate with the joint health and safety committee.

The committee should be empowered to ensure the employer is in compliance with health and safety regulations.  Regulatory violations would be recorded and the employer notified to remedy the situation without delay.  In the event of a disagreement, the Workers’ Compensation Board Inspector must resolve the issue.

This proposal gives the health and safety committee the authority required for it to play an effective role in the workplace.

The employer must ensure that all time required to carry out health and safety responsibilities by health and safety representatives and committee members is considered as time worked.  These responsibilities include and are not limited to meetings, inspections, accident investigations and completion of required training.

11.       EDUCATION AND TRAINING REQUIREMENTS

Each committee member should be entitled to five working days per annum of educational leave in order to complete health and safety training courses of their choice.  When a member attends a training program conducted or approved by the Board, the employer must not deduct any pay or benefits.  B.C. currently has no requirements for health and safety committee education, making it among the worst in the country.

12.       HEALTH SERVICES AND MEDICAL SURVEILLANCE

The Workers’ Compensation Board should be authorized to require provision of health services to workers.  These health services should be organized according to guidelines developed by the Board and workers’ representatives.  Workers affected must have the freedom to choose to participate or refuse.

It is necessary to protect confidentiality and workers’ rights to privacy when they are involved in medical surveillance programs.  Workers must be able to attend the doctor of his/her choice.  All medical records must remain confidential, with results to the worker.  Records must be maintained by a physician of the worker’s choice and only be released to the employer at the worker’s request.

13.       REQUIREMENT FOR ALTERNATE OR MODIFIED WORK (Protective Reassignment)

Where medical information is provided advising an employer that the worker requires protection from a hazard on his/her job, the worker must have the right to be assigned alternative work with no loss of pay.  If such work is unavailable, the worker should receive wage loss benefits.  These provisions should extend to:

(a)       any worker sensitized to a physical, chemical or biological agent; and

(b)       any pregnant worker.

14.       INJURED WORKERS’ RIGHT TO RETURN TO SAFE WORK

The Workers’ Compensation Board, in consultation with the worker, the worker’s physician and the employer, must be obliged to design and provide vocational rehabilitation programs for injured workers that ensure the worker will not be re-injured or suffer a worsening of disability after he/she returns to work.

15.       FINANCIAL INCENTIVE PROGRAMS

The Workers’ Compensation Act must establish merit-rating programs to encourage employers to reduce injuries and industrial diseases, and to promote vocational rehabilitation of injured workers.  The current method of Experience Rated Assessment based solely on claims costs must be prohibited by the Act.

Assessments of registered employers must fully cover:

  • costs of claims and claims administration by industry class,
  • costs of prevention and enforcement activities for the industry class.

In determining refunds or surcharges to employers within an industry, the Board must consider:

(a)       the diligence and effectiveness of employer health and safety practices and programs in preventing injuries and disease,

(b)       practices and programs in place to help injured workers return to work,

(c)        cooperation of the employer with the health and safety committee, and

(d)       other matters that the Board may consider appropriate.

16.       SUPPLIER RESPONSIBILITIES

There needs to be a provision prohibiting any person from selling, leasing or transferring possession of any equipment device or property for use in the workplace when such equipment device or property is unsafe and does not comply with health and safety regulations.

17.       APPEALS

Workers must have full rights to appeal any orders, directives or decisions from a Board officer regarding compliance with occupational health and safety regulations or penalty assessments, or lack of an order or assessment.  Appeals should be to the Vice-President of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH).  An order, directive or decision of the Vice-President of OSH should be appealed to the Appeal Division of the Board.

18.       PENALTIES

There should be statutory requirements establishing a schedule of minimum penalty assessments and directing the Board to maintain a list of violations requiring automatic penalty levies.  These violations should include but not be limited to:

  • all repeat orders;
  • a failure to establish a health and safety program;
  • a failure to establish a health and safety committee;
  • repeated non-cooperation with health and safety committee;
  • over-exposure of workers to hazardous environments;
  • lock-out violations;
  • any act of discrimination against a worker due to health and safety activity; and
  • other practices deemed immediately dangerous to life and health.

CONCLUSION

Effective health and safety legislation setting out fundamental rights and responsibilities is long overdue in British Columbia.  Without legislated standards and duties, the health and safety of workers will depend on the benevolent exercise of broad discretion by the administration of the Workers’ Compensation Board appointed by the government of the day.

These issues deserve debate in our communities and in the Legislature of the province.  The B.C. Federation of Labour and its affiliates will work to ensure this debate takes place and to establish these rights and responsibilities in the statute.

Adopted in Convention 1994
B.C. Federation of Labour

 

Categories: Labour News

DECLARATION OF FUNDAMENTAL WORKERS’ HEALTH AND SAFETY RIGHTS

Tue, 05/14/2013 - 11:48

Recognizing every citizen enjoys the benefits of the physical and intellectual labour of workers; and

Recognizing the inherent hazard to worker health in every enterprise; and

Recognizing worker health is comprised of physical, psychological and economic well being; and

Recognizing the impact of loss of health and disability on the lives and economic well being of workers and their families; and

Recognizing the past failure of the state to guarantee the civil, social and economic rights of workers and their families to protection against the adverse effects of the harm to worker health caused by work; now

We hereby declare for all to recognize that workers and their families have these fundamental rights that must be guaranteed.

Application and Exercise of Rights

These rights apply to all workers, regardless of industry, sector, the nature of the employment relationship or the personal characteristics of the worker.

No worker shall be deprived of the right to legal action for harm to their health, common to all citizens, without a guarantee of these rights.

Every worker has the right to protection from harassment and discrimination that may result from claiming their right to a healthy workplace, or to compensation for damage to their health.

Prevention Rights

Every worker has the right to know and understand the hazards of their work.

Every worker has the right to individually or collectively refuse to perform or continue to perform work that is likely to cause a disability or significantly threaten the health of any person.

Every worker has the right to participate, directly and through trained representatives, in decisions about the work environment that can affect their health.

Every worker has the right participate, directly and through trained representatives, in activities to promote their health and safety at work, including planning and follow-up to ensure all reasonable precautions to protect their health are taken.

Every worker has the right to reassignment to alternative employment at no loss of pay where continued exposure to a work hazard is likely to cause disability or cause injury to the fetus or child of a worker.

Every worker has the right to timely and effective protection by state agencies to ensure every reasonable action is taken to protect their health from harm caused by work, including effective regulation of workplace hazards and enforcement activities.

Rights to Medical Services

Every worker has the right to immediate treatment for work-related injury and disease.

Every worker has the right to unfettered access to competent occupational health services directed a protecting or restoring their health.

Every worker has the right to advice and treatment from independent medical and health practitioners of their own choice.

Right to Privacy and Security of Person

Every worker has the right to privacy of medical records.

Every worker has the right to privacy of personal information provided to government agencies in the investigation of a complaint or claim.

Every worker has the right to security against all forms of involuntary biological testing.

Rights to Compensation

Every worker has the right to full and complete compensation for loss of income resulting from harm to health caused by work.

Every worker has the right to compensation for additional costs caused by the loss of health.

Every worker has the right to full protection of compensation from the effects of inflation.

Every worker has the right to fair, speedy and complete adjudication of their right to compensation.

Every worker has the right to access to advice and assistance regarding entitlement to compensation.

Every worker has the right to timely and complete access to an independent review of benefit entitlement decisions.

Every spouse dependent on the pension benefits of a permanently disabled worker has the right to compensation for loss of pension income in the event of the workers’ death.

 

 

 

Categories: Labour News

ACTION PLAN RESOLUTION AMENDED TO COVER H-1 TO H-25

Tue, 05/14/2013 - 11:45

WHEREAS the BC Liberal government has betrayed working families by ramming through their draconian legislative and fiscal agenda; and

WHEREAS the BC Liberals’ agenda is destabilizing our province through massive privatization and deregulation, devastating cuts to healthcare, education and critical social programs, regressive tax policies, and inept economic development strategies; and

WHEREAS the BC Liberals’ attack on workers has meant ripping up signed collective agreements, contracting out bargaining unit work, massive layoffs and higher unemployment, as well as the gutting of employment standards, workplace health and safety protection and the right to union representation; and

WHEREAS the most punishing impacts of the BC Liberals’ agenda are disproportionately hurting seniors, women, youth, the disabled, low income earners, First Nations, unorganized workers and rural communities across the province; now

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the B.C. Federation of Labour work with affiliates to intensify our fightback campaign by moving forward with an action plan that targets the following priorities and actions.

To promote and defend workers’ rights to union representation and collective bargaining, fair employment standards, proper health and safety provisions and non-discriminatory action from an employer, the Federation will:

  • Work with affiliates involved in collective bargaining to ensure that coordinated picket action and union-supported economic sanctions are used to win fair settlements at the bargaining table;
  • Launch a major workplace health and safety campaign to fight deregulation of health and safety protections;
  • Organize with provincial youth and student organizations to repeal the retrograde changes to the Employment Standards Act; and
  • Develop, through the Federation’s Organizing Institute, new capacity and strategies amongst affiliates to defeat employer-driven decertification drives, to organize the unorganized and to build solidarity and cooperation between affiliates in new organizing campaigns.
  1. To advance progressive economic alternatives that address rising unemployment and growing economic disparity, especially in rural BC, the Federation will:
  • Work with affiliates and activists, especially from resource-dependent communities, to demand a resolution to the softwood lumber dispute and protection for workers, their families and their community from the tariff;
  • Organize with rural communities to fight the job loss and service cuts that the BC Liberals are imposing on those communities;
  • Expand the work begun at the October 2002 Conference on the Economy to advocate for pro-active strategies to create jobs and more sustainable growth in BC; and
  • Raise the critical economic issues facing BC by taking the debate to the community through a continuing series of educational and policy seminars that bring together union and community activists in the debate on progressive economic alternatives to generate jobs and investment.
  1. To defend public services, Crown corporations and public stewardship of our environment from massive program and budget cuts, privatization, deregulation and contracting out, the Federation will:
  • Organize with community coalitions, Labour Councils and community partners and allies to fight the loss of public programs, services and environmental protection in their community;
  • Expand our campaigns with affiliates and provincial community organizations to fight the government’s privatization agenda including the privatization of BC Hydro, ICBC, BC Rail, BC Ferries, BC Liquor Distribution Branch and BC Highways and other valuable Crown corporations;
  • Hold every Liberal MLA accountable for the policies of their government in attacking public services and public
    assets.  Our actions will include continued lobbying at the constituency level, public forums and accountability sessions at the community level and other political actions; and
  • Expand our education work in the community to increase the public’s understanding of the important role that public services play in building economic, social and regional equality in our province.
  1. To fight for improvements in our public healthcare system and prevent privatization and for-profit service providers from undermining the economic and social benefits that affordable public healthcare provides, the Federation will:
  • Work with the CLC and affiliates on the National Campaign for Public Medicare;
  • Build new community fightback campaigns with seniors’ organizations that pressure the BC Liberals to reverse their regressive policies on Pharmacare, the closure of long-term care facilities and cuts to benefits for seniors.  In addition, this fightback work must press for proper funding of public healthcare programs for seniors;
  • Work with healthcare affiliates to identify economic pressure tactics that can be mobilized to stop healthcare authorities from dismantling public healthcare in BC;
  • Mobilize with supportive community groups to stop the closure of healthcare facilities in their area;
  • Organize affiliates, especially those in the private sector, to have their employers publicly acknowledge that our public healthcare system not only ensures equality of access, but also provides significant economic benefits; and
  • Contribute Federation staff and resources to support the National Campaign for Medicare by providing assistance to the BC Health Coalition and urge all affiliates to help support the important work of this campaign.
  1. To improve the access and quality of our public education system to ensure that education, training and skill development remain a right, not a privilege, the Federation will:
  • Join with the BC Teachers’ Federation in their campaign to promote and protect public education in the K-12 system;
  • Work with affiliates and the BC and Yukon and Building Trades Council to prevent the deregulation of trades training and skills development that employers are pressuring the government to enact;
  • Work with the Canadian Federation of Students to fight for more affordable and accessible post-secondary education; and
  • Work with all education sector affiliates to fight the contracting out and under-funding of education in both the K-12 and post-secondary system.
  1. To advance a viable, single, political alternative that rebuilds a progressive voice for working families in BC, the Federation will:
  • Build on our success in municipal and community elections through support for elected local representatives, who were endorsed locally, to ensure that they advance progressive policies for their community; and
  • Urge all affiliates to support an open and inclusive rebuilding process within the provincial NDP to ensure that a progressive and viable political alternative is able to defeat the BC Liberals in 2005.
  1. To improve union communication efforts at the workplace and community level, the Federation will:
  • Work with affiliates to increase coordination of existing union communication resources and take steps to develop infrastructure for regular print, electronic and web-based communication with our members and allies; and
  • Develop an education program for union and workplace activists that strengthens our two-way communication with our members.
  1. To increase economic pressure on the BC Liberals to slow down, stop and reverse their policies, the Federation will:
  • Develop new tactics including economic sanctions and shareholder activism as well as boycotts and civil disobedience that targets major financial backers of the BC Liberals and holds them accountable for destructive policies;
  • Mobilize support for workplace and community action where the Federation Officers determine that legislative or regulatory change is a direct attack on the interests of all workers.  Our strategy authorizes the Federation Officers to mobilize support for workplace and community action up to and including job action by sector, region or province-wide and/or general strike; and
  • Continue to spearhead support for affiliates that take action to defy the government.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Labour News

BC Liberal government pushed for expedited HD Mining temporary foreign work permits

Thu, 05/09/2013 - 14:24

Vancouver – The controversial Liberal government’s job program came under fire again today after it was revealed in court documents that a senior provincial official was pushing the federal government on a daily basis to “expedite” work permits for 200 miners to come to China-based HD Mining’s coal mine in northern British Columbia.

Internal provincial government briefing notes also document a multi-year strategy of support to bring in temporary foreign workers by the provincial government beginning as early as 2005 when government officials co-ordinated “information sessions for mining companies concerning labour market opinion and work permit processes.”

Evidence of government pressure to approve the work permits for the TFWs came in the form of emails sent between officials in Service Canada’s Regional Edmonton office and local Service Canada staff overseeing HD Mining’s controversial application to bring the miners to British Columbia.

These revelations of provincial involvement come within days of Premier Clark’s denial of involvement by her government in pressing for the permits to be granted. During a CKNW interview, April 22, 2013 when Clark was asked about provincial involvement, she replied, “Those applications are made to the federal government and they adjudicate that. We don’t even in the provincial government see those documents.”

The Service Canada program officer in Edmonton advised a Vancouver officer, William MacLean, working on the  HD Mining TFW file that calls were coming in “daily from the Province of BC” regarding the status of the file and that there was a request the file be “expedited” in April 2012.

BCFED President Jim Sinclair stated, “It is the height of hypocrisy for the government to spend $16 million on advertising a jobs program when senior staff are on the phone to federal officials daily demanding temporary foreign workers be brought to British Columbia to do jobs Canadians can do. It’s appalling in tough economic times the government is spending money training companies to bring in temporary foreign workers but cutting funding for training British Columbians and strangling apprenticeship programs.”

Indeed, briefs related to the HD Mining file were sent from Erin Seeley, Director Program Management and Planning of the Economic Immigration Programs Branch, part of Pat Bell’s Ministry of Jobs, Tourism, and Skills Training to the federal government’s Edmonton program officer, also in April 2012.

“It’s clear all this provincial government pressure to get approval for the foreign miners worked. In April 2012, the federal government granted a Labour Market Opinion that paved the way for the company to bring in 201 miners,” Sinclair said.

In court testimony in late March, 2013, MacLean said the interference from his superior in Edmonton on this issue was out of the ordinary. “I would say that it was unusual to have a manager communicate to me directly other than my own local manager. That was outside my experience…”

“The Clark and Bell denials of involvement ring hollow in the light of these facts — as far back as the trip to China when the duo was lobbied by mining companies around securing work permits,” said Sinclair. “The line of command in bringing temporary foreign workers goes right to the top.”

Documents released April 26 under the Freedom of Information legislation also reveal extensive provincial government involvement in this issue, including a face-to-face meeting in China where Premier Clark and Minister Pat Bell were lobbied directly by the mining companies to help secure the work permits. “PCC mission to China meets mining companies who raise challenges with securing work permits.” (GCP-2013-00043)

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Contact: Jane Armstrong 604-430-1421 Ext. 236.

Categories: Labour News

BCFED Signs onto Loblaw Challenge over Bangladesh Tragedy

Thu, 05/02/2013 - 09:43

A host of organizations including the B.C. Federation of Labour issued a letter May 1, 2013 to Galen Weston, Executive Chairman, Loblaw Companies Ltd., calling on the company to take immediate steps to ensure such tragedies as the garment factory collapse in Bangladesh do not occur in the future.

“We are mourning the tragic deaths in Bangladesh, but we are also issuing a call to action for the living,” said Jim Sinclair, B.C. Federation of Labour President.

“Loblaws’ Joe Fresh clothing was made in that factory, and there needs to be transparent assurances that any compensation to the families must get to them,” said Sinclair, “but just as important, Loblaws and all companies in that garment factory ghetto must sign onto fire and safety programs, must allow freedom for the workers to join unions and negotiate for their working conditions. It is appalling that these workers died making garments for export to Canada. From news reports, the workers entered a condemned building to avoid being fired from a job that paid less than 25 cents an hour.”

A copy of the joint letter to Galen Weston can be found at: http://bit.ly/13PcZVY

A copy of the Press Release from The Maquila Solidarity Network can be found at: http://en.maquilasolidarity.org/node/1125

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Contact:  Jane Armstrong 604-430-1421.

Categories: Labour News

BCFed’s Sinclair calls Harper government changes to Temporary Foreign Worker Program “public window dressing”

Tue, 04/30/2013 - 12:05

B.C. Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair called Stephen Harpers’ announced changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program a clear case of “public window dressing” which will do nothing to protect the jobs of Canadians.

“This Program is fundamentally flawed because it allows employers to undercut the wages and working conditions of Canadians, while at the same time, exploit TFW’s who have no real rights on the job, including the basic right to quit,” he said. “With more than 1.4 million Canadians unemployed, there is no justification to be bringing in low-skilled workers for entry- level jobs.”

The Program which has grown dramatically – close to half a million TFW’s – in the past six years, has become the first choice for employers who are seeking a vulnerable and cheap workforce.

The Program is out of control. The solution is to return it to its original form, a Program limited to short-term, temporary, skilled worker shortages where an employer can demonstrate real need.

“This announcement is about damage control, not about fixing the Program,” he charged, “This government gave groups in British Columbia five minutes each on the phone and called that a review.”

If the need for workers is not short-term, then the proper path to Canada is through immigration where workers can bring their families, spend their money in Canada and have the same rights as other Canadian workers.

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For more information, contact Jane Armstrong at 604-430-1421.

Categories: Labour News

Letter from BC Labour to RBC President Gordon Nixon

Fri, 04/19/2013 - 13:26

Please see attached letter from BC Labour to RBC President Gordon Nixon regarding Temporary Foreign Workers program.

Letter from BC Labour to RBC re TFW Program

Categories: Labour News

You can’t build a strong economy without the skilled workforce you need for today’s world of work.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 11:24

The BC Liberal government loudly trumpeted its success in creating apprenticeships. The problem is, instead of a successful strategy, Liberal policies led to declining opportunities for young people, graduation rates that are at an all time low, and inadequate numbers of graduates to meet the needs of today’s industry or predicted future shortfalls.

The February 2013 BC Throne Speech stated BC currently has “34,000 registered apprentices”, and its election platform and television advertising campaign trumpets 36,000 apprentices, placing an emphasis on women working in trades. But as noted by the Auditor General in an investigation of past government reports on apprenticeship, the government’s numbers are misleading.

The actual numbers relating to apprenticeship, based on the government funded Industry Training Authority’s own performance report statistics, tell a much different story.

• From 2007 to 2012, there have been about 24,000 apprentices officially registered in each year. However, not all registrants are currently working in a job in their apprenticeship program, and some have already abandoned the apprenticeship, but they remain registered in the system.

• In many areas, apprenticeship opportunities have declined. Apprenticeships in many trades – auto mechanics and body repairers, carpenters, plumbers, metal fabricators, machinists, bricklayers, commercial transport mechanics, tool and die makers, cabinet makers – have declined by more than 20 percent in the past 5 years.

• The success rate in completing apprenticeships and obtaining a trade qualification is steadily declining. In 2009/2010, 43 percent of apprentices successfully completed, the following year 40 percent, last year 37 percent and in the first six months of this year, only 35 percent.

• Registered apprenticeship sponsors (employers willing to train apprentices) have dropped from 10,789 in 2009 to 9,093 in November of 2012, a decline of about 16 percent.

• The total number of registered participants in all ITA training programs (which include other programs in addition to apprenticeship) has fallen from 41,803 to 33,503, or almost 20 percent. Youth participants have declined by about one-third over that period.

• Women have made little progress in accessing apprenticeships and the good wages paid to qualified industrial trades people. Apart from cooking apprenticeships, only 2 percent of all other apprentices are female.

• The budget for industry training has only increased by 9.3 percent in the Liberal’s time in office – well below inflation of more than 30 percent over that time – with no increase in the 2013/14 provincial budget.

And most importantly, in the first six months of the 2012/2013 fiscal year, there were only 1,059 new apprentices registered – far fewer than needed to meet demand 4 years from now when their training is completed, especially when 60 percent will not complete their training.

The result is missed opportunities for BC workers to move ahead in their careers, and a BC economy increasingly reliant on importing foreign tradespeople. Instead of rhetoric about success, we need government action that produces real results – and it can be done.

The BC government can improve the outcomes in a number of ways:

• Improving coordination with educators to improve completion rates and support for apprenticeship as a career option;

• Reorganizing the employer-run Industry Training Authority to ensure workers are properly represented;

• Restoring counseling support for apprentices across the Province to improve the rate of apprenticeship completion and actively promote more employer sponsorships;

• Changing the system of financing and subsidizing apprenticeship training to create effective incentives for employers to sponsor apprenticeships throughout the ups and downs of the economy;

• Requiring apprenticeship opportunities in public-funded work, and taking affirmative steps to create apprenticeship opportunities for women; and

• Increasing training capacity to match demand.

It’s time for a government that will work with business and labour to create opportunities for our young people and ensure our workforce is prepared for the economic opportunities and the work of the future.

Authorized by B.C. Federation of Labour, registered sponsor under the Election Act 604-430-1421.

Categories: Labour News

Employee Action & Rights Network Fights to Bring Back Grant’s Law

Fri, 04/12/2013 - 20:00

Vancouver, BC-The Employee Action and Rights network held sit-ins at Mac’s Convenience Stores in Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo beginning at 7:00 April 12th and lasting until 6:00 am Saturday April 13th to stand in solidarity with workers everywhere who have to work alone during late-night hours in retail environments. The events were planned to raise awareness of the changes to the working alone legislation encompassed in Grant’s Law that were implemented on April 15th of last year. The changes state that employers may now have a panic button and a security camera during late night hours instead of abiding by the previous legislation that required employers to have at least two workers on shift or have a barrier in place to protect workers from customers.

These sit-ins, paired with an ongoing public awareness campaign spearheaded by EARN, the B.C. Federation of Labour’s Occupational Health and Safety Committee, and the DePatie family, are designed to prompt government to restore Grant’s Law to its original strength.  Grant’s Law was named after 24-year-old Grant Depatie who was working alone as a gas station attendant and died at work due to a gas and dash incident.

“It’s past time that our government showed a real interest in protecting workers at work, rather than continuing to cater to the requests of businesses such as Mac’s Convenience stores,” says Stephen Von Sychowski, Chairperson of EARN.

EARN activists chose Mac’s Convenience Stores because Mac’s were the most vocal in the lobbying efforts to have the third option added to the working alone legislation in Grant’s Law.  This option allows employers to use a panic button and security camera instead of having two workers on shift or having a barrier in place to protect workers during late night hours.

“I don’t think there’s any parent who can say they would be happy about their child coming home and saying that they got a new job working the graveyard shift at the local gas station alone,” states Jim Sinclair, President of the B.C. Federation of Labour. “If it’s not good enough for your kid or my kid, it’s not good enough for anyone, and we need to fix that.”

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For more information contact Jane Armstrong, 604-430-1421 or Kassandra Cordero, 604-436-7034.

Categories: Labour News

Harper Government Recommits to Temporary Foreign Workers as a Pool of Cheap Labour, Undercuts Canadian Wages

Fri, 03/22/2013 - 14:27

Vancouver, BC—Yesterday’s federal budget promised new language restrictions for employers, but did little to stop employers from using Temporary Foreign Workers as a cheap pool of labour with fewer rights than Canadians, said B.C. Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair.

While Budget 2013 offers vague promises about changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program, it maintains the employer’s ability to pay Temporary Foreign Workers up to 15 percent less than Canadian Workers. “When the Harper government is actively promoting a scheme to allow employers to pay foreign workers less than Canadians, is it any wonder employers are using the program as a first resort and not a last resort,” said Sinclair.

Sinclair noted that one change came in direct response to the labour movement’s challenge of Temporary Foreign Worker permits issued to HD Mining. He said the federal government is promising to introduce restrictions about foreign language requirements used by employers to avoid hiring Canadian workers.  

“Every week, we receive more information about both the exploitation of Temporary Foreign Workers, and at the same time Canadians being displaced from their jobs, so employers can hire cheaper labour,” Sinclair said. “We need a moratorium on the Temporary Foreign Worker program and the Harper government should conduct a full review to ensure the program cannot be abused by employers.” 

Sinclair also raised concerns that 95 Labour Market Opinions and resulting permits have been issued to Canadian Dehua to operate the Gething mine near Hudson’s Hope, BC. “If the Harper government is serious about ensuring the Temporary Foreign Worker is not abused by employers they must launch an immediate investigation into the permits issued to Canadian Dehua,” Sinclair stated. “Unions should not have to rely on the courts to deliver the transparency the federal government now promises.”

 “Every person coming to our country to work deserves the same workplace rights and protections as Canadians, that means reinvesting in our immigration programs, not relying on temporary workers,” added Sinclair. “I’m disappointed the Harper government’s budget does nothing on this front.”

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 For more information contact: Michael Gardiner 604-436-7030

Categories: Labour News

Promised review of Temporary Worker Program fails to deliver as more TFW permits requiring Mandarin language to work in north east mines revealed

Tue, 03/19/2013 - 14:54

Vancouver, BC – On the same day it was revealed that nearly 100 additional TFW permits issued in northern BC relied on a mandarin language requirement, BC labour leaders are criticizing the federal government’s review of the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program as incomplete and inadequate, after participating in the only session planned for BC.

Officials from Human Resources & Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada conducted a 90-minute teleconference call with more than a dozen BC stakeholders. Labour participants on the call received invitations to participate only a few days before the call was to take place. The labour movement was the only, non-employer, non-government organization to be included in the BC consultation.

“Consultation needs to be more meaningful and engage the full breadth of stakeholders, said Jim Sinclair, President of the B.C. Federation of Labour.

“If this exercise is limited to conference calls then the review is a complete sham aimed at placating a concerned Canadian public,” said Stephen Hunt, Western Canada Director of the United Steelworkers. “Every day brings growing evidence the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is not working, and Canadians deserve better from their government.”

BC Building Trades Executive Director Tom Sigurdson noted that not once has an official from HRSDC ever contacted his organization to ask about the availability of local workers, before TFW permits are granted.  “How do they really know if a shortage exists, if they’ve never bothered to ask?”

“British Columbians have been clear; they don’t support the TFW program. Responsible employers agree with the labour movement, immigration not Temporary Foreign Workers, should be used to solve long-term labour shortages,” said Sinclair.

Today’s call comes on the heel of news reports that an additional 95 permits were granted to Canadian Dehua for the Gething coal mine, near Hudson’s Hope, BC, again stipulating a mandarin language requirement. Dehua is one of the original proponents also involved in HD Mining’s Murray River coal mine.

“This is an important test for our federal and provincial governments,” Sinclair stated. “Will they engage in investigating this newest revelation, or are unions forced once again to turn to the judicial system and the public for assistance.”

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For more information contact: Michael Gardiner at 604-436-7030.

Categories: Labour News

Families Unveil Model of Farm Workers’ Monument at Annual Vigil

Sun, 03/10/2013 - 13:59

Abbotsford, BC – Six years after the van accident that took the lives of three farm workers in the Fraser Valley, more needs to be done to make farming safe in our province, B.C. Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair said today at an Abbotsford vigil honouring the women.

The vigil, jointly hosted by the B.C. Federation of Labour, Progressive Intercultural Community Services, Abbotsford Community Services, and the women’s families, included the unveiling of a beautiful model of the monument that will be erected in memory of the women.

“We are overjoyed with this beautiful monument, designed in remembrance of our lost wives and mothers,” said Jagjit Sidhu, husband of deceased worker Sarabjit Sidhu. “It represents our continued struggle to make farm worker safer. We are proud to dedicate this monument to all farm workers in BC.”

Sinclair said the monument would serve as recognition of all women and men who have lost their lives working to put food on our table, and as a lasting reminder of what happens when governments don’t adequately protect these workers.

Mr. Charan Gill CEO of PICS Society, Surrey said, “it is an historical project for farm workers in Canada. I am confident the community will raise the funds to ensure this monument is completed by 2014 and am grateful for support from the province.”

 

The province of BC and the Workers’ Compensation Board have committed $100,000 to the monument project. Fundraising continues to ensure the project can be completed. Charitable donations, cheques made payable to Abbotsford Community Services, should be sent to:

Golden Tree Monument Project
c/o Abbotsford Community Services
2420 Montrose Avenue
Abbotsford, BC V2S 3S9

Since the coroner’s inquest into the accident, not all of the 18 recommendations have been fully implemented, leaving many farm workers exposed to unnecessary risks. The B.C. Federation of Labour continues to advocate for full implementation of the recommendations.

During the event, members of ACS read a short poem:

“On March 7, 2007, 14 workers were injured and 3 were taken from us that day. They worked long hours, doing dangerous work for little pay. May we now build a monument so these workers memory will never go away.”                                                                                                    

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For more information, contact Michael Gardiner at 604-436-7030

Categories: Labour News

BC Families Demand Affordable Public Childcare in Stroller Rally

Sat, 03/09/2013 - 12:00

Vancouver, BC – A large, energetic group of BC families, their children and early childhood educators gathered at Jericho Park in Vancouver this morning in support of affordable public childcare in BC.

The event, organized by labour and community organizations, included a short and spirited rally, followed by families, childcare workers and union officers leading a stroller parade to Christy Clark’s nearby MLA office.

“For women to participate fully and equally in our workforce, we must ensure families have access to affordable childcare,” said Irene Lanzinger. “This BC Liberal government’s failure to invest in public childcare has left BC’s children without the quality of care they deserve.”

BCGEU Treasurer Stephanie Smith said that the current system fails to adequately value the role of professional Early Childhood Educators. “Social attitudes about early childhood education and educators have been tied to outdated and gendered notions about women’s work for decades. This devalues the profession–reflected in low wages and recruitment and retention problems.”

Sheryl Burns, Vice President of CUPE Local 1936, looked at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House as an example of high quality care. “When I saw the caring environment staff provided during our visit to the childcare centres at Collingwood I was moved,” she said. “These programs provide nurturing, high quality care in a public service setting, despite increasingly limited resources and a profound lack of appreciation by the federal and provincial governments for the hard work that they do.”

Susan Harney, Chairperson of the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC explained her organization’s Plan, which is heavily endorsed by parents, grandparents, BC Labour, community, business, municipalities and school boards.  “Similar to the $7 a day childcare plan that already exists in Quebec, the BC Plan calls on government to commit to a childcare system with fees for families capped at $10 per day. Families making less than $40,000 a year would pay no user fee. This Plan is good for children, women and the BC economy. ”

The event came the day after International Women’s Day to ensure the greatest number of families could participate.

Messages left at Premier Clark’s constituency office were from mothers and fathers, children, and early childhood educators asking the premier to stand behind her “Families First” commitment.

The event was organized by the B.C. Federation of Labour (BCFED) and its affiliates, BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU), Canadian Union of Public Employees of BC (CUPE BC) and the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC (CCCABC).

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For more information, please contact Michael Gardiner at 604-436-7030.

Categories: Labour News

Golden Tree Model to be Unveiled at Anniversary Vigil in Fraser Valley

Fri, 03/08/2013 - 11:59

Abbotsford BC – A candlelight vigil in memory of three women farm workers killed in the crash of an overloaded and unsafe van near Abbotsford in 2007 will be held this Sunday, March 10, in Abbotsford.

Date:             Sunday, March 10, 2013
Time:            1:30 pm-3:00 pm
Location:     Abbotsford Civic Plaza, 32315 South Fraser Way,
                       Abbotsford

During the event, families of the deceased farm workers will unveil a model of the Golden Tree Monument. The Golden Tree will be the first monument to farm workers in Canada and will be erected on the shoreline of Mill Lake in Abbotsford beginning later this year.

Speakers will include:

  • Bill MacGregor, Deputy Mayor of Abbotsford
  • Charan Gill, CEO, Progressive Intercultural Services Society (PICS)
  • Gurcharan Dhillon, Legal Advocacy Worker, Abbotsford Community Services
  • Jim Sinclair, President, B.C. Federation of Labour – (will call for the unveiling)
  • Raj Chouhan, NDP MLA Burnaby-Edmonds, Co-founder of the Canadian Farmworkers Union
  • Don Dahr, Manager of Labour & Industry Services for Agriculture, WorkSafeBC
  • Moe Gill, Abbotsford City Councillor
  • Sarmukh Singh, husband of injured worker from accident, Amrik Kaur Singh
  • Jagjeet Sidhu, husband of deceased worker, Sarabjit Kaur Sidhu

Background:

Sarbjit Kaur Sidhu, Amarjit Bal and Sukhvinder Kaur Punia were killed on the morning of March 7, 2007 when the unsafe and overloaded farm worker van in which they were travelling crashed on Highway 1 near Abbotsford.

Although the RCMP recommended that criminal charges be laid against the owner/operator of the van, no charges were ever laid.

In December of 2009, a Coroner’s jury investigating the crash made 18 comprehensive recommendations that would make farm workers safer. Not all recommendations have been implemented.

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For more information, please contact Michael Gardiner at 604-436-7030.

Categories: Labour News

Rally to Demand Affordable Childcare

Fri, 03/08/2013 - 11:26

On Saturday March 9th, the B.C. Federation of Labour, CUPE BC, BCGEU and Coalition of Childcare Advocates of BC will be holding a family event with a rally and parade from Jericho Park (Southeast corner) to Christy Clark’s constituency office on West 4th in order to draw attention to the need for affordable public childcare.

 When:          Saturday, March 9, 2013

  • Rally at 11:10 am in Jericho Park (Southeast Corner)
  • Parade at 11:30 am
  • Crowd disperses at 12:00 pm

Where:         South East corner of Jericho Park. Park in the lot at West 2nd and Wallace St. 

Speakers:     Jericho Park Southeast Corner 11:10 am

  • Irene Lanzinger, Secretary Treasurer, B.C. Federation of Labour
  • Stephanie Smith, Secretary Treasurer, BCGEU
  • Cheryl Burns, Vice President, CUPE 1936
  • Susan Harney, Chairperson, Coalition of Childcare Advocates BC
  • Devyn Cousineau, Advocate, Coalition of Childcare Advocates BC

Devyn Cousineau will be speaking at Christy Clark’s MLA office at West 4th and Alma when the parade reaches the office.

Categories: Labour News

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