February 7, 2001
With a provincial election around the corner, the new executive of the North Okanagan Labour Council will be working to ensure the needs and hard-won gains of working people aren't forgotten amid all the political rhetoric.
"We'll be asking the candidates to make their positions clear on issues that affect the workplace and we'll be lobbying them to preserve and improve laws that enhance working life," said Marie Mentz, who was re-elected NOLC president on Wednesday.
While B.C.'s labour code is far from perfect as far as the labour movement is concerned, it's better than most legislation in the country aimed at protecting workers.
The labour council is concerned some politicians running in this election want to significantly reduce protection for workers and make B.C.'s labour laws as weak as those in other jurisdictions.
Ontario recently proposed legislation that could force workers to work a 60-hour week without getting paid overtime. As well, Ontario workers could be required to take vacations a day at a time and could lose their two-day weekends.
"I think the politicians should tell us whether they intend to bring those kinds of sweatshop working conditions into our province," said Mentz. NOLC members are also passionate about protecting B.C.'s anti-scab provisions.
The anti-scab provisions have brought peace to B.C.'s picket lines and levelled the playing field between workers and management in a contract dispute. This has resulted in labour disputes being settled more quickly than in the past, explained Mentz, who cited the recent agreement at B.C. Place as one such example.
"Some business leaders are saying we should bring violence back to the picket line - we want to see where the politicians stand on this issue." Mentz asks voters to take a critical look at campaign rhetoric about fairness and flexibility.
"Those politicians who say the labour code should be more fair or flexible for business are really saying they believe workers should have fewer rights. They don't want a fair labour code, they want a labour code that favours business.
"In the name of flexibility, they want overtime, leave and health provisions weakened."
Also elected to the NOLC executive on Wednesday were David Mitchell (Telecommunications Workers Union), Pat Bulmer (Communication, Energy and Paperworkers) and Cathy Seagris (B.C. Government and Service Employees Union) as vice-presidents. David Doran (Carpenters) was returned as secretary-treasurer. Judi Filion (BCGEU) takes over recording secretary with Terry Sawiuk (Carpenters) elected southern delegate, Tony Heisterkamp (Carpenters) northern delegate and Flore Langeslag (BCGEU) sergeant at arms. Pat Munro (Health Sciences Association) was elected to a three-year term as trustee.
The NOLC represents 10,000 workers in the North and Central Okanagan. The next general membership meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m., March 7 at the Village Green Hotel in Vernon.