2016 BC Federation of Labour Convention – Day 2
Day two of the 2016 BC Federation of Labour Convention began with an important and thought-provoking call to action by Dr. Cindy Blackstock. Her address, entitled “Reconciliation means not saying sorry twice: Canadian human rights tribunal on first nations child welfare,” delved into the history of the systemic racism, abuse, neglect and oppression of First Nations children and communities across Canada and posed questions, criticisms, actions and solutions for reconciliation now and in the future.
After an engaging discussion, delegates were presented with the BC Federation of Labour’s executive report. The report outlined key issues the BC Fed has been working on over the past two years and priorities for the future. Central to the report was the continued advocacy for fair wages including a minimum wage that is above the poverty line. The BC Fed has also been vocal in the struggle to hold negligent employers to account and are active in defence of vital laws like the right to refuse unsafe work.
Priorities also included seeking to bring the benefits and protections of union membership to more workers, and pressing to remove legislated and political barriers to make it easier for workers to join, as well as working to transition to a green economy.
This work has been under a BC Liberal government that has made it harder and harder for working families to get ahead. The labour movement, along with many remarkable community partners, plays a vital role in holding this government to account while we work to elect a different government that shares our values and understands that working people are the backbone of a healthy, sustainable economy.
Secretary Treasurer’s Report
Secretary Treasurer of the BC Fed, Aaron Eckman, reported that the Federation was in good shape financially, managing to generate a surplus in off-convention years.
He discussed priorities for the coming years and gave a special thanks to union organizers who are helping our unions grow. Eckman said, “we need to elevate organizers’ profile within the house of labour and train more. We’ve allocated resources to help with this. It’s important to turn the trend of union density decline around. We must all be organizers.”
Quoting President Irene Lanzinger, he emphasized, “unions are the only poverty reduction strategy we have.”
BC NDP Leader John Horgan
John Horgan addressed delegates highlighting his support for labour and his vision for an NDP government in 2017. He spoke about the NDP’s commitment to $15 an hour minimum wage, $10 a day daycare, and the NDP’s plan to Power BC. He vowed that and NDP government would “toss the last vestiges of Bill 29 on the trash heap.”
He spoke of how Christy Clark and the BC Liberals have hurt BC families and working people. He told delegates, “ don’t let your neighbours forget that the BC Liberals created the mess we’re in,” and encouraged them to commit to Vote NDP in 2017.
The highlight of Horgan’s address was the announcement that an NDP government will address the leading cause of work-related deaths in B.C. by bringing in a mandatory contractor licensing and worker certification program for asbestos removal.
The Apprenticeship and skills training working group, brought forward their resolution on proper training and apprenticeship opportunities, including a 25% quota on apprenticeships on public projects.
The Education Committee celebrated their recent supreme court victory and outlined the fight for safer schools, having language restored around class size and composition, and better post-secondary funding. They put forward a resolution that free tuition for Adult Basic Education be restored.
The Human Rights Committee’s discussion and resolutions centred around two key issues: working to ensure labour adopts and/or acts on all the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and ensuring labour does not support organizations that discriminate against Trans people.
MoveUP member Joyce Galuska spoke passionately to the resolution proposing labour work with Indigenous peoples to ensure that Canada recognizes and implements Indigenous peoples’ inherent sovereign right to self-determination and to specifically seek opportunities to work with First Nations and allies on the project of reconciliation and healing.
All the Human Rights Committee’s resolutions passed unanimously.
A number of resolutions were brought forward and discussed at the convention Tuesday. Bob Matters from the United Steelworkers spoke about about the value of BC’s working forest. Delegates spoke about and unanimously voted for the BC Fed to continue their push to oppose the anti-Canadian-worker TPP. The BCGEU ’s resolution on supporting the sale of marijuana in publicly-owned and regulated liquor stores was strongly supported as well.
An emergency resolution demanding the provincial government call a by-election to ensure that the citizens of Vancouver have their right to a democratically elected school board was met with resounding support.