“Keep going, despite the dark turns”
Tuesday highlighted a powerful legacy of conventions: putting a face to facts.
Whether they’re a seasoned speaker with a 1-hour slot or a “first time delegate, first time speaker” at the mic for a 3min piece of the floor, everyone who speaks invigorates the issues with conviction & firsthand experiences. Most fight nerves, many choke on emotion or shake with anger, all speak from the heart. And what may have been remote or hidden comes alive.
Tuesday was particularly poignant with the executive and delegates speaking to reports and resolutions from the Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) Committee, the Apprenticeship & Skills Training Working Group, and the Women’s Rights Committee.
Stories of sexism, prejudice and immigrant-worker abuses were shared in support of Resolution 51, which carried unanimously regarding application & expansion of the Community Benefits Agreement on publicly-funded infrastructure projects.
Karen Ranalletta, OH&S chair, acknowledged that there’s reason to be hopeful with the current NDP gov’t and Minister of Labour, Harry Bains, pledging to make BC the healthiest & safest province in which to work. But stories shared at the mic illustrated how far there is yet to go. Lack of corporation criminal accountability when workers die…high asbestosis risks on the job…lack of support for front-line workers suffering from PTSD… lack of compulsory trades certification…multiple injuries & deaths amongst dock workers resulting from non-compliance of employers, who are never held accountable…Each heartbreaking account included gratitude to the Fed, who’s efforts have brought many gains already. Criticisms were few, mostly calling for more action sooner. One dissenting voice gave the report a poor grade for missing drug addiction & dependency.
In 2012, the Fed’ Women’s Rights Committee identified 3 pillars of work in which to engage: women’s safety, women’s economic security and women in leadership. In the report presented today, Donisa Bernardo, chair of the Women’s Rights Committee, stated that safety has been at the forefront since the last convention in 2016 due to “a number of women from male-dominated industries who have been educating the committee on the issues they face at work”. Delegates from the floor voiced those issues and more. Indigenous & non-indigenous voices
spoke of lost friends and relatives on the highway of tears…partner violence…workplace assault… discrimination against calling in auxiliary women in trades.
An upbeat moment came when Diane Wood of BCFORUM & the BCGEU was presented the Joy Langan Woman of Distinction award by Langan’s daughter.
Canadian Labour Congress president, Hassan Yusseff is a face of federal labour and his fiery address focused on 3 national labour challenges: 1) the Liberal’s legislation ordering Canadian Union of Postal Workers back to work, effective this afternoon, violates the Supreme Court’s ruling on the fundamental right to strike and hands all the bargaining power to the employer; 2) GM ’s 5 North America-wide plant closures
announced Monday, resulting in mass job losses in Oshawa; 3) the pharmaceutical monopoly that leads Canada to have the 3rd highest drug costs globally, after Switzerland and the US. New Zealand pays $0.115 to Canada’s $1 for the same 7 most common drugs made by Canadian manufacturer Apotek!
After lunch, Kevin Rebeck, President of the Manitoba Fed, summarized Manitoba’s inspiring labour history and the dark turn its taken since Brian Pallister’s Conservative government took over in May 2016 and scrapped the Ministry of Labour while imposing severe collective bargaining restrictions.
Each person at the mic strengthened the delegate’s resolve to continue the fight for workers’ rights for equitable access to a safe and secure workplace.