Unions urge ILO to send special mission to BC

Violations of workers' rights so flagrant, they warrant special attention from UN Agency

Ottawa - The International Labour Organizations condemnation of the British Columbia Liberals is so sweeping that the United Nations body should visit the province and get a first hand look at how badly the province is violating UN standards, says Canadas second largest union and its BC components.

"The circumstances warrant it," says James Clancy, president of the 325,000-member National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). -The ILO should visit the province and see for itself just how bad labour relations have become. Hopefully, by being in Canada, they will be able to convince the premier and his government of the importance of implementing the ILOs recommendations." Clancy adds that the scope of the ILOs ruling against the province is almost unprecedented.

-Since they were elected to office, the Campbell Liberals have trampled on the rights of thousands of workers, ignoring the most basic rights of working people—rights that are guaranteed by the United Nations," said George Heyman, president of the BC Government and Service Employees Union (BCGEU). -Even while the government was under investigation for these UN violations, it continued to attack workers. This has to stop."

Heyman points out that in their latest budget presented February 18, the Liberals announced a three-year wage freeze for all public sector workers. And just last week, the government passed legislation restricting the rights of ferry workers and ordered university employees on a legal strike back to work.

-Experience has shown again and again that this government does not believe in free collective bargaining and is prepared to legislate a contract if they dont get what they want at the bargaining table," says Heyman.

Cindy Stewart, president of the Health Sciences Association of BC adds that the Liberals cannot be relied upon to take the ILOs report seriously given the disdain they have shown for the UN Committees process. In their submission to the ILO, the BC Liberals said the complaints were -too frivolous, vexatious, political and trivial" to rate an investigation ... a statement the ILO was quick to refute in its ruling.

-Its obvious that this government has no understanding of the basic principles of freedom of association and its international obligations as signatory to ILO Conventions," Stewart says. -Despite international condemnation and embarrassment, we have every reason to believe that this government will continue to violate the most basic rights of workers."

Besides calling for the ILO to send a special mission to BC, the National Union and its two BC components are also calling on the federal Liberal government to put pressure on the Campbell Liberals to conform with UN labour standards.

The federal government should be very troubled by the ILOs ruling," says Clancy. -Not only is it a black mark on Canadas respected reputation in the international community, but there are economic implications as well. Corporations do not view countries with poor records on human and labour rights as good places to make stable investment."

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Derek Fudge, NUPGE 613 228-9800
Soren Bech or Carol Adams, BCGEU, 604 291-9611
Rebecca Maurer, HSA, 604 430-0994

Click here for the full report of the ILO Governing Body containing its ruling on six complaints submitted to them against the BC government. (PDF file - Adobe Acrobat required)

For more information on the International Labour Organization, go to:

Derek Fudge, NUPGE, p. 613-228-9800
Soren Bech or Carol Adams, BCGEU, p. 604.291.9611
Rebecca Maurer, HSA, p. 604.439.0994