Phase 1: Immediate (now)

The first phase deals with policies that are needed immediately, to respond to and address the emergency crises that British Columbians are dealing with right now. In this phase, the priority is shoring up emergency programs and public services to meet both pre-existing and newly arisen crises in the province.

Worker health and safety

We recommend that the government:

  • Work with unions, employers, WCB and the PHO to develop a plan for safe relaunch of key industries - make sure employers have developed exposure control plans, train workers and provide personal protective equipment (PPE) when exposure can't be eliminated.
  • Use Emergency Powers Act to provide presumptive coverage for occupational disease for essential workers who are exposed to or contract COVID-19 while WCB completes its regulatory review.
  • Secure a stable supply of PPE for workers who require it, including for those outside of health care (community and social services, public education, transit, grocery, etc.)
  • Work with the WCB to provide workers and employers with support and resources.
  • Effectively enforce health and safety laws and regulations through the WCB and issue penalties for employer non-compliance up to and including jail time.
  • Ensure workers with health vulnerabilities or who are otherwise at higher risk from COVID-19 be permitted to work from home or granted another appropriate accommodation, and that they have access to special paid leaves.

Worker rights and protection

We recommend that the government:

  • Ensure that government continues with planned worker supports, including scheduled minimum wage increases.
  • Protect worker rights in the Employment Standards Act and Labour Code, including the right to severance pay.
  • Develop recruitment and retention strategies for community and social services and health care, including higher safety standards, better wages and benefits, guaranteed minimum work hours, stable shifts, and access to childcare and benefits.
  • Ensure workers have access to paid sick leave through government- or employer-funded programs so that no worker feels forced to work sick.
  • Ensure that collective agreements and their contract provisions continue to be honoured and respected by employers.
  • For employment sectors where recovery is delayed, such as the hospitality sector, explore economic supports and agreements that will help employers keep workers employed and ensure that that workers have the right to return to their job, if they choose, when the sector re-opens.
  • Ensure workers can access their right to unionize while health restrictions remain in place by providing a fair, timely, and effective process for certification votes.

Public services and supports

We recommend that the government:

  • Secure federal and provincial funding to re-open transit routes so workers who rely on transit can safely get to work or attain essential supplies.
  • Continue to provide childcare, including for school-aged children, with a focus on health and safety for children, childcare providers, teachers, EAs, and other school district staff.
  • Increase access to mental health services and supports for British Columbians struggling with social isolation and the economic impact of this crisis.
  • Continue to work with unions representing workers in hotels, food preparation, and cleaning to support public programs to house vulnerable populations, health care workers, and temporary foreign workers during this crisis. Develop and implement consultation and co-development processes to ensure that workers and their unions are included in the design and implementation of support programs.
  • Resist the use of privatized services as a stopgap measure to support strained public services, especially in healthcare, and instead extend public systems.
  • Invest in and prioritize recruitment, training, and hiring for all public health services to address the shortfall of workers and human resources in the public healthcare sector.
  • Increase access to mental healthcare and social supports for health sector workers.
  • Establish directives and mandates ensuring that all sites which are used to provide childcare (including schools) are safe for all workers within them.
  • Cease layoffs or dismissals of public-sector workers and re-hire any workers who have been laid off or dismissed during the pandemic.

Support for vulnerable populations

We recommend that the government:

  • Continue to fill gaps in economic support programs to ensure migrant workers, undocumented workers, sex workers, and other workers in underground economies don't fall through the cracks.
  • Review provincial carceral detention and psychiatric institutionalization, broaden the rules regarding eligibility for release, and safely release all those who can be. Establish and invest in transition and community reception and re-integration programs to support those released from detention and institutionalization.
  • Expand financial and legal aid, support programs and transition housing for those who have experienced or are experiencing domestic, sexual, or intimate-partner violence.

Addressing the climate emergency

We recommend that the government:

  • Maintain the carbon tax and penalties for emitters.
  • Plan implementation of major climate emergency mitigation strategies.