Six foot thermometer placed outside B.C. Legislature in rally for worker protections

Six foot thermometer placed outside B.C. Legislature in rally for worker protections

More than a dozen people rallied outside the B.C. Legislature this afternoon, placing a thermometer at the front steps calling on the government to provide better worker protections during extreme weather events.

The Worker Solidarity Network (WSN) delivered a large thermometer, filled with demands to the provincial government to create safer working conditions and policies for employees affected by extreme weather events.

“Workers are impacted by extreme weather events here in British Columbia. Extreme weather events impact their health and safety at work, but also their general employment conditions, like wages, contracts, access to paid sick leave,” Pamela Charron, WSN’s executive director.

The group, which advocates for improved working conditions for employees, organized the rally as part of their Climate & Labour Campaign. The focus was to advocate for workers impacted by extreme weather events due to climate change, especially food service workers.

“The common conversations are around outdoor workers and those workers for sure need protections, however, there seems to be oftentimes we don’t think about how extreme weather events impact indoor workers as well,” said Charron.

A 24-page report was published by the group, in which it surveyed workers from across the province on their lived experiences within the service industry. It found that 77 per cent reported their workplaces did not have adequate protective measures implemented when it comes to environmental disasters.

Nine recommendations were laid out including climate paid leave and a maximum temperature policy that employees can work in.

The number one event that affected them, were heat events like the heat dome of 2021.

“They’re taking it upon themselves to stand in a walk-in freezer when they have a moment to cool down, some workers are paying out of pocket for fans just to bring to the coffee shop they work in to try to cool down,” said Jen Kostuchuk, project coordinator for WSN

Ashton Smyth and Reteka Yuvaraj worked as canvassers during the heat dome and were forced to buy personal fans but never received compensation from their employer.

“A lot of those shifts, we’d try and not even finish the shift because by hour four you’re exhausted and you’ve run out of water and you don’t know what to do. So there’s a lot of preparation going into those conditions,” said Smyth.

The group will now turn the report over to local MLAs, where they hope action will begin.

RELATED FROM 2021: More research is needed connect climate change to B.C.’s extreme weather: analyst

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