80 Edward Patrick O’Connor

Edward O'Connor

Edward Patrick O’Connor

Introduction

Edward (Ed) Patrick O’Connor was born Dublin, Dublin County, Ireland July 11, 1908 and died at 96 years of age in Richmond, BC on September 30, 2004. He immigrated to Canada in 1919 with his family. His Father was a retired soldier-immigrant who worked as a camp cook in logging camps and his Mother was a Registered Nurse. He attended St. Anne Academy and then Vancouver College both in Vancouver, BC. Ed worked in the BC Sugar Refinery as a labourer until age 20 when he obtained a job as a court registry clerk in the Attorney General’s Department, Vancouver, BC.

Ed, along with co workers, believed working conditions, wages and hours required of Provincial Government employees were unfair compared to Federal and Civic Government Employees, so he began organizing and participating in meetings to discuss ways to improve conditions for all Provincial Government employees. In 1942, at a meeting organized by Ed and others targeted, with the initiation of the Provincial Civil Service Association of BC, he began moving towards a province wide provincial employee association. This association, under the leadership of Ed, first as President became the BC Provincial Government Employees’ Association with Ed as its General Secretary, later became the BC Government Employees Association and in 1969 then BC Government Employees Union.

In 1969, Ed retired from the BCGEA having served as Secretary General with distinction from 1945 to 1967 and President of the Provincial Civil Service Association of BC from 1942 to 1945.

Ed continued his life’s work of improving the working situation and conditions of Canadian workers in Canada by accepting an appointment from the Governor General of Canada, Roland Michener, on behalf of the Privy Council of Canada to sit on the inaugural Public Staff Relations Board of Canada for a seven year term. Ed was the only member on the Board representing the interests and welfare workers and their rights for labour. He administered the collective bargaining and grievance adjudication systems in the federal public service between federal government employees and the Treasury Board (the employer). He tirelessly fought for government workers and on three occasions the dissents he wrote (three of very many) formed the basis of appeals to the Supreme Court of Canada and were upheld by the court. After accepting a second appointment to the Board he retired 11 years later. 
Accomplishments

During his career, Ed worked tirelessly with complete commitment to improving the lot of government employees in particular and all employees in general. His dedication flowed from his fundamental belief that all persons should be treated fairly, equally and with respect. Ed made a positive essential difference to the lives of provincial and federal government employees and to the lives of all employees in the private sector. Many of his accomplishment cannot be objectively measured but continued to be greatly appreciated by Canadians long after Ed’s retirement and passing.

 His accomplishments that benefited his fellow Canadians were many and varied:

·         Organized civil servants and government employees into an central association

·         United civil servants and government employees on issues of common interest

·         Achieved improved, reasonable and good working conditions for civil servants and government employees

·         Achieved reversal of wage cuts in the early years of the depression for Provincial Government (PG) employees

·         Reduced hours required for work from 5.5 days a week to 5 days a week

·         Reduced hours required for work to 40 hours a week without a pay cut

·         Negotiated regular cost of living bonuses in 1942 that kept them abreast of war time inflation·         Squelched political cronyism and patronage in hiring and promoting in the provincial public service·         Structured efficient public service free from political and personal patronage or discrimination·         Achieved just and equitable scale of salaries based on efficiency and job seniority ·         Established worker employment rights·         Established impartial position descriptions, grade and salary system for all employees

·         Accomplished council representation on all commissions and boards setting salaries and conditions

·         Instituted a bargaining agency in the light of modern relationship of employer and employee

·         Established the first medical and insurance plan (Medical and Hospital Insurance Plan (BCGEMS)) to provide health coverage for civil servants and provincial employees

·         1965 when Federal Government enacted Canada Health Act each province had to set up a provincial medical system; BC Provincial Government approached the BCGEA and BCGEMS was changed to the Medical Services Plan (MSP) for all government employees ·         Proposed a system of dues check off which was accepted and instituted by Provincial Government·         Negotiated a pension plan for civil servants and government employees·         Indexed (to cost of living increases (CIP)) pension plan for civil servants and government employees

·         Established a formal procedure by which employee grievances would be adjudicated by a PG/BCGEA Board

·         Achieved the provision of two pay days a month sick leave for all full time PG employees after six months service

·         Obtained provision of sick leave for employees during their first six months of service·         Worked from 1946 to his retirement in 1969 to obtain collective bargaining rights; when David Barrett of the NDP became Premier in August 1972, he introduced collective bargaining rights for all employees. 

  • Visionary
  • ·         1946 proposal for a federal social security plan
  • ·         1946 proposal contributory pension of $50 per month for all Canadians at age 60 without a means test
  • ·         1946 proposal collective bargaining with provincial government  
  • Appointments
  • In recognition of his strong support of rights for all workers and in acknowledgement of his contributions to and achievement for workers in the public and private sectors in Canada, Ed received many appointments:

·         Appointed Life Time Member of BCGEA

·         Appointed Vice President BC Federation of Labour for two year term ·         Appointed by Federal Government to represent Canada on labour relations committee at NATO Conference in Tunisia, North Africa ·         Appointed by Federal Government to represent Canada on labour relations committee at United Nations Conference in Geneva Switzerland

·         Appointed to two consecutive two years terms as Vice President of the Canadian Labour Congress

·         Appointed to inaugural Public Staff Relations Board of Canada by Privy Council of Canada for a seven year term

·         Reappointed to Public Staff Relations Board of Canada by Privy Council of Canada for a second term of four years

·         Appointed as life time member of the Musicians Union

 Community Service

·         Knight of Columbus

·         United Way

·         Vancouver College Alumni 

·         Red Cross

·         Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners Association

·         Shaughnessy Place Strata Council

 Tributes

·         1955 – Achievements on behalf of government employees recognized by BCGEA through granted a Life membership in the BCGEA

·         1962 – Canadian Labour Congress presented an award to E.P. O’Connor in acknowledgement and appreciation of service to the Canadian labour movement as a member of the Executive Council (Vice President) of the Canadian Labour Congress from April 1958 to April 1962. ·         1967 – In recognition of valuable service to the nation, Governor General, Roland Michener conferred to Ed O’Connor the Canadian Centennial Medal (marking Canada’s 100th Anniversary as a country).

·         1969 – Past President Sandy McEwan BCGEA, recalled O’Connor’s start in government service as a court registry clerk in the 1920s and how he “laid his job on the line to help create this union … and remained as the one common denominator during a succession of president and executive bodies during the long hard years of our progress.”
2001 – Thirty-one years after his retirement as General Secretary of the BCGEU and at 93 years of age, George Heyman President of BCGEU, acknowledged his “commitment and dedication”, “hard work and vision” and his contribution to the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union and provincial employees of BC. 

·         2004 – G. Halsey-Brandt, member of BC Provincial Government Parliament (Source: 5th Session, 37thParliament, OFFICIAL REPORT OF DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY (HANSARD), Monday, October 4, 2004, Afternoon Sitting, Volume 26, Number 2): It is with sadness that I report that the founding president of the union that grew into today’s B.C. Government and Service Employees Union has died in Richmond at the age of 96. Edward Patrick O’Connor served as the first president of the B.C. Government Employees Association from 1942 until 1945 and then as its General Secretary until 1967, the year he received the Canadian Centennial medal. He then retired and, as usual when people retire, worked even harder as he took on an 11-year appointment as labour’s representative on the Public Service Staff Relations Board. We express our thanks for the work he did on behalf of all British Columbians. 
Accomplishments by Year

1940

·         Organized meetings of interested Provincial Government Employees (PGE) even though great afraid of being fired

1942

·         Organized first meeting of reborn (defunct in 1925) Provincial Civil Service Association of BC (PCSABC) on February 14, 1942.

·         March 31, 1942 a meeting organized by Ed O’Connor and others targeted and began moving towards a province wide provincial employee association called themselves the BC Government Employees’ Association (BCGEA);

·         Successfully negotiated a cost of living bonus of $10

·         Elected President of the Provincial Civil Service Association of BC; 350 paying members

1943

·         An umbrella organization started taking shape in Feb 1943, recommended and had adopted the format of central council and goals of constitution of PCSABC

·         Agreed to dues of .10 cents per year per member; by end of year had 350 paying members

·         Lead conciliation committee that presented all submissions of PCSABC to the Provincial Government

·         Setup Medical and Hospital Insurance Plan (BCGEMS) to provide health coverage for provincial employees; remained in place until 1965 when Federal Government enacted the Canada Health Act; each province had to set up a provincial medical system; BC Provincial Government approached the BCGEA and BCGEMS was changed to the Medical Services Plan (MSP) for all government employees.1944

·         Re-elected President of the Provincial Civil Service Association of BC; 2850 paying members

·         Recommended and accepted that the federation be replaced by an association embracing the whole province. A number of constitution changes made to unify the organization, name changed to BC Provincial Government Employees’ Association

·         O’Connor appointed as first full time staff member as General Secretary on October 1, 1944.  ·         Hired as General Secretary on October 1, 1944 and was paid $220 a month, a considerable sum of money in those days; a position which he held until his retirement in 19671945·         Association passed a resolution for a dues check off which was instituted by government1946·         3400 paying members at .75 cents a month·         Call for 40 hour work week with no pay cuts; proposal for a federal  social security plan, contributory pension of $50 per month for all Canadians at age 60 without a means test.  Attempt at collective bargaining with provincial government

·         Resolution intent was to squelch political patronage in government appointments

·         Achieved reversal of wage cuts in the early years of the depression and World War II for Provincial Government employees

1949

·         Word “provincial” was dropped and BCPGEA became the BCGEA until 1969.

1952·         Appointed life member of the Musicians Union1955·         Bargained and gained a service wide five (5) day work week for PG employees·         Gained improved vacation entitlement for PG employees·         Negotiated a sick leave package for PG employees 1957·         Selected by Federal Government to represent Canada at the NATO Conference in Tunisia, North Africa and a United Nations Conferences in Geneva, Switzerland on labour relations1958

·         By 1958 Association membership stood at 11,000 ranking the BCGEA as the second largest affiliate to the BC Federation of Labour after the International Woodworkers of America.

·         Appointed Vice President BC Federation of Labour for two year term (1958 to 1960)

1959

·         First strike of any government employees’ in commonwealth country in the world

1960

·         Successfully established a formal procedure by which employee grievances would be adjudicated by a PG/BCGEA Board

·         Appointed Vice President BC Federation of Labour for a two year term (1960 to 1962)

1962

·         Successfully achieved the provision of two pay days a month sick leave for all full time PG employees

·         Accomplished an indexed pension plan for PG employees

1965

·         In 1965 following Federal Government legislation requiring all provinces to establish medical plans for government employees the BC Provincial Government approached the BCGEA and the BCGEMS was adopted as the Medical Services Plan (MSP) for all government employees.

1967·         Obtained provision of sick leave for employees during their first six months of service1969

·         BC Government Employees Association under the leadership of Edward O’Connor later became the BC Government Employees Union in 1969.

·         Ed O’Connor retired from the BCGEA having served as Secretary General with distinction from 1945 to 1969 and President from 1942 to 1945

  Prepared By: Susan O’Connor, Michael O’Connor & Mauvorneen Suttie (nee O’Connor)