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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 17, Number 5, March 2005

For the record: Liberal policies imposed since 2000

Labour laws and human rights

  • Children 12 and 13 can be hired to work 20 hours a week when school is in session
  • Up to 35 hours a week during non-school periods
  • No longer need government or school consent (only one parent)

Other protections lost

  • Minimum hours for call out reduced from four to two
  • Wage statement need only be sent electronically
  • No display of working hours at worksite (employers can change work schedules without notice)
  • Employment standards need not be posted
  • Violations are treated through "self-help" kits
  • Employee records are only retained for two years (reduced from seven)
  • Pregnancy leave must be taken in 17 consecutive weeks

Loss of income

  • Training wage ($6/hr.)
  • Averaging hours of work over four weeks (160 hours of work before overtime pay—up to 12 hrs/day)
  • Many part-time workers lost all statutory holiday pay

Social services

  • Legal aid

    - Cuts of about 40%
    - Most to family & poverty legal aid
    - Full-time staff cut from 460 to 155
    - B.C.’s legal aid offices reduced from 42 to 7
    - Poverty law legal aid eliminated
    - Family law legal aid only in life-threatening emergencies
    - Referrals for family law legal aid down 53%

Other issues affecting women

  • Ministry of Women’s Equality eliminated
  • Funding for women’s centres eliminated
  • BC Human Rights Commission eliminated
  • Funding cuts of over $1.5 million to victim’s assistance and sexual assault programs

Cuts to social assistance

  • 30% cut to ministry budget ($581 million over three years)
  • Ministry staff cut by 459 full-time positions
  • 6 welfare offices closed
  • Cuts to benefits & tighter eligibility rules
  • Two-year time limit rule
  • Two-year independence test
  • Elimination of earnings exemptions
  • Elimination of child support exemptions (for all but those with disabilities)
  • Three-week "wait period"
  • More restrictive definition of disability

Other changes

  • Cut $24 million in childcare subsidies
  • Revoked legislation that capped parents’ costs for before and after school programs to $7/day
  • Tuition freeze ended. Between 2001 and 2004, average undergraduate tuition in B.C. up 87%
  • Funding for education frozen
  • 2,558 fewer teachers
  • 113 neighbourhood schools closed
  • 14,000 students displaced
  • Shift to four-day school week in many places
  • Cuts to special education
  • Rise of private school funding
  • Industry Training & Apprenticeship Commission (ITAC) eliminated
  • Increased costs for seniors’ drugs

Privatization

  • BC Hydro/Electricity
    - one-third of BC Hydro privatized to Accenture
    - all new electricity to come from the private sector
    - BC Transmission Corporation now private
    - Promotion of "Grid West" (U.S. control of transmission system)
  • BC Rail
  • BC Ferries
  • Healthcare
    - Privatized health support services
    - Privatized administration of B.C.’s Medical Services Plan and PharmaCare (to U.S. company, Maximum Inc.)
    - 9,000 jobs lost (21% of HEU membership, which was 85% female
    - Wages drop from $18/hr. to $10 or less/hr.
    - Pay equity achievements lost
    - 33,000 health care support workers who remain employed had wages cut 15%

What should we do with the budget surplus?

Public poll of B.C. in October 2004:
62%—spend on education and healthcare
25%—reduce the debt
12%—reduce taxes

Marjorie Griffin Cohen, a professor in the Political Science Faculty, SFU, outlined these policy changes in B.C. since 2000, in her address to the BCTF Fall Representative Assembly.


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