Recap: 2022 BC Federation of Labour Convention
The 60th BC Federation of Labour took place from November 21 to 25, 2022 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Read the week-long running recap below to learn what happened.
Click here to see a gallery of photos of MoveUP’s delegates at Convention.
Click here to visit the BCFED Convention website.
Follow along on social media with the hashtag #bcfed22
Friday, November 25
November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and the first day of 16 globally recognized days of activism to end gender-based violence. Today and everyday workers are saying #NeverAgain: End Gender Based Violence at Work. Read more here.
The first speakers on the final day of Convention were Aryanna Chartrand (Alliance of BC Students) and Melissa Chirino (BC Federation of Students). They talked about how students contribute largely to the workforce in the province and how many work at least one job while getting their education, with many juggling multiple jobs to pay for housing, tuition, and cost of living.
They talked about how student members of associations have shown, time and time again, their solidarity with the labour movement, mentioning recently showing up on BCGEU picket lines as well as endorsing the $10-a-day childcare plan.
They spoke on wanting to improve working conditions for early childhood educators in BC and to develop a wage grid for ECEs in the province because it is an undervalued and underpaid profession in BC. They also talked about prioritizing ending sexual and gender-based violence in post-secondary spaces.
They also talked about the need to call on government to invest in the people of BC, noting that we are seeing a shortage of workers in important, in-demand jobs. They are calling for a $200 million investment which would allow for holding off tuition fees.
The second guest speaker of the day was Karen Dearlove, Executive Director of the BC Centre for Women in the Trades.
Karen took the time to address delegates about what the BCWITT is, how they address the issue of not enough diversity in the skill trades, and how they are working for inclusion of trades.
They aim is to remove barriers and provide opportunities for anyone who wants a great, well-paying skilled job in the skills trades, and often a unionized job. The skills traded continue to be a male-dominated domain at over 95 percent.
Karen then introduced Nicole Wiet to address delegates. Nicole, an elevator mechanic, talked about how she was able to get into the trades easily because of nepotism and, because of that, she had extra protection that a lot of other women and underrepresented people don’t have. She said she is fighting from that position to try to increase the number of women not only in her trade by other trades.
Nicole also talked about the importance of the Be More Than A Bystander program and the importance of that in creating more allies in the trade, create better allies, and teaching them to stand up when they see something abhorrent happening in the trades.
Karen then continued by telling some of the different programs as well as success stories of the people’s lives they can change on a regular basis. Slides from the BCWITT presentation can be found here.
Barbara James, a journey-level carpenter working towards Red Seal certification, took the stage to share her experiences, naming things like being with former BC Premier John Horgan when the Student Access Grant was announced, hosting the Women Build BC Conference online, attending the Tradeswomen Build Nations Conference, and attending the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum among others. She talked about how the opportunities that have been provided by the BCWITT have been vital to her success, and to that of many others, and she saw their work and that of the BCFED’s support as a method of advancing reconciliation.
Resolution debates carried on in the fifth and final day of the 2022 BCFED Convention. Below is a brief summary of the items that were debated and voted on (Please see the Resolutions for the full text). Resolutions that were submitted (or co-submitted) by MoveUP are indicated by an asterisk.
- *2237: The BCFED will lobby the board of directors and curators of the Royal BC Museum to include a space, and content, in consultation with the BC Labour Heritage Centre, to showcase BC’s diverse and impactful labour history.
- 2240: The BCFED will lobby the BC government to address diminishing affordability for working people by introducing refundable tax credits for health care and other essential workers to offset the cost of transit and parking related to getting to work to deliver critical public services.
- *2212: The BCFED will make all efforts whenever possible to provide an online hybrid option for all in-person meetings, training courses and events, and encourage affiliates to do the same.
- 2235: The BCFED will promote BC as a global leader in the responsible development of minerals that a low-carbon future requires, press for governments to train workers and kickstart BC’s critical mineral recycling industry, protect Canada from the dumping of minerals and goods produced in jurisdictions with poor environmental laws and few workers rights, and encourage governments to collaborate on a comprehensive supply chain strategy that creates jobs using local products in domestic, value-added manufacturing.
- 2254: The BCFED will replace all gender specific language in the constitution from “he/his” and “she/hers” to “they/theirs”, replace all references of “workers of colours” to “racialized workers.” (This amendment was previously referred back to committee. The committee change saw the addition of a line to replace all references of “workers with a disability” to “accessibility workers”)
- 2250: Constitutional amendment at least seven vice-presidents being Two Spirit, women, trans and gender diverse wrokers. (This amendment was previously referred back to committee. The previous draft resolution replaced the term “women” with “non cisgender men” and the committee changes saw the inclusion of language specifically referencing “Two Spirit, women, trans and gender diverse workers”)
- 2252: Add a section to Constitution to representation calling for at least four of the vice-presidents to identity as one of the following equity groups [one each]: racialized worker, Indigenous worker, 2SLGBTQIA+ worker, and an accessibility worker. (This amendment was previously referred back to committee. The committee change saw the replacement of the term “worker with a disability” to “an accessibility worker”)
- 2253 to cover 2251 Amended: Constitutional amendment to related to selection of members of affiliates to caucuses along with updated language using the terms “Racialized Workers,” “Indigenous Workers,” “Accessibility Workers,” and “2SLGBTQIA+.” (This amendment was previously referred back to committee. The committee change saw what was previously referred to as “Workers with Disabilities” to “Accessibility Workers”)
- *2276 to cover 2277: The BCFED will bring awareness to psychological injuries in the workplace, and lobby the WCB policy makers and government to expand upon its “presumptive coverage” to include all workers.
- 2280: The BCFED will create a campaign and lobby the provincial government to significantly increase fatality lump sum payments in BC to a minimum of $90,000 plus annual CPI adjustments.
- 2281: The BCFED will develop a thorough plan of action to lobby the government to introduce an employer re-employment obligation into the Workers Compensation Act.
- 2278: The BCFED will work closely with the Workers’ Compensation Board and the BC Ministry of Labour to mandate access to a breakroom with washroom access for all workers.
The following resolutions did not make it to the floor of Convention and will be referred back to the BCFED Executive Council.
- 2271: The BCFED will encourage all affiliates to utilize the services of the BCFED Health & Safety Centre, and encourage affiliates to negotiate collective agreements that designate the BCFED Health & Safety Centre as the preferred provider of all external health and safety training in the workplace.
- 2283: The BCFED will encourage all affiliates to provide effective in-house WCB representation to all members injured or made ill because of their workplace, and develop and provide training and resources to unions so that they may represent their injured workers throughout the applicable workers’ compensation process.
- 2273: The BCFED will continue to make mental health education a priority, and lobby the provincial government and WCB to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation to obligate the employer to have at least one certified mental health first aid attendant at each work site where an Occupational First Aid attendant is required.
- 2279: The BCFED will start a campaign advocating to change the operating name from WorkSafeBC to Workers’ Compensation Board and will ask the government to put the WCB instead.
- 2282: The BCFED will lobby the provincial government to improve health and safety protections for workers in BC, and to increase worker representation to the Workers’ Compensation Board of Directors.
- 2202: The BCFED will seek an amendment to the BC labour legislation to hold corporations/companies accountable for blatant violations of collective bargaining agreements, including appropriate financial penalties, which will increase exponentially with repeated violations.
- *2201: The BCFED will lobby the Knowledge Network to showcase a more diverse view of BC, including more labour-focused content, and to ensure that unionized workers are used, whenever possible, in the productions that they fund and broadcast.
- 2239: The BCFED will continue to participate in the lobby of the federal government seeking a fair and equitable resolution to the softwood lumber dispute, lobby the provincial government for a commitment ensuring a sustainable forest for future generations while creating jobs for today, and lobby the BC Ministry of Natural Resources for a strategy that includes re-establishment of a social license that promotes greater domestic manufacturing, re-manufacturing and re-creating the Jobs Protection Commissioner.
- 2241 to cover 2242: The BCFED will lobby the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to re-issue the request for proposals for Roberts Bank and ensure all companies awarded contracts operate in a healthy and safe manner and adhere to fair labour practices.
Thursday, November 24
Canadian Football League Players’ Association
Before elections got underway, however, Brian Ramsay from the CFL Players’ Association took the time greet delegates. Brian thanked the BCFED for their support during the CFLPA’s spring negotiations, where they succeeded in raising the minimum salary to $70,000. He particularly thanked those who came out to support picket lines in Kamloops.
Brian shared with the delegates that 100 percent of CFL players go home at the end of the season with some form of injuries, and yet they have to negotiate for rehabilitation that their members. In case where there are disagreement, the players only have two votes while the owners of 11.
Brian ended by sharing the story of Jonathan Hefney, a former Montreal Alouettes player who suffered a career-ending injury in a game and required three major surgeries (at a cost of over $100,000 each) of which his team only paid for one before bidding him farewell. As he could not afford the other two, he was left disabled.
He ended by thanking the BCFED by continue to keep the focus on the employer’s responsibilities rather than feeding the narrative of “rich, spoiled athletes.”
Elections were the main business on the morning of the fourth day of the BCFED Convention.
Sussanne Skidmore, secretary-treasurer of the BCFED, was acclaimed as the new president of the BC Federation of Labour. Hermender Singh Kailley was acclaimed as the new secretary-treasurer of the BCFED. Both candidates were endorsed by MoveUP’s delegates at Convention.
Executive Council members representing labour councils were also elected. MoveUP congratulates our own secretary-treasurer, Graeme Hutchison, on being elected by acclamation as the executive council to the Fraser Valley Labour Council.
Trustee elections also took place. MoveUP congratulates our own Executive Board member Brenda Chu on being elected by acclamation to the position of trustee for a four-year term.
Thank you, John!
Just prior to the lunch break, the BCFED welcomed a very special guest in now-former BC Premier John Horgan, who nearly brought the house down as he stepped up on stage.
John talked about how relationships were the key to making progress. He said that it’s not just about getting stuff done but making sure that you are bringing people along with you. He used the example of single-step union certification (“card check”) and how they were able to bring that in because they put it out to people and got that support from voters who returned the BC NDP to power in 2020 with a majority government.
He recalls first getting involved in the labour movement during the 1983 Solidarity Movement, and how the first labour movement event he attended was the solidarity protest outside the legislature and learning the lessons from the likes of Dave Barrett on how every time you want to affect change, you need to bring people along.
He continued to talk about the other advancements that have been made, including introducing five paid sick days which he calls just a first step, as we as lifting minimum wage. He thanked the work of the bargaining committees in the public sector and praised the work of being able to tie wages to inflation. He went on to thank the labour movement saying we are only able to lift everyone up because of the work the labour movement has been doing over the years.
He went to thank the strong representatives from the labour movement who have supported him in his time as leader, and remarked back on the positive conversations that have always focused on lifting up people from every corner of the province.
“Labour is not just a stakeholder. Labour is us. Labour is British Columbia. People are the foundation of this province, always have been. Always will be.”
BC Labour Heritage Centre and honouring Ray Haynes
Donna Sacuta, executive director of the BC Labour Heritage Centre, took the time to speak about their two major projects this year – Union Zindabad!, a groundbreaking history of South Asian Canadians in the BC Labour movement, and the dedication of the new asbestos memorial in the Vancouver Waterfront.
Donna also invited BC Labour Heritage Centre board member Rod Mickleburgh to introduce Ray Haynes, head of the BC Federation of Labour from 1966 to 1973, who has been part of the BC labour movement for most of the past 74 years. Haynes, the oldest living officer of the BCFED, addressed delegates by sharing some of his labour stories but also talking about the state of labour today, particularly in getting our stories out.
Dr. Kendra Strauss, professor and director of SFU Labour Studies program, led a panel on how precarity is impacting workers in BC.
In her introduction, she indicated that there is no single definition of precarious work but shared that the BC Precarious Survey in 2019 used the following characteristics to distinguish precarious employment from standard employment: job permanency, employee class of worker (as opposed to self-employed), full-time hours (30 hours per work or more), and access to at least some employer-provided benefits.
The panel consisted of Julie Diesta (Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights), Byron Cruz (Coordinator, BCFED Health & Safety Centre), and Jim Stanford (Director, Centre for Future Work).
The panel delved into many issues that are faced by those who are in precarious work, particularly those faced by migrant care workers and new immigrants but also in specific sectors such as health care and education.
They discussed some of the tools that can be used to combat precarious work, including sectoral bargaining as well as changes to the labour code and employment, and specifically migrant workers being able to achieve education for all and permanent immigration status for all.
They also mentioned that, on a general level, it is not technology that is driving precarious work but rather it is greed. It is the profit motive, combined with the desperation of workers, leads to precarious work as we see employers try to get around union collective agreements and minimum employment standards but workers having to take those jobs regardless because of no other choice.
It is important to recognize everyone is at threat for these practices if they are allowed to exist. If employers see that they are allowed to use whatever loophole in the law exists to get around minimum wage, to get around collective agreements, to get around normal job security provisions, then they will come after us as well. An injury to one is an injury to all.
Andrew Mercier address
Andrew Mercier, Parliamentary Secretary for Skills Training, addressed delegates virtually on the occasion of Apprenticeship Recognition Month. He talked about how apprenticeship changes lives, is a pathway to a family-supporting job, and know that union training schools are top sponsors of women apprenticeships, Indigenous apprenticeships, and they are the tool for getting apprenticeships across the finish line.
He talked about the BC Liberals eliminating compulsory trades, and it was only because of the work of labour that we have been able to get back to the point today where this government can say they are restoring compulsory trades.
Oath of Office
Following a tribute to outgoing BCFED president Laird Cronk, the final business of the day saw the newly-elected (acclaimed) officers of the BC Federation of Labour sworn into office.
The Young Workers Committee and the Apprentice and Skills Training Working Group delivered their respective reports on the fourth day of convention. A copy of each committees’ written report can be found in the Convention book.
Resolution debates continued on the fourth day of the 2022 BCFED Convention. Below is a brief summary of the items that were debated and voted on (Please see the Resolutions for the full text). Resolutions that were submitted (or co-submitted) by MoveUP are indicated by an asterisk.
- *2223: The BCFED will call on the provincial and federal governments to completely disband the Community-Industry Response Group, to hold them responsible for their human rights violations, to cease collusion with private security firms and industry and to require on-site Indigenous civilian oversight of all RCMP operations on Indigenous lands.
- 2227: The BCFED will support the call for mandatory training in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report and United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by signing and sharing the Anti-Oppression Educators Collective (AOEC) petition and sharing their open letter.
- 2290 Amended: The BCFED will lobby the provincial government to ensure all hospitals and other medical facilities that provide emergency services have Sexual Assault Evidence Kits (SAEK), and that all hospitals will ensure staff are trained to administer the kits.
- *2210A composite to cover 2210 and 2211: The BCFED will lobby the BC government to tackle food insecurity and poverty by raising income assistance and the minimum wage to the level of the highest living wage in BC within the next 5 years and then adjust annually so no one has to choose between food or rent.
- *2232A composite to cover 2232, 2233, 2234 and 2238: The BCFED will reaffirm its commitment to a strong public sector, lobby the provincial government and campaign to address the systemic problems leading to staff shortages in the public sector and to end the practice of staffing through overtime and internal coverage, advocate for inquiries to be held when public service staffing levels drop below a specific threshold, and push the provincial government to increase funding to all public service sectors so staff are fairly compensated and supported and ensure that public services do not erode over time.
- 2207: The BCFED will lobby the provincial government to ensure that public funds are directed to existing regulated and licensed care services by providing increased wages for workers, investing in measures to keep workers safe, and expanding the number of care spaces available, so they can provide accessible, affordable and high-quality care, lobby with organizations that support migrant worker caregivers so they are involved in decision-making for pandemic recovery, and advocate to ensure that PPE is being provided to migrant workers, conduct inspections on their working conditions, and ensure they have income support.
- 2255: The BCFED will work with the appropriate committees to develop a constitutional amendment to increase the representation and voice of equity and young workers at BCFED conventions.
- *2213: The BCFED will lobby the provincial government to improve access to and increase funding for pain clinics, and will encourage government to create independent, unionized treatment facilities which can help with the physical and emotional impacts of chronic pain.
- 2204: The BCFED will work with affiliated unions to encourage the provincial government to legislate an annual cost-of-living allowance as a minimum employment standard for all workers.
- 2291: The BCFED will advocate that the voting age in BC be lowered to age 16.
Wednesday, November 23
Greetings from Liz Shuler, President of the AFL-CIO
The third day of the 2022 BCFED Convention opened with a video greeting from Liz Shuler, the first woman president of the AFL-CIO (the sibling organization of the Canadian Labour Congress). Liz talked about the excitement in seeing the power of collective action happening across the US, but at the same time about being in a moment of challenge with working people facing the fallout from the pandemic and economic crisis.
Her takeaway message was that only by joining together can we face challenges like the climate crisis and the rise of automation and reminded delegates that we are one labour movement and that an attack on workers here is an attack on workers everywhere.
April Sims, president-elect of the Washington State Labor Council
The next speaker to address delegates on Wednesday was April Sims, president-elect of the Washington State Labor Council (WSLC).
Sims, the current secretary-treasurer of the WSLC, will become the first woman president in the WSLC’s history as well as the first racialized person to serve in that position.
Sims provided some background on Washington State, sharing how it had the third-highest union density in the US just behind New York and Hawaii and how one in every five workers in the state is represented by a union. She shared her story of growing up and being trapped in a cycle of poverty until her mother got a union job.
She shared that the reason she was in the position of being here was because someone had invited her to a local union meeting, something she assumed was the case for many delegates as well, but also because it was her union that invested in her, supported her, believed in her, and made space in her. She said that we don’t often talk about the difference we make in the lives of the whole worker, and that’s the work she wants to build as a leader in the labour movement.
She took the time to praise the work happening in BC—naming specifically the five paid sick days legislation, leave for victims of domestic or sexual assault, the return of single-step union certification—and talked about how Washington State has followed BC’s lead in pushing for policies like paid family medical leave and state paid leave program, the latter designed to provide economic security when welcoming a child or taking care of loved one or one’s own health.
She further continued to speak on the importance of helping progressive candidates get elected, and particularly in getting young voters out to vote. She also touched on how they fought for workers throughout the pandemic, including fighting for PPE and hazard pay as well as presumptive EI or benefits.
She went on to talk about how we are seeing a movement in the US like never before with union favourability at its highest ever at 71 percent, joking it is even higher than hot dogs. She referenced organizing including Amazon, Alphabet (Google), and Starbucks. However, despite all the organizing, she said we have yet to realize the gains because there is still a concerted effort to keep workers down, right-wing reactionaries trying to sow division, and corporations fragrantly violating labour laws.
She touched on the work that has been done around anti-racism, because it is strategic work to ensure they remain relevant for workers in the future.
She reminds us, however happening in areas like Amazon workers in Alabama, health care workers picketing and striking for more staff, education workers picketing for more support, tech workers organizing at Alphabet, and Starbucks organizing thousands of workers in stores across the US.
She closed by encouraging all delegates to imagine, and said she looked forward to moving forward in this movement with all of us.
Address from Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip was the third guest speaker on Wednesday morning. Currently serving his eighth, three-year term as President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), Grand Chief Phillip talked about how he had the greatest respect for the trade union movement and was a proud member of the IWA at one point.
He indicated he admired commitment and dedication to the world we live in, and that labour represents the heart and soul of society, and that labour carries a tremendous amount of influence within society and within our political processes.
He reminded delegates of the importance of working together—labour and Indigenous people—to truly address the terrible things that are literally killing our families, pointing to issues related to the climate crisis like foods, wildfires, and landslides, but other issues as well including the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid crisis. He cautioned that the worst may be yet to come and that to address these issues we must put our hearts and minds together, put down division notions of the past, and reminded all of us that is what we are all here for.
BC Health Coalition
The afternoon session started with an address from Mazdak Gharibnavaz, representing the BC Health Coalition of which MoveUP is a partner, who talked about the work of the coalition. The BC Coalition’s most notable work recently has been on fighting against privatization of healthcare brought on by Dr. Brian Day. Learn more at bchealthcoalition.ca.
Minister of Labour address
The Honourable Harry Bains, BC’s Minister of Labour was due to address the delegates in-person but was unable to due to work in Victoria but joined through a live stream.
Minister Bains talked about his background in the labour movement, as a shop steward and full-time officer of the IWA and Steelworkers, and about the importance of governments because they have the power to give and take away at the stroke of a pen.
He reminded delegates of what occurred with the past government under the BC Liberals, and of the many gains that have been made through this BC NDP government that had been talked about by previous speakers earlier in this convention. Among those gains he spoke about included changes they have made in employment standards, including removing the self-help kit so that workers who have complaints can have them investigated and have justice served, as well as bringing in five paid sick day, bringing in the Temporary Foreign Worker Protection Act, hiring more WorkSafeBC investigation officers, single-step union certification, bringing in an independent investigations office, and various amendments to the labour code including successorship language to protect collective agreements rights and seniority as well as bringing back previously contracted out workers back into the public system.
BCFED OH&S Centre
Ishani Weera, executive director of the BCFED Occupational Health & Safety Centre (whose staff are proudly represented by both MoveUP and USW), closed out the day by talking about the work they do and how they put workers front and centre of health and safety.
To learn more about the work of the BCFED OH&S Centre, click here.
The Secretary-Treasurer, Education Committee, Climate Change Committee, Occupational Health & Safety Committee, and Political Action Committee all delivered their respective reports on the third day of convention. A copy of each committees’ written report can be found in the Convention book.
Resolution debates continued on the third day of the 2022 BCFED Convention. Below is a brief summary of the items that were debated and voted on (Please see the Resolutions for the full text). Resolutions that were submitted (or co-submitted) by MoveUP are indicated by an asterisk.
- 2256: The BCFED will publicly condemn the Royal Bank of Canada, OJO Home Canada, and the Fraser Institute for monetizing student assessment data for corporate profit, demand they cease this action, and call upon the provincial government to take immediate steps to prevent misuse of student data.
- 2243 to cover 2244: The BCFED will lobby the provincial and federal governments to invest in training and continued employment for workers exiting the fossil fuel industry through nationalizing the energy industry and beginning a controlled reduction in the production of fossil fuels in a swift transition to a renewable energy economy.
- 2272 Amended: The BCFED will lobby the provincial government to ensure minimum standards of health and safety for women and gender diverse workers, and develop and provide training for health and safety committees to encourage women and gender diverse members to come forward with health and safety concerns.
- 2270A composite to cover 2269 and 2270: The BCFED will lobby governments to implement training programs for law enforcement and crown prosecutors to understand criminal negligence investigations/charges, and establish communications between law enforcement, health and safety regulators and courts, plus other actions related establishing and training dedicated crown prosecutors and police officers to deal exclusively with serious workplace incidents.
- 2275A composite to cover 2274 and 2275: The BCFED will lobby the provincial government to establish the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standard on psychological health and safety as regulation in workplaces.
- *2286A composite to cover 2285 and 2286: The BCFED will continue to support, encourage, and endorse progressive, self-identified women and gender diverse candidate (with a focus on those with intersecting marginalized identities) to run for public office, will call out structures of oppression, and work with the CLC and labour councils to host educational and training opportunities to support self-identifying women and gender diverse members in developing their leadership skills.
- *2284: The BCFED will promote the PressProgress website on the BCFED’s website.
- Composite Emergency Resolution #1A to cover Emergency 1 and 2: The BCFED will condemn the atrocities and violence inflicted by the Iranian regime that has resulted in the death of more than 300 civilians in the last two months for protesting the government and advocating for women’s rights, the BCFED will lobby to expel Iran from the International Labour Organization (ILO) due to its human and labour rights violations, and will stand in solidarity with the people of Iran for their fight for freedom, equality, prosperity, and take action to defend their rights and their families’ rights.
- 2216 Amended: The BCFED will lobby the provincial and federal governments to provide a safe, regulated drug supply, continue and extend the BC decriminalization pilot on the personal possession of drugs, pardon prior convictions that no longer would be charged, advocate for harm reduction instead of the abstinence model, and provide additional infrastructure for access to mental and physical health supports as required. (This resolution was previously referred back to committee to add the part on providing additional infrastructure)
- 2217: The BCFED will lobby the BC government to implement a system of quality care and oversight to ensure that publicly-funded and existing privately-funding substance use treatment is culturally safe, accessible and informed by scientific evidence, and lobby the BC government to ensure that drug treatment remains voluntary.
Tuesday, November 22
The second day of the 2022 BCFED Convention kicked off with a historic address with David Eby, BC’s 37th and newest premier, delivering a speech to Convention delegates.
Premier Eby’s address
In his first major speech since becoming Premier, David Eby first took the time to thank outgoing BCFED president Laird Cronk, Secretary-Treasurer Sussanne Skidmore, as well as former Premier John Horgan.
Eby indicated that the government’s top priority of supporting people through the cost-of-living challenges, and he sees the labour movement as being a key leader in that regard particularly with organizing new workers.
He talked about how the past BC Liberal government’s priorities were on tax cuts for people on top, and they did so on the backs of working people through fees such as MSP and tolls. Since the BC NDP formed government, among their achievements for working people include increasing minimum wage from where it was the lowest in Canada to the highest, become the first province to introduce five paid sick days, a major new social program in affordable childcare, single-step union certification, restoring fairness to Workers’ Compensation, and repatriating 4,000 health care workers back into the public sector among others. He notes that none of those achievements would have been possible without the support of the labour movement.
He went on to talk about the differences between being in opposition and in government, noting a specific story about having the ability as government to buy a previously condemned building and turning it into a modern and comfortable place to stay for women fleeing violence (Veronica’s Place). This, again, is only possible because our members are showing up and voting.
He closed his speech referencing the work that still is to come, including protecting workers and jobs and making sure the economy continues to deliver while addressing the climate crisis. And, in referencing recent actions by Doug Ford’s government in Ontario, made a commitment that he would never use the notwithstanding clause as a way to take away workers’ rights.
Bea Bruske address
Bea Bruske, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, closed out the morning session on Tuesday with an address to delegates at Convention.
She began her speech talking about how nice it was to be back not only in British Columbia but, specifically, an NDP-led British Columbia. She remarked how, coming from a Conservative-led province in Ontario, it was amazing to have heard from previous speakers about all the achievements in this province.
She noted though that now is not to rest on our laurels but it is the time to ramp up and push even more for workers, noting some big fights we have ahead of us. She mentioned how the CLC’s priorities include the likes of health care, dental care, taking urgent action on climate change, and ensuring anti-scab legislation is passed.
She also cautioned on the likes of new Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, whose agenda includes imposing austerity, slashing health care, attack workers’ rights and unions, pushing for US-style right-to work legislation, make it harder for workers to organize, shredding benefits for unemployed workers, while helping rich corporations pay less in taxes.
Keynote Address from Elaine Alec *this section contains some content that may be a trigger for some*
Elaine Alec, author, political advisor, women’s advocate, and spiritual thought leader and teacher provided the keynote address of the day. A direct descendant of hereditary chiefs, Pelkamulaxw and Soorimpt, Elaine shared her story of growing up on the Penticton Indian Band Reserve and her personal journey of recover going from being a grade 9 dropout, the emotional and sexual abuse she experienced, engaging in organized crime, and being diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia to now becoming a renowned author, an owner of two companies, and celebrating 15 years of sobriety as of October 2022.
She discussed the work that she has been doing, through her companies, of decolonization. She talked about how a colonial system is based on fear and control and, if we want to decolonize and cultivate safe spaces for people, we have to build systems based on trust and faith.
She went on further to say the colonial system, which is found in schools, teaches you to doubt yourself. You’re measured up against everybody else. You’re told and taught that there’s one way to do things to excel, and then we all start to conform. We fear if we don’t fit in. That happens when we get into the workplace. When assault or bullying happens like that in workplace, you’re sent through HR system and told you must validate your feelings and experiences. She explains that way of perfection and one way and right way of doing things are characteristics of white supremacy.
She talked about how there are four colonial tools in everything we do today: to promote sickness and death, promote exclusion, promote oppression, and promote shame. Instead, she urged delegates o examine to look at what the people we’re working with to feel well, feel supported, feel safety, feel connected, and feel belonging, and to promote inclusion instead of exclusion.
Joy Langan Award
The Joy Langan Award is presented at every BC Federation of Labour Convention. Joy Langan was a dedicated and loyal leader, feminist, mentor, tireless volunteer, champion and political leader. She was active in her union, the BCFED, her community and the NDP.
The recipient of the 2022 Joy Langan Award is Adrienne Smith, friend of MoveUP, transgender human rights activist, and social justice lawyer. Adrienne recently argued a BC Human Rights case which clarified employer’s obligations to recognize correct pronouns for transgender and non-binary workers. As a trade union activist, they advocate for transgender inclusion in our unions and workplaces.
The Executive Council Committee, Constitution & Structure Committee, Indigenous Rights & Reconciliation Working Group, and Women & Gender Rights Committee all delivered their respective reports on the second day of convention. A copy of each committees’ written report can be found in the Convention book.
Resolution debates once again took place on the second day of the 2022 BCFED Convention. Below is a brief summary of the items that were debated and voted on (Please see the Resolutions for the full text). Resolutions that were submitted (or co-submitted) by MoveUP are indicated by an asterisk.
- 2205 to cover 2206: The BCFED will lobby the provincial government to establish minimum standards of care and a workplace strategy for long-term care, establish funding for long-term care transition to community-based, public or non-profit long-term care homes, and support immediate measures addressing staffing in long-term care by addressing compensation, lack of full-time work, while stablishing intensive recruiting and training initiatives.
- *2218: The BCFED, with the CLC, will start a letter-writing campaign to both provincial and federal governments to include mental health counselling and medications under provincial and federal medical care plans. (MoveUP Vice-President Christy Slusarenko, who spoke on this resolution, shared her personal story which can be read here).
- *2231: The BCFED will work with the CLC to reach out and work with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress to organize efforts to support displaced Ukrainians in Canada particularly in securing work, and explore divesting any of its assets that are directly and indirectly supporting the Russian state and encourage affiliates to do the same.
- 2203: The BCFED will continue to facilitate the development of solidarity and collaboration among public sector unions, and lobby the provincial governments to allow for free collective bargaining.
- 2215 to cover part of 2214: The BCFED will lobby the provincial government for inclusion of dental care as a medically necessary service to be covered by MSP, with no deductibles for children under 19 or people with developmental and/or intellectual disabilities.
- 2236: The BCFED will review international models of sectoral bargaining with recommendations to modernize BC’s Labour Code, make recommendations to the provincial government to enact sectoral bargaining in BC, and encourage the BC Ministry of Labour to engage in a public education campaign to inform BC workers about workers’ rights and their right to organize.
- 2219 to cover part of 2214: The BCFED will lobby the federal government to develop and implement universal Pharmacare, and lobby the provincial government to pass a universal prescription drug plan for BC.
- *2220 to cover 2221: The BCFED and affiliate unions will continue to lobby the province to legislate September 30 as a paid statutory holiday for all workers.
- 2222: The BCFED will support calls for an independent, internationally led criminal investigation by the International Criminal Court and/or other United Nations bodies into the Canadian state’s design, implementation and administration of the Indian Residential School System and its ongoing destructive impact on Indigenous communities.
- *2225 to cover 2226: The BCFED will call on the provincial government to provide learning opportunities into the true history of Indigenous peoples, residential schools and reconciliation, encourage affiliates to provide their own educational sessions, and encourage the inclusion of language in collective agreements for mandatory education around Indigenous learning.
- 2224: The BCFED will lobby the federal government to create impartial police investigation processes, lobby against injustices by police authorities towards Indigenous peoples, and lobby appropriate governments to hold police to a higher standard of accountability.
- 2228: The BCFED will lobby the provincial and federal governments to resolve disputes over the use of Indigenous territory without the use of force and in a manner that respects and honours the sovereignty of Indigenous nations, the authority of Hereditary Chiefs, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action and the spirit of true reconciliation.
- 2230: The BCFED will support all affiliate unions in creating and resourcing Indigenous committees, working groups, caucuses and/or advisory bodies.
- *2229: The BCFED will call upon provincial and federal governments to commit to completing the remaining Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission within the next three years.
- 2287 Amended: The BCFED will lobby the provincial government to provide survivors of sexual and/or intimate partner violence with access to 10 days of paid leave from the current 5 days.
- 2288 Amended: The BCFED will lobby the provincial government to ensure the $10 A Day Plan is a key element of all economic recovery plans, including coordination between the reopening of schools and childcare centres, and the unions that represent them, with that of the broader economy.
- 2289: The BCFED will work with affiliates to advocate for extended health benefits providers to improve extended medical plans to include all forms of birth control and hormone therapy, and continue to work with AccessBC on their campaign for free contraceptives and educate workers about the issue.
- 2254: The BCFED will replace all gender specific language in the constitution from “he/his” and “she/hers” to “they/theirs”, replace all references of “workers of colours” to “racialized workers.” (Referred back to committee to add/edit language)
- 2250: Constitutional amendment to replace “women” with “non cisgender men” in various areas. (Referred back to committee to ensure language is made better, and to bring back to the Convention before end of Convention)
- 2252: Add a section to Constitution to representation among vice-presidents of at least one racialized worker, Indigenous worker, 2SLGBTQIA+ worker, and a worker with a disability. (Referred back to address consideration of deaf individuals)
- 2253 to cover 2251: Constitutional amendment to related to selection of members of affiliates to caucuses. (Referred back to committee to review language)
Monday, November 21
Indigenous welcome ceremony
The BCFED Convention got underway in earnest on Monday with an opening welcome address from Elder Larry Grant of the Musqueam Nation.
A former member of ILWU Local 500, Larry talked about how it was their ancestors who were here to greet the first people who arrived on boats – naming specifically Captain José María Narváez and Captain George Vancouver – and while he was welcoming all to the 60th BCFED Convention, he reminded that there is no agreement of occupation or remuneration to the first peoples of these lands and that this is something that needs to be continued to be felt by the labour movement.
He also talked about the dark history of the early labour in BC, pointing to race riots in the early 1900s, but to the progress we have made since then with labour being a force in helping push the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into law in BC.
Welcome to Metro Vancouver
Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley was next up to provide a welcome to Metro Vancouver. He noted how this was the first in-person BCFED Convention since 2018 and the reason we have been able to do this was a testament to the hard work, dedication, and perseverance of frontline workers who helped guide us through the pandemic.
He noted that it was workers who, throughout the pandemic, were forced to rapidly adapt to shifting regulations to keep the economy moving and service running in our communities. He noted it was workers who were at the front lines, and that’s why it is important for us to ensure workers and front and centre as we recover from the pandemic and to fight to ensure workers’ gains and rights are not lost.
Mayor Hurley concluded by reminding delegates not to forget our roots, which is dedicated to making lives better for working people and to a fair share of wealth that we helped create.
The President’s welcome featured outgoing BCFED president Laird Cronk talking about the important of the labour movement standing together. He noted how, when he was first elected four years ago alongside Secretary-Treasurer Sussanne Skidmore, to come together as a labour movement and circle the things that were important to all that we could build on working with a then-NDP minority government.
Cronk noted that the key was ensuring that we framed our issues in a way that made sense and allowed the government to have public space to make those changes.
In that time, among the victories that the labour movement has been able to achieve in BC included increasing minimum wage from what was Canada’s lowest to now Canada’s highest, single-step certification process for unions, and five days of paid sick leave.
He concluded his speech by stating that while the NDP was not a perfect government, it was better to work to fix them and to fight and work for things rather than to have “the other guys” in power in Victoria, reminding delegates of all the 16 years under the rule of the BC Liberals where the province saw the teachers’ contract ripped up, privatization and driving down of working conditions in the health industry, the systemic destruction of the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB), stripping down of employment standards, no minimum wage increase for 10 years, and the annihilation of every compulsory trade in BC just to name a few.
Sam Wiese, president of the BC Federation of Retired Union Members (BC FORUM), opened the afternoon session talking about importance of the need for their organization to increase its membership from where it stands right now at around 1100 members. Anyone over the age of 50 can join, and it is not required to be retired.
She also spoke on the work that the BC FORUM is doing to try and get Bill C-228 passed.
You can learn more about joining the BC FORUM on their website here.
Address from Jagmeet Singh
Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was the featured speaker on the opening day of the 2022 Convention. He began his speech thanking the work of union activists, especially during this time when workers feel like they are being targeted, as well as thanking both outgoing BCFED president Laird Cronk and Secretary-Treasurer Sussanne Skidmore.
He spoke about how ridiculous it was that both the Bank of Canada and the federal Liberals, when talking about inflation, continued to blame high employment and high wages, rather than going against the massive profits that corporations are making. He especially pointed out how ludicrous it was that the Bank of Canada was recommending to employers to suppress wages instead of telling corporations to bring profits down.
He talked about the horrific precedent being set by Conservative premiers in Canada in attempting to use the notwithstanding clause to take away workers’ rights to collectively bargain, referencing specifically Doug Ford in Ontario, but said he was inspired by the solidarity of workers and unions across the country to fight back and win. He indicated that the party was working at the federal level to limit the use of the notwithstanding clause.
Jagmeet also called out federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, talking about the contradiction between Poilievre claiming to support workers while at the same time attacking employment insurance (EI) and pensions.
He talked about some of the recent major wins that the federal NDP has been able to help secure, including expanding health care to include dental care starting with children under 12, renters’ benefit, as well as the GST rebate. Additionally, he talked about being able to force the government to put in 10 paid sick days for federal workers that will soon become law as well as introduce anti-scab legislation to ban replacement workers at the federal level.
Jagmeet also talked about coming legislation that will set up the framework for a national public universal pharmacare for all, which will save money for provinces and territories and help people stay healthy so they can afford medication.
He went on to speak about the need for more, good-paying union jobs because it is better for the economy and better for people, and that we need to make sure more people are able to join a union and to protect the right to collective bargain. He indicated that among the upcoming goals on that front includes putting an end to the misclassification of workers that exploits workers, improve health and safety and eliminate unsafe work conditions, and update Canada’s labour code. He made it clear that the NDP would never support back-to-work legislation even if it was a matter of confidence for the Liberal government.
Jagmeet closed by talking about his recent trip to Germany and learning from the Social Democratic Party on how they went from lagging far back in the polls to winning the 2021 federal election, and reaffirmed his goal of becoming Prime Minister and with an NDP government federally.
The Community & Social Action Committee and the Human Rights Committee each delivered their respective reports in the afternoon of the opening day of convention. A copy of each committees’ written report can be found in the Convention book.
Several resolutions were also debated on the opening day of the 2022 BCFED Convention. Below is a brief summary of the items that were debated and voted on (Please see the Resolutions for the full text). Resolutions that were submitted (or co-submitted) by MoveUP are indicated by an asterisk.
- 2245A: The BCFED, with the CLC, lobby all levels of government to invest in low-cost housing, and endorse the concept of real rent control in BC tied to the unit, and will create a registry to facilitate that.
- 2246A: The BCFED will advocate for affordable housing, lobby all levels of government to follow through on campaign promises to make housing more affordable and address the need for adequately maintained below-market public housing, lobby all levels of government to take measurable action to build 125,000 units of affordable housing, and lobby the government to increase the BC Housing rental stock of assessable units.
- 2249: The BCFED will support the implementation of collective bargaining rights for tenants, and share the Rent Strike Bargain (RSB) petition for collective bargaining rights for tenants in BC.
- 2208A: The BCFED will lobby the provincial government for at least 15 days of employer-paid sick leave, and 5 days of paid family responsibility leave, and lobby the government to remove eligibility requirements to access to these leaves.
- *2257 Amended: The BCFED will call on the provincial government to include decolonization and the legacy of oppression, racism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia, and ableism and audism into its curriculum and to fund accessible adult learning programs that focus on the same subject.
- *2265 to cover 2266: The BCFED will undertake a process to identify and address systems of discrimination, oppression and racism within its own policies, practices and procedures, encourage affiliates to undertake their own processes, and encourage affiliates to address similar systems with their employers at the bargaining table.
- 2262: The BCFED will lobby the provincial government to improve provincial health care coverage for gender-affirming care and ensure adequate training for medical professionals, and advocate for additional unrestricted resources for gender-affirming care.
- 2259: The BCFED will advocate for the definition of family in collective agreements to be expanded to include chosen and culturally-defined family members.
- 2264: The BCFED will work with allied 2SLGBTQIA+ youth organizations to advocate and lobby the provincial government to improve funding and access to 2SLGBTQIA+ youth programs and youth-related housing, and consider advocating for the provincial government to increase the age limit to 30 for access to youth programs and housing.
- 2264: The BCFED will work with allied 2SLGBTQIA+ youth organizations to advocate and lobby the provincial government to improve funding and access to 2SLGBTQIA+ youth programs and youth-related housing, and consider advocating for the provincial government to increase the age limit to 30 for access to youth programs and housing.
- 2267: The BCFED will lobby the provincial government to create a framework for workplaces to implement diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) audits and encourage workplaces to engages by implementing incentives.
- 2260: The BCFED will encourage affiliates to include workplace protections for trans people in collective agreements, and encourage unions to ensure language includes training requirements for employers and workers and a minimum of 8 weeks of paid leave for each gender-affirming procedure and revision.
- 2258: The BCFED will encourage affiliated unions to transition from using the term “brothers/sisters” to more gender neutral-terms.
- 2263: The BCFED will advocate for the provincial government to review the scope and implementation of the Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) program to ensure access to appropriate and timely support and medical care for applicants is provided and that trans-affirming, life-affirming and autonomy affirming safeguards are in place, and work with allied disability justice and 2SLGBTQIA+ organizations do address concerns around adequate resources and programs.
- 2261: The BCFED will campaign and lobby for Canadian Blood Services to end discriminatory practices, address testing procedures that continue to limit individuals from donating blood, and ensure the introduction of appropriate training for frontline blood donor staff when serving 2SLGBTQIA+ people.
- 2216 Amended: The BCFED will lobby the BC government and government of Canada to provide a safe, regulated drug supply, continue and extend the BC decriminalization pilot, pardon prior convictions, and advocate for harm reduction. (Referred back to committee to include more infrastructure to provide not only safe use of drugs but as well as mental and physical support to discontinue use).