Not Part of the Job

DOM2018-FB-EN

Workers killed or injured on the job will be honoured on April 28th at a Day of Mourning ceremony in Kamloops.

Last year, 158 workers in BC died as a result of an injury or work-related illness.  On average, each year, one thousand workers die across Canada, hundreds of thousands more are injured, and countless thousands become permanently disabled.

“No one wakes up to go to work, expecting it to be their last,” says Kamloops and District Labour Council President, Barb Nederpel.  “I love my job, but I’m not dying to go to work.”

The Day of Mourning is recognized internationally to honour those who have died but it is also is a call for ongoing improvements for safer workplaces.  “The best way we can honour those who are no longer with us is to do everything we can to prevent it from happening to someone else.”

This year, the Canadian Labour Congress has launched a campaign, “Violence and Harassment: Not part of the job.”

“Whether it happens once or is part of a pattern, anyone can experience violence and harassment in the workplace,” says Nederpel.

And far too often, workers do not know they have the right to refuse unsafe work, and many others are afraid of coming forward due to possible retaliation, ridicule, or even job loss.”

Unions are calling on joint health and safety committee efforts to create policies and provide training to prevent workplace violence, while identifying and addressing workplace risks.

“Workers also need an safe environment report hazards and incidents of all levels,” says Nederpel, suggesting anti-reprisal measures, including whistleblower protection, would help employers address issues early.

Unions are also calling on employers to identify the impacts and risks of domestic violence in the workplace. Employers, recognizing that work cannot be safe when home isn’t, can conduct workplace risk assessments, offer training and safety planning, and ensure that supports are in place for workers experiencing domestic violence.

The Kamloops and District Labour Council will be hosting a ceremony with WorkSafe BC on April 28th, 6:00 pm at St. Andrews on the Square and invites everyone to attend.  The event will include guest speakers injured worker, Mike Shaw, representatives from WorkSafe and Labour, Kamloops Thompson Cariboo MP, Cathy Mcleod, Kamloops North Thompson MLA, Peter Milobar, and City Councillor, Donovan Cavers.

Workers are also encouraged to observe a moment of silence and fly flags at half-mast at their worksites on April 28th.

 

2018 KDLC Bursaries

The Kamloops and District Labour Council (KDLC) is offering four (4) $1,000 (one thousand dollar) bursaries, including the Jack Kerssens bursary, 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 2018/2019.

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

1.  Application form:  2018 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 effects has the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to restore class size and composition language to the BCTF Collective Agreement had on students and staff in School District #73?

5.  Please submit all of the above information to the address below before May 18, 2018.

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 email 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.

Submission to the LRC Section 3 Review

RE: SECTION 3 – LABOUR RELATIONS CODE REVIEW

Submission by: The Kamloops & District Labour Council

The Kamloops and District Labour Council represents approximately 13,000 working people, from 19 affiliates, including provincial, national and international public and private sector unions, covering the region from Valemount to Merritt, and Chase to Lillooet.

The Council would like to thank the committee along with the Labour Relations Board for the opportunity to make a submission on this important matter. The fact that stakeholders, such as our Council and its affiliates, are being given this opportunity, shows the current Government’s willingness to listen and learn about issues within the code and how they affect working people.

Our submission will be broken down into five parts starting with a brief history, general, organizing, successorship and the construction industry.

Brief History:

The Labour Relations Code and its Board handle all matters related to Unionized workplaces that are provincially regulated, commonly referred to as “the Code” and the “LRB”. Both are a reflection of the current government in power, policies of those governments and the administration of such. This is evident by each change in government in 1973(NDP), 1984(So-Cred), 1987(So-Cred) and 1991(NDP).  Following the victory of the BC Liberals in 2001 and the passing of their Bill 18 in August of that same year, the continued trend and further escalation of de-unionization in this Province is well known. We intend to provide evidence of such and recommend changes that are not only wanted by Unions, but needed to protect and strengthen working class people in BC.

Although “flavour of the day” changes to labour relations aren’t unique to BC, what are unique are the lasting effects that the previous BC Liberal Government was able to establish in the last 16 years. Bill 18 made significant changes, none of which had greater impact than the elimination of both card-based certification and sectoral bargaining in construction, along with establishing education as an essential service. These changes created the situation that makes BC unique today. Although national Union density dropped through the 1980’s and 90’s, BC is the only province where this trend continued into the 2000’s. Unionization in BC by the end of 2016 was approximately 30%, which is below the national average, and is likely even less today.

General:

The Labour Relations Board has wide discretion over the rights of workers and how those rights are accessed.  But during the BC Liberal’s time in government, with chronic underfunding and understaffing, there had been a slow and steady drift towards irrelevance for the LRB.

Ongoing reviews and consultations with the labour relations community at large, such as the one being conducted now, had become non-existent under the previous regime. At one time the board used to hold meetings with Employers and Unions, which it stopped doing for a long period time.  Additionally, the use of part-time members with expertise in various sectors of the economy tapered off and stopped.

This shift over the last 16 years is consistent with the BC Liberal’s animosity towards workers. Furthermore, the undervaluing of the services the Board provides, such as mediation, has led parties to seek mediation outside of the Board, for example. This is not to say that there are not competent and hardworking individuals at the Board, but the lack of resources has effectively isolated the Board from the very community it seeks to represent.

Furthermore, there is a need for continuing reviews of the Code to reflect the evolution of the work environment in our province. There hasn’t been a review in BC since 2003, despite significant changes to union rights, which were extended and clarified by the Supreme Court of Canada and now protected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Recommendation:

 Encourage Government to restore greater levels of funding to the LRB. The lack of funding during the previous regime calls into question worker’s ability to access their rights in a timely way or at all. Adequate funding would allow greater consultation with the labour relations market and the ability to reinstitute the use of Members. Lack of funding has led to major staffing shortfalls which, subsequently, result in greater delays in acquisition of workers’ rights. Some of which we will continue to discuss below, including delays in mandatory votes or mail-in ballots. We believe that the Section 3 Review Committee should be instituted on a permanent basis to ensure that the Code is evaluated and updated continuously.

Organizing (Acquisition of Bargaining Rights):

Nowhere did the changes to the Labour Code by the BC Liberals have a greater impact than on the workers who are attempting to gain certification rights, or what is commonly referred to as the practice of Union Organizing. The abolishment of the card check system and a move to a mandatory vote system has always affected the number of annual unionized workers:

1974 – 1983 (NDP/Card-Check): 7411 average/year

1985 – 1992 (Socred/Mandatory Vote): 4106 average/year

1994 – 2000 (NDP/Card-Check): 8762 average/year

However, the desired impact of the BC Liberal changes was quite effective:

2002 – 2015 (BC Liberal/Mandatory Vote): 2526 average/year

Equally as disturbing, is the number of certifications granted by the board, which dropped from an average of 394/year from 1993 – 2000 to 85 per year from 2002 – 2015.

It is important to note that these stats, as harrowing as they are, are due to more than just the card-check system being abolished. In 2002, the BC Liberals made further amendments with Bill 42 which widened the ways Employers could communicate with employees during an Organizing campaign. These two changes have had the outcome the BC Liberals wanted and have slowed the rate of unionization in this province, while increasing the number of unfair labour practices significantly: From 0.89 per certification application (1992 – 2000) to 1.22 per certification application (2002 – 2015).

The real world application of this means that hiring a Union Organizer is a rare, and an expensive proposition for any labour organization to take on. In fact, organizing has become an expensive endeavour altogether; which in turn, has dissuaded smaller Locals over time. Even the larger Locals suffer; although organizing is a necessity, it has become a situation of trading excessive short term pain for the eventual long term gain.

An organizing campaign can be expensive even in Labour friendly environments, depending on a range of reasons including: the nature of the work, accessibility and locations of the job sites, the number of employees, etc. Add the likelihood of strong Employer resistance, dragged out over a minimum period of ten days, and it becomes certain that there will be at least one unfair labour practice complaint, resulting in a hearing, and most likely with counsel.

We would like to emphasize the “minimum” of ten days, from our experience. Lack of funding at the board has resulted in ten days being the standard, excluding those situations where statutory holidays or weekends cause an extension. Additionally it is becoming common place that rural locations (which can include cities such as Kamloops) are subject to mail-in ballots with 3 – 4 week delays in vote results. This situation was created to build tension and disruption in the workplace and ultimately impede a workers’ fundamental right to choose to unionize. Akin to other jurisdictions in North America, such as those with Right-to-Work laws, which blatantly attack Union purse strings, the attacks are business driven in an attempt to drive out competition.

To make matters worse, there have been several cases regarding Employer speech, which have rendered organizing campaigns completely unbalanced. Convergys Customer Management Canada Inc. was the first of such cases which, among other things, established that while outright lies were not permitted, statements that were incorrect or unreasonable would be. Another was RMH Teleservices International Inc. in which the Board found that bringing in additional management, holding meetings to speak about the Union organizing campaign, awarding gifts with anti-union messaging and blatantly displaying anti-union imaging at the workplace was permissible under sections 6(1) and 8 of the code.

This ultimately means that virtually all speech is allowable, unless the Union can prove it is intimidation or coercion.  Even when they can, the very likely result is the Employer attempting to settle the dispute rather than refer to a Board decision. A blatant threat to an individual that they will be laid off is not likely permissible, but statements about broader lay-offs, cost cutting measures and other methods of intimidation and veiled threats are likely to be permissible. Alternatively spreading false information about the Organizing Union is likely to be permissible, by simply pleading ignorance.

The final nail in the coffin is that regardless of everything that occurs during an organizing campaign, the likelihood of the Union applying and receiving remedial certification is remote. The committee would only have to look at the number of remedial certifications granted in recent years to understand this, but the average is less than two per year.

Recommendations:

 The KDLC submits that the LRC must reinstitute a card-check certification system in lieu of the current mandatory vote system. Card-check is the most equitable way of proving the bargaining unit’s desire to unionize their workplace.

We further submit that the Code be restored with section 6 & 8 language to its 1992 levels. Broadening Employer speech provisions has done nothing but intensify Employer resistance to organizing campaigns and the frequency of unfair labour practices. The system is already unbalanced in regards to which party has greater access and influence over the bargaining unit, and the two noted features above would only help to balance the scale.

We recommend an increase in the use of remedial certifications. Only then will there be deterrence to the ever growing trend of unfair labour practices.

Under a different organizing stream, we would like to draw your attention to the raiding periods within Section 19 of the Code. Employer dominated Unions of convenience are becoming an ever growing entity, particularly in the construction industry. These same Unions use the variable language in Section 19 as a means to restrict workers from selecting a Union of their choice.

In the construction industry, the most common scenario is where employer organized Unions align their raid periods with winter months, where work is either sparse or non-existent. During these periods, the Employers ensure that only a core group of supportive workers are employed and rely on the economics of all the laid-off employees to deter any organizing activity. This makes a difficult campaign almost impossible considering the frustrations in organizing already mentioned.

Recommendation:

Set the raid period in Section 19 of the code to a consistent timeline in a calendar year, ideally in the late spring or summer months, in order to allow greater fairness for workers to choose which Union they want to represent them.

Successorship Rights

Successorship rights under the Labour Code provide for labour stability by allowing the bargaining agent to continue representing the employees under the same collective agreement rights and provisions when a business or service is sold or transferred.  However, in 2002, the BC Liberals enacted the Health and Social Delivery Improvement Act (Bill 29) which not only allowed for mass contracting out of public health care services to private, for-profit contractors, but directly prohibited successorship rights from applying to contracts with a health sector employer.  In 2003, the BC Liberals then enacted the Health Sector Partnerships Agreement Act (Bill 94) which further excluded successorship rights from applying to private health care employers that sub-contracted out facility services or flipped the contract in its entirety.

As a result, over 8,000 workers lost their jobs. Despite many of them working in the same job for decades, they were required to reapply for the same job at a substantially lower wage rate. They lost their benefits and seniority rights and had to go through a probationary period.  Others weren’t rehired at all.   In the private long term care sector, this has resulted in job insecurity, wage suppression, and a complete lack of continuity of care for the residence particularly in the instances where a single facility has cycled through several contractors in a short period.

Recommendations:

To restore balance in the Labour Code and provide the basis for a work environment conducive to safe and continuous care of seniors, patients and residents, the KDLC recommends that Section 35 be expanded to provide for successorship rights in contracts covering building maintenance, food, security, health and long term care sectors, repeal Section 6 of Bill 29, of the Health and Social Services Delivery Improvement Act, and repeal Sections 4 and 5 of Bill 94, the Health Sector Partnerships Agreement Act.

Construction Industry:

The LRC is largely structured around workers within fixed industries, locations with steady workflow. In reality, the construction industry cannot be defined as one of those industries. Worker and Employer mobility is frequent and circulates around one particular project or sub-contracting specialty. The industry has minimal barriers to employment, but also minimal levels of stability. Organizing in construction is difficult due to the short duration of work and concluding Collective Agreements succinct to the completion of a project is largely unaccomplished. Add to this, the high use of Employer dominated Unions and the underground economy, and one can see the lack of construction related provisions within the Code.

The last comprehensive review of the construction industry was in 1998 by Stephen Kelleher and Stan Lanyon. This report is largely accepted by the Building Trades Unions within BC. Regardless of the details the report, the BC Liberals repealed most of the legislation recommended in order to re-establish the flawed system prior to this report.

This has led the current system to become inflexible and has become largely unworkable for most Trade Unions.

Recommendation:

In conjunction with ongoing reviews of the Labour Relations Code, we would submit that the panel recommend an independent and comprehensive review of construction labour relations.

Conclusion:

 In conclusion we call on the panel to simply look at the evidence that is presented here, and in the multitude of other submissions that are likely to be presented. It is clear that the decline in Union density in BC is having a detrimental impact on the working class of this Province. The BC Liberals’ systematic attack on Unions was effective, but yet we continue to fight on and survive.

The current NDP Government is making real and substantive changes that will make life more affordable for British Columbians, but we would suggest that giving people fair access to Union representation is one of the easiest and most effective solutions in making people’s lives better. Acquiring bargaining rights, the subsequent job security, fair wages and benefits, can all have a huge impact on people’s well-being.

We commend again, the panel and the current Government’s willingness to review the code, and hope that these recommendations will be instituted. We ask simply that the Code be adjusted in a manner to level the balance of power that is currently clearly weighted in favour of Employers. Labour Unions have the ability to fix the problem; we just need to the tools to get it done.

Respectively submitted.

 

Resources:

Restoring Fairness and Balance in Labour Relations: The BC Liberals’ Attacks on Unions and Workers 2001-2016. John MacTavish and Chris Buchanan

Looking to the Future: Taking Construction Labour Relations into the 21st Century, Stephen Kelleher and Stan Lanyon

Other:

On the ground stories, reports and experiences of local Union workers and representatives.

KDLC Submission to the LRC Review

 

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

IMG_5478 2

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

 

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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