VANCOUVER—BC Federation of Labour delegates vowed solid support for CUPE BC’s campaign against Bill 21 at their annual convention in Vancouver today.
The vote was followed by a noon rally for the 3,500 ambulance paramedics who were legislated “back-to-work” by the Liberal government.
An emergency resolution passed unanimously resolves that the Federation will:
1) Condemn the Campbell government’s continuing interference in the collective bargaining process and abuse of the rights of workers; and
2) Support CUPE British Columbia and its affiliated Local 873’s campaign for a negotiated collective agreement or the use of a neutral third party arbitrator, with solidarity actions and demonstrations, and if required, organize local, regional, and province-wide job action; and
3) Convene a Conference to develop an ongoing strategy to fight the undermining of the collective bargaining process and the abuse of the rights of workers.
CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill warned that the Liberals are trying to privatize ambulance paramedics as they have privatized other public sectors. He vowed that CUPE BC’s campaign “will hold events in 130 communities over the next two months” and added that if the government tries to introduce a U.S.-style ambulance service or use scabs “ we will take significant action” beyond what we are doing now.
Speaking to a rally crowd of about 500 outside the convention, B.C. Fed president Jim Sinclair vowed the support of the federation’s 400,000 unionized workers. “The labour movement will not stand for ripping up workers rights through legislation like this,” Sinclair said.
CUPE 873 president John Strohmaier told the wet but enthusiastic rally that while “the strike may be over – but make no mistake – this labour dispute is just beginning and we will not end until we have a freely negotiated collective agreement.
After demands from the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee to end the strike, the government legislated the paramedics “back to work” on Nov. 7. They had worked throughout their seven-month strike under Essential Services orders. VANOC has admitted it is trying to find “replacement” paramedics for the 2010 Games, including the Canadian military, volunteers from other provinces or even private paramedics from South of the border.
O’Neill asked “who is really running B.C.?” and said he is putting (Premier Gordon) Campbell, (Health Services Minister Kevin) Falcon and VANOC chief Furlong on notice.
“What happens with Bill 21 not only affects us here today, but could affect the very future of our children – we must remember that it is the workers of B.C. who built this province, and we built it for our children – not for the Olympics.”