The BCFED believes that the province's post-pandemic economic recovery plan must be led by the following principles:
1. Economic recovery must be centered on the success of working people
The success of workers must be front and centre in any economic recovery plan. Their insights and expertise are vital, and their voices must be at the table because recovery cannot happen without them. A full economic recovery will require us to increase workers' wages, protections, and power in the workplace across all sectors in BC. Workers need to be empowered in response to this downturn and must not be asked to take cuts to fund the recovery of their employers. While business viability is important, we are already seeing too many employers responding to financial pressures by attempting to dodge labour regulations, employment standards, and workers' rights.
Workplace health is priority number one. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of robust workplace health and safety programs and the important role of workers' voices at joint occupational health and safety committees. As the economy re-opens, workers will play a central role, and their health and safety is critical to our success. The government must set the tone regarding the critical importance of health and safety, not just during a pandemic but every day.
Strengthening health and safety laws and regulations and increasing worker rights and income will shorten the impact of this pandemic, as a successful recovery relies on lifting all of us up. Economic support programs must focus on job retention and preserving full-time, healthy, safe, and stable employment. Workers voices must be reflected in every step of the path forward.
2. It's time to recognize the true importance of long-undervalued work
BC's post-pandemic recovery presents the chance to properly recognize, value, and compensate workers in economic sectors now recognized as essential, such as grocery store workers, healthcare workers, and frontline community and social service workers, to name a few. Workers in these sectors have been historically undervalued, and they disproportionately employ women and people of colour. While the 7 pm applause is good and appreciated, it does not put food on the table. These workers deserve better — much better. They deserve wages and benefits that recognize their innate dignity and reflect the importance of their work. And they deserve the power to organize and bargain collectively to improve their working conditions.
3. We must prioritize the rights of Indigenous communities in BC and continue implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
COVID-19 has highlighted the acute need to transform the colonial structures embedded in the public and private sectors in the province to come into line with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 Calls to Action. Once this restructuring has occurred, in the spirit of the province's recent legislation, the BC Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, the opportunity created by the reimagining of BC's economy is one of true inclusion, built into the foundation of our provincial structure, allowing us to then walk a path of reconciliation, co-led by Indigenous communities and the public and private sectors.
4. BC must invest in and expand public services and programs
Public services are always critical, but even more so during the times of crisis and upheaval. They represent crucial supports that can enrich life for everyone in our society while establishing a floor that nobody will fall beneath. But as the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear, the province's suite of public services and programs have many holes in coverage that leave out many of the most vulnerable people in our province.
To close those gaps, BC must dramatically increase its investment in public services and programs. Whether related to income, housing, healthcare and childcare, access to nutritious food, education, or any other resources essential to meaningful security and well-being, the province must build a more robust and fortified suite of public services to ensure that no single person in this province is ever without those crucial resources.
5. Too many workers are falling through the cracks in B.C.'s patchwork employment standards system - workers need more security and robust standards across every employment sector
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the depth of worker precarity and employers' increasing reliance on contract and gig workers. It has also demonstrated that many workers must cobble together multiple jobs at multiple worksites to make ends meet. Workers in this province deserve much more security and stability in their employment. So much of the quality of our lives depends on our income, yet many workers live paycheck to paycheck, often relying on debt to get by. We must ensure that every worker in BC is covered by robust employment standards and prevent the exploitation that all too often comes with non-standard employment structures such as misclassified contracting and gig work. We must ensure that every worker has the right to join a union and bargain for fair working conditions. We must establish fair standards for working conditions in sectors that have been undervalued and underpaid for far too long.
6. We must make up for lost time in addressing the climate crisis, with an accelerated and inclusive path to a green economy
We can draw many lessons from this pandemic, but one of the most important is that denial is a disastrous strategy for dealing with catastrophic threats. And nowhere is that truer than with the threat posed by human-driven climate change. Addressing that threat is a matter of long-term survival; increasingly, it's also a question of our economic well-being in the here and now. It is also our responsibility to others around the world who will be hardest hit as sea levels and temperatures rise.
The global collapse of oil prices is only the latest drastic swing in the boom-and-bust fossil fuel economy — and one more sign that a sustainable future must rely on a swift transition to cleaner, renewable sources of energy. BC is already a global leader in green technologies, and the restart of our economy is an unparalleled opening for an aggressive agenda to accelerate that move and the thousands of well-paying jobs it will entail. Such a transition will require careful attention to ensure all communities and workers benefit from the new opportunities offered by a modern, green economy, particularly those hardest hit by the decline of carbon-intensive industries. This will demand an extensive array of investments such as training and skill upgrading — but the result will be a more resilient economy, a healthier environment and a viable future for communities throughout the province. And it will mark our province's leadership in taking on the imperative of dealing with climate change. The province's Clean BC initiative demonstrates how we can create thousands of jobs while simultaneously building a better future for BC.
7. Use public investment to restart the economy — it's time for large-scale public investment, not austerity
British Columbians working in the private sector have been hit especially hard by job losses and work reductions associated with COVID-19. While public-sector workers have also experienced significant layoffs, this pandemic has demonstrated the volatility of the private sector exacerbated by lower levels of unionization and high susceptibility to even brief periods of economic disruption.
Strategic public investment in public services such as childcare and transit, public housing and public works projects such as infrastructure development, produce multiplier effects that create employment and support workers across all sectors as they return to their jobs. In recognition of the inherent susceptibility of the private sector to shocks such as pandemics or environmental degradation, the provincial government can choose to expand public services and employment to provide further security to workers, and as a means of protecting the provincial economy and labour force from future crises.
Additionally, public-sector investment can be strategically used to encourage, facilitate, and structure private-sector investment which will produce broad societal benefits and create secure, well-paying and family-supporting jobs — especially in support of regional economies throughout BC.
8. We need to build long-term resilience in our communities.
This pandemic has proven just how fragile our social fabric is. Under the strains imposed by the pandemic, wide gaps have appeared in our communities' capacity to protect every member from harm and insecurity.
As we rebuild, we must look beyond economic indicators to human outcomes — and in particular our ability to ensure the basic needs of every British Columbian are met. Our goal entails nothing less than the end of poverty, homelessness and other inequities. And it goes deeper: a sustainable, internally resilient society guarantees not only that everyone will have housing, food, comprehensive healthcare, childcare and other supports, but also a meaningful connection to the communities they live and work in and with — even in times of crisis, with no exceptions.