Convention working for a better British Columbia
I had the privilege of attending the B.C. Federation of Labour convention in Vancouver on Nov. 26-28. I believe it is important that your readership know that if they ever want to really get to know what union workers are concerned about and how eloquently and passionately they can speak on issues that should be the concern of all citizens in B.C.; they should attend the conference as an observer.
The business of the convention centered not on the typical concerns of unions regarding salary, benefits, and working conditions for union members.
There were almost 900 blue-collar workers, white-collar workers, teachers, nurses, labour council representatives and others debating issues such as the abysmal treatment of immigrant workers who come to Canada to work for less than the minimum standards set out for British Columbians and with little or no protections for health and safety, the lack of a national day care program, the concern of exporting our raw resources without developing value added opportunities in Canada, global warming and environmental issues, the need for stronger federal and provincial regulation of employment standards, the deterioration of health care service and the danger of increased privatization and two-tier health care, and the need in British Columbia to guarantee all workers a minimum standard of income by raising the minimum wage to $10.
The meeting even passed a teacher-recommended resolution condemning the provincial government for the $50 million claw back of funding for grade 10 to 12 part time students that came after budgets, staffing and programs at the school level had been established for this year.
There were many other social justice issues that were discussed and many more that were not able to come to the floor because of the limited time allotment. The resolutions that came forward came from local affiliates of the federation and those speaking to them demonstrated the high level of education, thought, responsibility and respect that the unionized workforce in B.C. has for not just all workers in British Columbia but for all our communities and families.
Having been in attendance, I have felt humbled by the quality, integrity, concern and care my union colleagues from very diverse roles, regions and skills shared at the convention.
It has shown me how important unions are in our society, how significant the supreme court ruling entrenching the right to free collective bargaining in the Charter of Rights, and how important it is for the working people, be they blue-collar, white-collar, or professional, work together to make our communities healthy, safe, and caring places to live.
It made me very proud to belong to my union, the Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union, to be affiliated with the B.C. Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress, and to be part of a tremendous positive force of intelligent, caring, and knowledgeable people.