Author Archives: Barb Nederpel

A frank discussion on poverty with Mable Elmore

IMG_8327In addition to the Poverty Reduction Consultations, the Kamloops and District Labour Council invited Mable Elmore to engage with Labour and concerned citizens about the development of a BC poverty reduction strategy.

Before fielding numerous questions from participants, Elmore (MLA for Vancouver Kensington and Parliamentary Secretary for Poverty Reduction) stated that the two highest, most oppressive costs for BC families are housing and child care – and that equal access to both must be considered a matter of basic human rights and social justice. She then explained that a poverty reduction plan is complex and multi-factorial, and that several preliminary steps have already been taken or are in progress. For example:

  • Income Assistance and Disabilities payments have been increased by $100 per month, and earnings exemptions have been increased by $200 per month;
  • Tuition fees have been eliminated for Adult Basic Education, English as a Second Language, and post-secondary education for youth “aging out” of the foster care system;
  • While a universal child care plan is still in the works, 3800 new child care spots have been created in 52 communities from Vancouver to Prince George;
  • Housing issues are being addressed through both legislated protections for renters and the creation of 100,000 more housing units for people living in poverty or facing homelessness. Although BC has 50,000 units of social housing, the government is committed to expansion, and has acknowledged the lack of affordable student housing. Kamloops will soon receive 104 modular housing units.
  • Affordable housing units will be complemented by a support network (including partnerships with Interior Health and the Canadian Mental Health Association) to help marginalized and vulnerable people better navigate the system and access services. A portion of housing and supports will be specifically earmarked for people diagnosed with certain medical conditions;
  • Shelter spaces will be increased and open after April 1st;
  • There will be a greater investment in public education, and the NDP has already funded over 2000 new trades training spots at post-secondary institutions across BC.

Elmore listened to our many concerns and responded thoroughly to a wide range of questions. Among the most critical was the question of jobs – increases to the minimum wage, the creation of sustainable living-wage jobs, and issues surrounding privatization, contracting out and P3s. Apparently, we can look forward to Community Benefits Agreements, which will ensure that provincial infrastructure projects will hire locally and use local procurement, support local innovation, and provide apprenticeships and training to local workers (particularly from marginalized groups). BC will also undertake a pilot project to test out a Guaranteed Basic Annual Wage.

In closing, it was the group’s consensus that in order for a poverty reduction plan to succeed it is vital to raise public awareness about poverty and homelessness and work to eliminate stigma and push-back from communities. Elmore’s assistant and note-taker compiled our questions, concerns, and ideas for the purpose of submitting an official report. All in all, the meeting was informative, respectful, and encouraging.

 

MSP Task Force Submission

Website letterhead

January 31, 2018

The Kamloops and District Labour Council, representing 13,000 unionized workers with a mandate to advance the economic and social welfare of everyone in an equitable society. As such, we wish to submit our position on eliminating the Medical Services Premium, to the Government of BC.

The MSP, a regressive and unfair tax that disproportionality impacts workers at the low to medium wage brackets, was doubled under the former BC Liberal Government at the same time that business and the top income earners were given billion dollar tax cuts. Shockingly, more money was being collected through MSP than through corporate business taxes.

We understand that people would be more inclined to pay higher fees to protect our treasured health care services, however, as the higher MSP fees went directly into general revenue, health care services were cut or privatized, wait lists and wait times grew, and access to primary care and therefore the health care system, diminished dramatically.

The members of the KDLC are encouraging the BC Government to eliminate the MSP entirely and expediently by rolling the premiums into progressive personal and business tax structures to ensure that everyone pays their fair share.

All businesses benefit greatly from having a healthy workforce that has access to timely medical services in the form of increased productivity and decreased absences, however, only some employers currently provide MSP coverage for employees. A more fair system would have all businesses share in the costs through increased tax with lower rates for smaller businesses.

We are also encouraged by this Government’s mandate of implementing a poverty reduction plan which could include the elimination of MSP and progressive taxation. As well, upstream strategies to reducing poverty will have a huge impact on reducing health care costs, but also policing, judicial, mental health, and other vital public services.

BC is the only remaining province to charge this fee as other jurisdictions have successfully eliminated it without any overall loss to provincial revenue. We thank the BC Government for its commitment to do the same.

Kind Regards,
Barb Nederpel
President

Community Consultations Worthwhile

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Article submitted by Sister Harmony Raine, pictured here with Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, Shane Simpson, Ed Lalonde, and Barb Nederpel

On January 18th, a group of KDLC delegates attended a Poverty Reduction Consultation meeting facilitated by Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, several local and provincial Ministry staff, and SPARC (Social Planning and Research Council) BC. The Kamloops meeting was one of 28 such events taking place throughout the province, in which the BC government is seeking public input on what a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy for BC should look like.

If there is strength in numbers, then we can be very hopeful that our voices will be heard. This highly engaging and productive meeting, hosted by Lii Michif Otipemisiwak Family and Community Services on the North Shore, was packed to capacity with over a hundred concerned citizens and representatives from a wide range of community organizations, social service agencies, NGO’s, and non-profit groups.

The format was small group, round-table discussions and debates designed to identify key issues contributing to poverty in the region, and more importantly what concrete measures can be taken to address the problems.

Topping the list of immediate concerns were: the lack of safe, affordable housing and supports to go along with housing; stigma faced by the homeless and people living in poverty; compassion fatigue and the day-to-day struggles among workers trying to “meet the needs of their clients”; barriers to accessing services and problems with navigating “the system”; and health / mental health care concerns.

KDLC delegates brought such issues to the table as inadequate wages, the lack of living wage jobs, sustainable job creation, precarity, outsourcing and privatization, skills training, and the dire need for safe, affordable child care.

As always, we were preaching to the already converted in the sense that these types of events generally attract people and organizations already dedicated to social change. That said, I have increasingly been witnessing a real divide among activists, in which Labour is on one side of things and social service agencies, community outreach programs, detox facilities, missions, emergency and transitional housing, food banks, meals programs, faith groups, and other non-profit organizations seem to be banded together on the other side.

Last night was no different, at least in my own small group. “Labour” was the real outlier, and my suggestions about the need to increase the minimum wage to $15, implement a living wage, create green, sustainable, living wage jobs, and support skills training as opposed to mere “education,” were met with some pretty hard resistance.

Most of the retort was familiar: that small Mom & Pop businesses can’t afford to pay higher wages, and will therefore be forced to lay people off or close down, resulting in fewer jobs for local residents… and other bits of rationale along the same lines.

I also heard some arguments I had not heard before. For example, the “unfairness” of implementing a $15 per hour minimum wage or a living wage on existing workers. The rationale here is that if someone has worked hard for “x” number of years to make more than minimum wage, it is unfair that people who have not worked their way up the ladder can now also earn $15 per hour (the old “I paid my dues, you should be expected to pay yours too” mentality).

While it is sad that some businesses might be unable to continue operating with higher staffing costs – and while I empathize with people who have worked hard for a long time only to be in the same wage bracket as workers who have not – it is not up to us to try to rectify those types of scenarios. Business decisions fall onto individual businesses / employers. We need to focus on the fact that rising waters lift all boats.

One argument that did resonate with me was that raising the minimum wage (or wages in general) is really only one part of the equation. A higher minimum wage is still inadequate as long as the cost of living outpaces earnings by such a huge margin. We all agreed that the cost of living, particularly the astronomical cost of housing all across BC, is a core issue. However, I disagreed with my fellow group members’ insistence that the way forward was to reduce the cost of living as opposed to increasing wages.

The ever-escalating cost of living certainly explains how we have created a society of working poor (people who remain in poverty despite working the equivalent of full-time or more) in a relatively affluent society. But while we can make some things more affordable – for instance by increasing subsidized housing units, implementing a universal child care program, and eliminating MSP payments – we can’t reduce the cost of food, fuel, utilities and other necessities. Reducing the cost of living is a rather unachievable goal.

From a labour perspective, wages must keep up with (and preferably exceed) cost of living increases in order to alleviate poverty. Pay is also part of a value system, and we need to pay people what their work, time, efforts, education, training, talents, and personal sacrifices are worth. One of my cohort shared that she has always worked in social services, while her partner, a steelworker, has always earned far more than she does. She stated that society values certain occupations more than others, and that it is clear that steel (big business) is valued more than the lives of human beings. Well said, sister.

In the end, the consensus among our group was that a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy must be multi-faceted and take into account regional differences such as the fact that many communities lack doctors, specialists, and medical facilities, placing an additional financial burden on many poor and working poor who must travel in order to obtain medical care. Our “free” health care system is anything but free – and costlier for some citizens than others.

As a group, we felt that a primary tactic for implementing a poverty reduction strategy is to create public awareness of poverty-related issues. We proposed to the Ministry a series of rotating PSAs that explain WHY we need a poverty reduction plan in BC, and specified that the necessary emotional impact should come from the use of personal stories and testimonials rather than from the use of scare tactics or sensationalism. For those who aren’t moved by emotion, then the messages would also remind people that a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy would cost $3 to $4 billion per year – less than half of the $8 to $9 billion per year we are currently paying to keep families and children trapped in poverty.

For me, the “big take-away” of the evening was that we need to keep having these discussions and change our perspective of poverty in order to create new strategies to address, reduce, and even eliminate it.

Please indulge me as I share a well-known parable that aptly illustrates the difference between “downstream” and “upstream” approaches to social change:

One summer in the village, people gathered for a picnic. As they shared food and conversation, someone noticed a baby in the river, struggling and crying. The baby was about to drown!

Someone rushed to save the baby. Then, they noticed another screaming baby in the river, and they pulled that baby out. Soon, more babies were seen drowning in the river, and the townspeople were pulling them out as fast as they could. It took great effort, and they began to organize their activities in order to save the babies as they came down the river. As everyone else was busy in the rescue efforts to save the babies, two of the townspeople started to run away along the shore of the river.

“Where are you going?” shouted one of the rescuers. “We need you here to help us save these babies!”

“We are going upstream to stop whoever is throwing them in!”

Labour is one of the entities using an upstream approach. The KDLC’s mandate is not to “give a person a fish” but to teach them to fish (and help them to build boats, string nets, and market their products…).

This philosophy certainly doesn’t negate the seemingly endless need in our society for people and organizations devoted to pulling drowning people out of the river. But an effective, comprehensive poverty reduction strategy, with its emphasis upstream, would help to keep many more people from falling into the water or between the cracks.

The provincial Poverty Reduction consultation process will continue until March 2018.

The KDLC will be hosting their own forum with MLA and Parliamentary Secretary for Poverty Reduction, Mable Elmore on February 6th, 6:00 pm at Desert Gardens.  Everyone is welcome and light food and refreshments will be provided.

Poster for distribution:  Poverty Reduction Engagement

If you have been unable to attend a meeting, your feedback can be submitted as follows:

Online at https://engage.gov.bc.ca/bcpovertyreduction/

By email to BCPovertyReduction@gov.bc.ca

By phone – call and leave a voice mail message: 1-778-698-7746 (Victoria) or, call Enquiry BC and ask for BC Poverty Reduction: 1-800-663-7867 (Calls can be made Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time.)

Please participate in this very important process.

Poverty Reduction Consultation Submission

Dear Premier John Horgan,

As the holiday season draws to a close, many of us are left with fond memories of the good times we had with our families and friends; the festivities, good food, gifts, and traditions. For others, the holiday season is a stark reminder that they cannot afford festivities and feasts, or even to meet the basic needs of their families. Let’s face it, staring into an empty refrigerator is not fun and doesn’t evoke happy memories for anyone. As you know, BC has highest rate of poverty and child poverty in Canada, yet is the only province without a comprehensive Poverty Reduction Plan.

At the December meeting of the Kamloops and District Labour Council (KDLC), delegates voted in favour of making cash donations to several food banks in our region – with the proviso that we also do whatever we can to help change the system that maintains poverty.

While we appreciate the hard work being done by food bank workers and volunteers as they strive to meet the ever-expanding needs in our communities, we are saddened that receiving charity has become a “holiday tradition” for so many Canadian families. The KDLC firmly believes that charity undermines individuals’ dignity and autonomy and maintains social hierarchies and inequality.

Accordingly, we are urging the BC NDP government to implement a strong poverty reduction strategy with a cross-ministerial focus, strict timelines and legislated targets. In order to achieve these targets, we call upon the province to commit to specific policy measures and concrete actions in each of the following policy areas:

  1. Provide adequate and accessible income support for the non-employed, and remove policy barriers so that recipients can build and maintain assets – including increasing welfare and disability rates to the Market Basket Measure and indexing them to the cost of living, and removing the arbitrary barriers that discourage, delay and deny people in need;
  2. Improve the earnings and working conditions of those in the low-wage workforce – including increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour by January 2019 and restoring the coverage and enforcement of employment standards;
  3. Address the needs of those most likely to be living in poverty – including restructuring federal and provincial funding to better address the needs of all Aboriginal people, including the large off-reserve population;
  4. Address homelessness and adopt a comprehensive affordable housing and supportive housing plan – including bringing on stream 10,000 new units of social and co-op housing per year;
  5. Provide universal publicly-funded child care – including adopting the $10 a day child care plan produced by the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC and the Early Childhood Educators of BC;
  6. Enhance support for training and education for low-income people – including reducing tuition fees by 50% and increasing the availability of post-secondary grants for low-income students.
  7. Enhance community mental health and home support services and expand integrated approaches to prevention and health promotion services – including expanding essential health services in the public system such as dental and optical care and community mental health services.

The existence of poverty in Canada is a violation of human rights. We not only have a moral duty to eradicate poverty, but also a legal obligation under international human rights law.

There is also a false economy in failing to act boldly. According to the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, maintaining poverty costs between $8 and $9 billion per year as compared to a comprehensive poverty reduction plan, which would cost between $3-4 billion per year when fully implemented.

We know that paying for the negative effects of poverty costs much more than dealing with it directly and that it is costing far more for us to turn our backs on families and children living in poverty than it ever would to help lift them out of poverty. The KDLC advocates for education and training, good jobs that pay a living wage, affordable and accessible child care, decent affordable housing, adequate public transportation, strong public health care, and universal Pharmacare for all citizens. We stand behind a progressive government that assumes responsibility for the needs of its citizens rather than placing the burden of poverty on charitable organizations. Now is the time for collaboration and action in addressing the root causes of poverty.

Sincerely,

Barb Nederpel, President

cc:            Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction

Mable Elmore, Parliamentary Secretary for Poverty Reduction

 

Labour Council Endorses Three By-election Candidates

Photo by Darryl Schmidt

Photo by Darryl Schmidt

Kamloops–The Kamloops and District Labour Council has endorsed Bill McQuarrie, Jeanne Marr and Leslie Lax for the upcoming municipal by-election in Kamloops.

“We believe Bill McQuarrie, running for Mayor, and Jeanne Marr and Leslie Lax for council, have the best interests of working and vulnerable people in mind. They have solid ideas for strengthening our community both economically and environmentally and the personal constitution to stand on their positions,” says KDLC President Barb Nederpel.

“These candidates all took strong positions against privatization, contracting out, and are in support of a Living Wage, food security and a number of progressive positions the KDLC also supports.”

The endorsement process started with an invitation to all candidates and those who responded positively were asked to fill out a questionnaire, and once submitted, they were invited to participate in the forum. The questionnaire elicited responses around issues such as how to conduct municipal core reviews, local and ethical procurement policies for the City, improved and accessible transit, and how the city can prepare for the effects of climate change.

“The questionnaire gave the candidates a chance to contemplate issues they may not have been exposed to, and it allowed us to gain a well-rounded understanding of the candidate’s values that we knew we couldn’t get to with a two-question public forum.”

“We know the work of municipal governments has a profound impact on workers and their families and the communities they work and live in. That’s why we work hard to engage our members in civic issues,” says KDLC President, Barb Nederpel.

The original format was to have individual round tables on key topics for the labour organization, however, it became problematic when a large majority of the candidates responded positively to the invitation.

“Usually we have four or five participants — even in a regular election,” says Nederpel.  “But this by-election seems to have brought out a high number of candidates who value the work that unions do and have a progressive vision for their community. We had 22 participants in total.”

The two questions posed at the forum regarded the Living Wage and contracting out of municipal services.

“These are core issues for labour. If someone works full time they should be able to live above the poverty line and be able to fully participate in society. Contracting out municipal services generally means citizens get lower quality or reduced services and drives down the wages of the workers for maximum profit for the contractor.”

The KDLC endorsement committee immediately grappled with their decision of who to endorse, a process Nederpel says was the hardest they have ever went through in a municipal election.

“There are a lot of really good candidates and if we were in a regular election, we would have endorsed several of them.”

But with only one mayoral seat and two council seats, they decided to back only three to increase the likelihood of progressive candidates being elected.

She added that others candidates like Bill Sarai, who is running an enthusiastic “voice of the people” campaign, and Glen Hilke, who has the most front line experience and dedication to his community, are also very strong.

Not all of the candidates followed the required endorsement process and three showed up to the forum to participate – posing a procedural challenge for the Labour Council.  As a democratic organization, Nederpel put the question to the audience twice before the audience relented.

“These candidates made the effort to be there and I was happy they were able to heard.”

One of the council candidates who failed to follow the endorsement process, but showed up anyway, was Kevin Krueger. He later walked out of the forum out of apparent frustration with having to follow the process that all the other participants were easily adhering to.

“We had no indication he was coming as he didn’t respond to the invitation, nor did we even imagine that he would seek Labour Council endorsement.”

Nederpel claims when Mr. Krueger was an MLA, his BC Liberal government dramatically altered employment standards leading to the precarious working conditions in BC today, dramatically impaired oversight for employment standards and workers’ ability to seek fair retribution, and froze minimum wage for a decade.

“So we were really surprised he came. But I made every effort to include him and he was treated like everyone else despite his history with many of us in the room.”

Nederpel acutely remembers when Krueger’s government contracted out hospital workers in 2004.  Over 9,000, predominantly women, laundry and dietary workers lost their jobs when the services were contracted out to multinational corporations. In addition, the 43,000 workers also had their wages cut by 15%, dramatically altering people’s lives. So when the second question was posed to Mr. Krueger about contracting out, Nederpel expected a well rehearsed, typical response.

“But he stated that ‘everyone does, there are times when it is appropriate, and the answer is no’.  It’s not really clear by this answer if he is in favour of contracting out or not, but history shows that he is. Then he just walked away from the mic and straight out the side door…it was just strange.”

Sparks flew during the “challenge” part of the forum where candidates were encouraged to elaborate, debate, or support each other’s responses.

“The challenge format really allowed us to get a good understanding of the candidate’s points of view and knowledge and their ability to stand up for what they believe in. It was a great success and we’re happy to have provided this service for our community.”

Questionnaires:

Bill McQuarrie

 

–30–

Pharmacare for everyone

ForeveryoneCanada’s unions are marking Labour Day with the launch of a campaign calling for prescription drug coverage for all Canadians.

“Canada’s unions have fought hard to win health insurance coverage for our members,” said Kamloops and District Labour Council President, Barb Nederpel. “But we’re not stopping there.”

Canadians take great pride in having a universal health care system where people are able to access treatment, regardless of where you live or how much you make.  However, there is a massive gap in the public health care system when it comes to prescription drug coverage. In fact, Canada is the only industrialized country with a universal health care system without a pharmacare program.

“Canada’s current patchwork prescription drug system is so inefficient that our drug costs are the second highest in the world, just under the United States,” says Nederpel.  “Plus, our inconsistent coverage and uneven access to certain drugs mean that people often pay different rates for the same medications.”

According to the Canadian Labour Congress, about 8.4 million working Canadians don’t have prescription drug coverage. Younger workers and women are most affected because they’re more likely to work part-time, low-wage, or precarious jobs. But even Canadians who have coverage through work are paying more and more out of pocket, because of ever-increasing co-payments and deductibles.

“As a result 3.5 million Canadians can’t afford to fill their prescriptions,” Nederpel said. “Here in BC, a survey found that 29% of British Columbians, more than any other province in the country, said they or someone in their household are splitting their pills or skipping days to stretch the prescriptions they do fill,” she said.

Nobody should be forced to choose between paying for groceries and paying for the medication they need,” said Nederpel.  “That’s why we’re working to win a universal prescription drug plan that covers all Canadians regardless of their income, age or where they live.”

The campaign, “Pharmacare: A Plan for Everyone” launches on Labour Day across Canada.  To learn more and sign the petition, go to  aplanforeveryone.ca.

“With an annual investment of only $1 billion by our federal government, Canadians would save $7.3 billion a year on prescriptions, just through the power of bulk purchasing under a single plan,” says Nederpel.  “Imagine the savings we would have in health care and other social safety nets if everyone could take their medications properly.”

The Kamloops and District Labour Council, which represents 13,000 unionized workers in the region, will be hosting the annual Labour Day Picnic on September 4th, at McDonald Park, between 10 am and 2 pm.  It will be a fun filled day with hundreds of giveaways and prizes, dunk tank, popcorn, face painting, local musicians. Hot dogs will be served up and 100% of the donations will go to the Food Bank.

“We hope to see everyone there having a great time and learn more about the community building that Labour does,” adds Nederpel.  “And it is a good opportunity to come out and show support for a national Pharmacare program.”

Kamloops and District Labour Council Gives Area Food Banks a Protein Boost

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Left to Right: Glen Foster (Chase Food Bank), Anton Houeen (Barriere Food Bank), Mogens Jorgensen (KDLC), Wes Graham (Kamloops Food Bank), James Schnackenberg (Kamloops Food Bank), and Sherry Joubert (Clearwater Food Bank)

Last month, the Kamloops and District Labour Council (KDLC) – in partnership with Protein for People – distributed 140 cases of canned salmon to food banks in Kamloops, Chase, Barriere, Clearwater, and Merritt.

Protein for People

Protein for People is a non-profit society that was founded by six BC unions and the United Way in 2006. Since then, it has grown to include over 30 unions, labour councils, and community-minded corporations that work together to provide high quality protein to local food banks. To date, the program has overseen the delivery of hundreds of thousands of cans of salmon to BC food banks and, in turn, to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

How it works

Member organizations, unions, labour councils, and individual union members donate cash, and the power of bulk-buying is then used to subsidize food bank purchases of protein-based foods that are generally in short supply at food banks. The mainstay of the program has been canned salmon, but peanut butter was added as a meat alternative in 2016. Corporate partners contribute to the cause either by donating cash or providing other services. Save-On Foods, for example, has generously been handling the shipping of goods from the lower mainland to our area, which cuts costs and greatly increases the amount of food we are able to purchase.

The KDLC connection

Picture1The KDLC began working with Protein for People about four years ago, when the project was taken on by Executive member Mogens Jorgensen. A retired United Food and Commercial Union worker, Jorgensen was able to make all the connections necessary to successfully bring the project to our local communities. Since that time, he has devoted himself to working on this important initiative almost singlehandedly on behalf of the KDLC.

Food Banks

While labour organizations promote actions that empower people to be self-sufficient – sustainable employment, improved working conditions, and a living wage – we also recognize that food banks are still a necessity for many people, at least in the short term. Food bank clients are not solely those who must live on social assistance. A growing number of Canadians using food banks are employed, but have been forced into low paying jobs that keep them living below the official “poverty line.” The number of two-parent families reliant on food banks has grown faster than any other demographic, and over 30% of food bank users are children.

Through the KDLC’s partnership with Protein for People, those of us who are fortunate enough to have union jobs that pay a living wage are able to offer support to our sisters, brothers, and friends who might need a hand up.

For more information on the Protein for People project, go to proteinproject.ca.

Submitted by Harmony Ráine

2017 Student Bursaries

The Kamloops and District Labour Council (KDLC) is offering five (5) $1,000 (one thousand dollar) bursaries (two in an academic field and three [one of these is the Jack Kerrsens bursary] in a trades field of study) to students who are members or relatives of members of unions that are affiliated to, and in good standing with, the KDLC.

Who is eligible?

  • Members or relatives of members, of unions affiliated to and in good standing with, the KDLC.
  • Definition of a relative: a spouse of same or opposite sex, parent, child, including step-child or foster child, brother, sister, grandchild, niece or nephew.
  • Applicants must be registered in a full-time or part-time post secondary program at a PUBLIC education institution in 2017/2018.

All of the following information MUST be included in your submission to the KDLC Bursary Committee.

1.  Application form: 2017 KDLC BURSARY APPLICATION

2.  Transcript of your grade standing

3.  Confirmation of your enrollment in a PUBLIC education institution in 2017/2018. If you are waiting for enrollment confirmation, please send a letter stating you are waiting for the confirmation and if you are chosen for a bursary, the confirmation will have to be shown before you will receive the bursary

4.  A double-spaced typed essay of 750-1000 words on the following topic. This essay shall be the basis for awarding the bursary.

What impact do you feel the “Fight for $15” campaign will have?

5.  Please submit all of the above information to the address below before May 12, 2017.

The Committee will ONLY accept Bursary applications by mail to:

Bursary Committee
Kamloops and District Labour Council PO Box 369 STN MAIN
Kamloops, BC
V2C 5K9

Please ALSO send a copy of your bursary application and your answer to the question to chblma@telus.net. This is to make sure we get all of the applications in a timely fashion.

 

Why we Need International Women’s Day

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Article submitted by KDLC executive member, Harmony Raine

Even though I was among a group of enlightened, progressive, likeminded people at last night’s regular meeting of the Kamloops and District Labour Council, I felt compelled to speak out about why we need International Women’s Day.

My short address was inspired partly by an uncomfortable incident that occurred in my workplace several months ago, and partly by recurring questions (and snide comments) about why we have International Women’s Day but not International Men’s Day.

______

One day, two male CUPE members came into the CUPE 3500 office where I was working at my part-time job and wearing my awesome Rosie-the-Riveter T shirt.

Without even saying “hello,” one of the guys pointed to my shirt and blurted out, “This is exactly the problem, right here.” I asked what he meant, to which he unapologetically replied that “the reason there are no jobs for men is because there are too many women in the workforce taking all the men’s jobs.”

Surprisingly, this inflammatory statement wasn’t even accompanied by the all-too-familiar “just kidding” intended to legitimize bad behaviour. The second man shot me a look that can only be described as wide-eyed horror and shrunk into a mortified little ball, but did not come to my defense.

I calmly offered my opinion that the real threat to all of our jobs has been globalization – outsourcing, temporary foreign migrant workers being imported and used as slave labour, contracting out, and privatization. The member, obviously opposed to having a meaningful dialogue on the subject, continued to berate and blame women for all of working men’s woes.

I considered the source – an ignorant person who was unwilling to engage in a fruitful discussion – decided to ignore his remarks, and changed the subject.

Myth #1: Women have achieved equality with men

Unfortunately individual attitudes, such as the one above, are the reflection of a systemic problem.

If you are think women and men have equality in Canadian society, please consider as just one tangible aspect of inequality, the indisputable fact that it is 2017 and women still don’t have wage parity (equal pay for work of equal value) with men. In fact, Canadian women who work full-time still earn only about 73.5 cents for every dollar men make. Canada has one of the largest wage gaps in the world, and the gap is even greater for Indigenous women and women of colour.

But wage disparity is not a women’s issue or a feminist issue. Paying women lower wages has serious negative impacts on the lives of women, men, and children. It is a blow to families and local economies.

It is not difficult to imagine that our high divorce rate (conservatively 40% in Canada), has resulted in an immeasurable number of single-parent families. About 80% of single parent households are headed by women; but even in two-parent families, many women are the primary or sole wage earner. Continuing to pay women lower wages is not just about inequality as an abstract concept; it hurts families and children and keeps them trapped in poverty. As one KDLC delegate duly pointed out, wage-gap related poverty is greatly exacerbated in same-sex partnerships where both parties are women. Another member related that he earns double what his wife earns, which is not only unfair in principle, but places an undue amount of pressure on him to provide financially for his family.

Myth #2: Feminism (aka the “F word”) is pro-women and anti-men

It is disturbing enough when our peers and fellow members exhibit sexist and misogynist attitudes, but is much more disheartening to know that there are people in positions of power, leadership and influence who share the same sentiments. I have witnessed this in the form of such comments as “feminists are a bunch a radicals” and “women don’t want equality with men, they want more” (just kidding, can’t you take a joke?).

If you think these types blanket statements represent a valid opinion, are benign, non-discriminatory, or that women are over-sensitive, try subjecting them to the litmus test by substituting the word “women” or “feminist” with the name of any other group. If you wouldn’t call people of colour “a bunch of radicals” on the basis that it is racist, then it is sexist. For some reason, micro-aggressions against women are part of mainstream culture, and more acceptable than discrimination against other marginalized groups.

I believe that anti-women/anti-feminist rhetoric has its roots in early attempts to discredit feminists by right-wing politicians and media. Fear mongering and accusations that feminists were man-haters and that feminism was destructive to men, the family, and society took hold and continues to thrive today (as illustrated by our friend’s opinion at the beginning of this article). Feminist-bashing has woven itself into our culture and feminism is still considered “the F word,” which is why so many women are reticent to identify as feminists. We can and must change the dialogue.

True feminism is decidedly not anti-men, but rather is grounded in the belief that men and women should have equal social, political, and economic rights and opportunities. True feminism strives for equality and fairness for both sexes, which involves the elimination of prescribed gender roles. Just as feminism advocates for women’s social, political and economic equality outside the home, it is also about encouraging and supporting men to take on a more prominent role within the home and in raising their children.

Myth #3: If we observe International Women’s Day, we should also have a special day dedicated to men

Questions are often raised (with more than a hint of indignation) regarding why we celebrate International Women’s Day, have women’s committees, etc. and why men don’t also get a special day.

The primary reason we don’t have International Men’s Day or men’s committees is simply because men don’t need them. Men are not a historically oppressed group. This is not to say that individual men are not marginalized on the basis of race, disability, sexual orientation, or poverty; but as a group they do not face discrimination, oppression, or violence on the basis of their gender the way women typically do.

Secondly, we celebrate International Women’s Day for the same reasons we observe the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, World AIDS Day, Black History Month, Pride Parades, and so on. These days serve as a valuable form of consciousness-raising and visible support for our marginalized brothers, sisters and friends; they are a celebration of our progress, successes and achievements as well as a means by which to shed light on areas that still need a lot of work; they keep important issues alive, allowing us to examine our troubled collective history so that we can learn how not to repeat it.

Myth # 4: I’m not a woman, so I can’t possibly be a feminist

Feminism is not for women only, is not pro-women and anti-men, and does not operate on the basis that women should have more than men. Feminism strives for fairness and equality and acknowledges that we need men as allies, partners, and advocates. As a mother, it is inconceivable that I would want more my daughter than my sons. We want our sons and daughters to have equal rights, equal opportunities, and an equal shot at success, fulfilment, and independence.

If you believe that all people – women and men – deserve equal access to social, political, and economic opportunities, spoiler alert: you are a feminist.

If you have a mother, grandmother, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces, female friends and co-workers, or a female partner, you had better be a feminist or at least work toward becoming one.

As a society, we have come a long way. Women’s rights have long been protected under the law and by human rights and labour legislation, but we can’t legislate or enforce individual attitudes. The sad reality is that in almost every society, including our own, women are treated as second-class citizens either overtly or insidiously.

The encounter I had with my co-worker is just one small example of why we need to change our culture. Acknowledging and celebrating International Women’s Day is one way of doing this. It is an important part of our ongoing activism and consciousness-raising, and represents a meaningful step toward building a just and equitable society for men, women, families, and members of all marginalized groups.

Poverty in BC Costs Us All

 

 

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Article by Harmony Raine, Sergeant at Arms for the KDLC, after attending the Poverty Reduction Summit in November.

According to Seth Klein, Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), overcoming poverty is not impossible – it’s not even that difficult. We just have to have the political will to act on it.

The Poverty Reduction/Living Wage Summit, organized jointly by the Poverty Reduction Coalition of BC and the Living Wage for Families Campaign, was all about collective political will. The meetings brought together almost 100 engaged community partners from across BC, all concerned with improving policies that affect people living in poverty.

The summit was more than just a forum for like-minded people to brainstorm ideas and preach to the already-converted. It was a highly instructive and collaborative effort designed to strengthen relationships, share ideas, increase capacity, and build momentum for poverty reduction and living wage initiatives. Participants learned the most effective ways to raise awareness, communicate, engage their communities, identify target audiences, lobby governments, and run successful campaigns.

Poverty is Political

Poverty is a complex social issue that encompasses more than simply a lack of money. It is the lack (or the denial) of economic, social, and cultural resources people need in order to have a decent quality of life and meaningful (economic, social and political) participation in the community.

Poverty equates to a distinct lack of power, political influence, media control, decision-making, and the ability to save money and create wealth. Wealth inequality leads to social dysfunction, increased health and safety problems, and higher rates of crime, domestic violence, illiteracy, teen pregnancy, and discrimination of all kinds (racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, ageism, ableism, and so on).

Poverty is a serious social and political concern and a key election issue for the upcoming provincial election. As such, the Summit focused upon skill-building, leadership development, and issued a call for collective political action (aka change in government) in order to bring about much-needed policy changes.

Poverty and Wealth Inequality in BC: Some Facts and Figures

  • BC has the highest cost of living in Canada;
  • BC has the greatest gaps between rich and poor: 1% of people hold 75% of the wealth
  • BC has the second highest rate of poverty in the country: 451,000 BC residents are currently living below the LICO (1 in 10);
  • BC has the second highest rate of child poverty in the country – 1 in 5 (20%). That’s 167,810 children living in poverty, with thousands more whose parents are just barely above the poverty line;
  • Child poverty rates for children from marginalized groups is much higher: First Nations children 48%, other aboriginal children 28%, recent immigrants 34%, and visible minorities 22%;
  • 33% of BC children living in poverty are vulnerable or not meeting developmental milestones. This has life-long consequences; * See the 2015 child poverty report card;
  • Housing
    • BC has serious crises in housing availability / affordability and homelessness. Low housing availability drives up the cost of shelter and creates problems such as an increase in discrimination of all types and women being unable to leave abusive situations.
    • Waitlists for BC Housing (subsidized units) remain over two years long. And although the BC Liberal government insists that thousands of private market housing units are available for $375 per month, current data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) states otherwise;
  • Most of the poor are working;
    • BC has the highest percentage of working poor in the country. The BC Liberals “jobs plan” has created a very low-wage work force with the lowest minimum wage in the country (recently increased to $10.85 per hour, $9.60 per hour for liquor servers);
    • Privatization, contracting out, and the exploitation of temporary foreign migrant workers drives wages down and forces people to go on social assistance or take a second job (leading to negative health impacts and the fracturing of families)
  • 1 in 3 poor children lives in a household where at least one adult works full time;
    • Half of all single parent households are living in poverty, 80% of which are households headed by women (poverty is gendered);
    • The average annual cost of child care for a toddler in British Columbia (2012) was $9,900. That’s double the $5,015 average cost of university tuition fees (2012/13). By contrast, the province of Quebec boasts a successful $7 a day flat rate child care program and tuition in Quebec is also more affordable: an average of $2,774 in 2012/13 for undergraduate tuition.
  • Income assistance rates remain dramatically below the most conservative poverty measures.
  • Welfare rates have not increased since 1997: $610 per month ($375 of which is allotted for shelter). And while social assistance rates for persons with designated disabilities recently increased by $77 per month, $52 per month (and $48 annually) was clawed back to cover a ‘transportation subsidy’ that had previously been included in monthly benefits. Meanwhile, the cost of living has risen an average of 20% (cross-Canada) during the same time period.

Income Assistance Rate Table

Support Rate Shelter
Maximum
Unit
Size
A B C D E F G H
1 *$235.00 $282.92 N/A $531.42 N/A N/A N/A *N/A *$375.00
2 $307.22 $452.06 *$375.58 $700.56 $949.06 *$672.08 *$423.58 *$396.22 *$570.00
3 $401.06 *$546.06 *$375.58 *$794.56 *$1043.06 *$672.08 *$423.58 *$490.06 *$660.00
4 $401.06 *$546.06 *$375.58 *$794.56 *$1043.06 *$672.08 *$423.58 *$490.06 *$700.00
5 $401.06 *$546.06 *$375.58 *$794.56 *$1043.06 *$672.08 *$423.58 *$490.06 *$750.00
6 $401.06 *$546.06 *$375.58 *$794.56 *$1043.06 *$672.08 *$423.58 *$490.06 *$785.00
7 $401.06 *$546.06 *$375.58 *$794.56 *$1043.06 *$672.08 *$423.58 *$490.06 *$820.00

 

The asterisk indicates the most recent rate table changes
Key Effective April 1, 2007, rates for:
A Employable singles, couples, and two-parent families where all adults are under 65 years of age.
B Singles, couples, and two-parent families where all adults meet the Persons with Persistent Multiple Barriers (PPMB) criteria and all are under 65.
C Employable one-parent families where the parent is under 65.
D Singles, couples, and two-parent families where one adult is aged 65 years or older.
E Couples and two-parent families where both adults are aged 65 years or older.
F One-parent families where the parent is aged 65 or older.
G One-parent families where the parent meets the Persons with Persistent Multiple Barriers (PPMB) criteria and is under 65.
H *Couples and two-parent families where one adult meets the PPMB criteria and all are under 65.

(Source)

*Note: The $375/month shelter allotment is included in the basic monthly calculation – not in addition to basic benefits.

  • 40-60% of people on welfare and disability pensions are living below the poverty line;
  • The “breadth of poverty” includes all people living in poverty, not just those on social assistance (welfare, disability, OAS, EI). 75% of people living in poverty are non-senior adults (61% between 40 and 60 years). The rest are seniors and children.

BC is the ONLY province without a poverty reduction strategy or a plan for universal child care

The Cost of Poverty in BC

According to the CCPA, the cost of poverty in BC is $8-9 billion per year not including lost potential. The cost of a comprehensive poverty reduction plan (including investments into health care, education, the justice system, increases in social assistance rates, job creation, affordable housing, etc. would cost about half as much at approximately $3-4 billion per year.

It would only take $5.8 billion to bring everyone living below the poverty line in BC to above it. This is only 2.6% of BC’s GDP ($230 billion).

Poverty costs us all:

  •  Additional $1.2 billion per year for health care (mental and physical)
  • Crime, $745 million per year
  • Lost income, lost potential costs $7.3-$9 billion per year.

The bottom line is that we cannot afford poverty, and surveys show that 78% of British Columbians want a poverty reduction strategy.

So, What Would a Comprehensive Poverty Reduction Plan Include?

  • A living wage (beginning with increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour)
  • Job creation (ethical, sustainable, environmentally conscious, living wage)
  • Substantial increases to social assistance and disability rates
  • Affordable, appropriate, safe housing  (new construction and renovations)
  • Universal, affordable, quality child care
  • Increased funding for health care and education (K-12 and post-secondary)
  • Elimination of MSP premiums
  • Vision and dental care included in MSP
  • Enhanced, affordable public transportation
  • A strong focus on the needs of marginalized people

 

What is a Living Wage?

 The idea of a Living Wage is not new. The movement began at the turn of the century with a campaign for 8-hour work days (based on the “8 hours work / 8 hours sleep / 8 hours for what we will” model). Low wages, however, have increased the number of hours we must work just to survive, while reducing the number of hours we can sleep, let alone do “what we will.”

The Living Wage Policy is a practical tool for reducing poverty by engaging all sectors of the community in actions that will increase the number of families making a living wage, and certifying a critical mass of employers who pay a living wage (and who also ensure that their contractors are paying a living wage).

Living wage rates are calculated annually based on cost of living (inflation), and are designed to reflect what two working parents with two young children would need to earn in order to cover basic expenses including rent, child care, food, and transportation (after taxes, credits, deductions and subsidies have been applied). Some problems in trying to calculate an accurate living wage include the fact that we are experiencing a combination of cost of living policy failures such as MSP payments, lack of affordable housing, no universal child care, and so on.

In Kamloops, the current living wage has been calculated at $17.21 per hour, down 74 cents from 2014. This reduction is a direct result of the federal government increasing the child tax benefit. Maximum benefit amounts (for families earning less than $30,000 per year) are $533 per month for each child under the age of six, $450 per month for each child aged 6 to 17, and an additional $2,730 per year if your child qualifies for the disability amount. As household income goes up, benefits go down accordingly. It seems that families could live better by consistently earning decent wages rather than having to rely on fixed monthly or yearly tax benefits which could be discontinued at any time.

One of the challenges to employers who wish to implement a living wage policy is that there may not be a recent calculation. This is where measures such as stepped implementation and allowances for certain exemptions might be used for large employers in the interim (ie: begin with a $15/hour minimum wage, fair wage policy in which contractors earn the same rate as unionized workers for equal work, and adopt a local procurement policy).

Another barrier for large employers is multiple wage rates (different rates for different regions). Adverse effects of a universal / non-regionalized living wage include a type of ‘brain drain,’ in which workers relocate from lower living wage areas to higher ones. This does not take certain costs like transportation and housing into account and points to the need for regional wage rates instead of a universal rate. Regional living wage rates are more realistic and can help promote equity.

A living wage policy as part of a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy is a provincial election issue; and in order for campaigns to be successful they must engage municipalities, health authorities, and school districts as well as businesses that are influential in the community. Living wage municipalities and employers can then be used as models and advocates for decent wages and safe, stable work.

Some steps for running a successful Living Wage Campaign:

Get municipalities on board, otherwise the campaign is not likely to be successful. Appeal to council and staff; use their interests to engage them. “Adopt” a councillor. Don’t bring forward a motion until you are fairly confident it will pass (do it right the first time). A failed motion makes your campaign difficult-to-impossible.

Step 1:           Lobby council and staff, educate (use New West model), be confident, bring in expertise;

Step 2:           Request report from staff on the implications of a living wage policy. Allow time for decision-making;

Step 3:           Assume the report won’t be positive and work to support council in asking questions;

Step 4:           Optional – Request another staff report (via motion);

Step 5:           Pass a living wage policy, get certification;

Step 6:           Celebrate

 

*Labour Councils are vital to campaigns because they endorse candidates who support a living wage policy, providing mapping. This information needs to be shared among the coalition.

Create a campaign messaging by developing a message box. A message box is a set of statements you want to see and hear repeated in the media over and over again:

  1. a) Us on us
  2. b) Them on them
  3. c) Them on us
  4. d) Us on them

Use the “us on us” (what we’re doing and why it’s important) to create the primary message(s) in your campaign. ie: HEU’s Care Can’t Wait campaign. “There are 1500 care aides in the province, more than half have no time to meet patient needs. 4 out of 5 care homes are understaffed.” The campaign slogan / tag line / catch phrase comes from brainstorming facts in “us on us”.

Steps to creating “us on us” message:

F          Frame the issue

R         Reframe the opponent’s story (them on them) and Reinforce your own (us on us)

A         Accessible to audiences

M         Memes, make it memorable

E         Emotional

S         Short and simple

  • Decide on the goal of the campaign and intended audiences before choosing key slogan;
  • Ideas can then be focus-group tested, and the message can be made more impactful by using members’ faces and voices;
  • Include human interest stories whenever possible to generate emotion and reinforce the point of the campaign;
  • Use social media (with caution and respect). *New media is more about engaging than imposing/dumping information on audiences; tool for mobilizing, dealing with negative press, etc.
  • Social media messages should be short and simple: 80 words or less, positive only. Be specific, not vague *Include an “ask” – ask people to like, share, and tag.
  • Take good photos and share the best. Use video – periscope, Twitter, Facebook Live
  • Free graphic design program for infographics: Canva.com

Jobs (or Lack Thereof…)

 The BC Liberals Jobs Plan is failing British Columbians. Newly created jobs have been primarily temporary, part-time, precarious positions in numbers that have not kept up with BC’s growing population. The Jobs Plan was supposed to stimulate private sector job creation, but the private sector actually lost 12,000 jobs in the first 10 months of 2013. It’s very rare for the private sector to shed jobs outside of a recession. In the last 40 years in B.C., it has happened only once, in 2001, and then only about 2,700 jobs were lost.

Virtually all the recent job growth has been in the Lower Mainland and Southern Vancouver Island, driven by the housing boom. In contrast, there has been no job growth this year in the regions that were specifically promised jobs courtesy of the ‘LNG pipe dream.’

Rather than desperately looking to Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and other environmentally risky or minimally processed natural resources as the province’s panacea, a viable job-creation plan should be strategically linked to our most pressing collective challenges:

  • climate change;
  • inequality (in both income and regional);
  • the erosion of tax fairness;
  • the affordability crises in housing and child care

picture1

(Source)

Seth Klein states that tens of thousands of new, green, sustainable jobs could be created in the renewable energy sector through:

  • A major buildings retrofit program (where public, commercial and residential buildings and homes are renovated to maximize energy efficiency and conservation);
  • New investments in renewable electricity generation (solar, wind, tidal and geothermal energy), and renewable neighbourhood energy utilities;
  • Large-scale investments in public transit and high-speed rail; and
  • Climate adaptation infrastructure (such as sewer and dike upgrades).

Forestry could be revitalized through reforestation, value-added manufacturing, and the processing of diverted wood waste and raw logs – potentially creating over 20,000 new jobs.

Building social and co-op housing at the rate of 10,000 units per year could yield well over 16,000 direct jobs in construction per year, plus another 12,250 indirect jobs (based on current construction employment calculations).

Implementing a universal child care program would create approximately 8,000 new jobs for child care workers and allow about 40,000 women to enter or re-enter the paid labour force. These estimates don’t include the creation of construction jobs for building new child care spaces, or indirect jobs in related services such as supplies and food. Nor do they include about another 8,000 existing child care jobs where workers in the informal sector move into the public regulated child care sector. This shift would not increase the number of jobs, but these workers will see an improvement in their education, wages, benefits and job stability.

These public investments can be paid for through fair taxation, carbon taxes and regular infrastructure funding, and such a jobs plan would reach every corner of BC, make a substantial difference in people’s lives, and promote equality.

Bolster Local Campaigns through Highlighting  Models of Success

  • Poverty reduction strategies in Newfoundland and Labrador have lifted 11,000 people out poverty.
  • In New Brunswick, 25,000 have been lifted out of poverty and dental care for all children is now covered by MSP
  • Quebec’s  $7/day child care plan has enabled 70,000 women to enter or re-enter the workforce (an increase of women’s participation in paid labour of 3.8%)  and is paying for itself. The program also created 8,000 new jobs in child care and construction. Quebec’s GDP increased by 1.7% (approximately $5 billion) as a result of the program.

The poverty rate among seniors is down slightly due to policy changes around CPP, OAS, low income supplement, etc.

In the budget announced Feb. 17th – after months of pressure from single parents, advocates and the opposition NDP – the government reversed the policy that stopped families headed by a single parent from keeping any child support payments from the non-custodial parent. Support payments were subtracted dollar for dollar from the family’s monthly welfare cheque. This poverty-creating policy had been taking $13 million away from 6,000 of BC’s poorest kids every year under the BC Liberals simply because their single parents received income assistance or disability.

Any of us could slip into deep poverty at any time, but the elimination of poverty is achievable where there is political will.

We need a comprehensive poverty reduction plan now – for all of us, especially for the 167,810 children who deserve better. We all deserve better, and a change in government will help BC to do better.

 

Submitted by Harmony Ráine

Kamloops and District Labour Council