B.C. labour code changes to promote ‘harmonious’ relations, says minister

VICTORIA — The momentum has shifted towards the labour movement in British Columbia with changes announced in provincial labour laws Tuesday.

New Democrat Labour Minister Harry Bains said the proposed changes to B.C.’s Labour Relations Code aim to ensure stronger protection of collective bargaining rights and promote more durable labour relations between employers and unions.

B.C.’s labour code was established in 1973 and hasn’t undergone a major public review in almost three decades, he told a news conference after introducing legislation.

“The (amendments) help to restore fairness and stability to the unionized labour environment because, quite simply, the laws were outdated,” said Bains. “They haven’t kept pace and haven’t had a thorough and comprehensive review since 1992.”

Under the amended labour code, public education will be removed as a designated essential service, he said.

“B.C. became the only province to specifically include education in its essential service provisions,” Bains said. “That’s unreasonable and unfair. We are committed to building a new relationship with teachers based on respect and trust.”

He said the former Liberal government had an ongoing war with B.C.’s public teachers that saw the Supreme Court of Canada rule in 2015 in favour of teachers and their rights to bargain contracts.

“That government had an agenda,” Bains said. “It was not to protect the workers and their health and safety and (the Liberals) were, I think, serving their masters.”

The government said the B.C. teachers union would still have meet a test through the provincial labour board in order to take strike action.

The labour changes are based on a report by a three-member panel appointed last year that made 29 recommendations. The panel included labour and business representatives.

Union contracts will also be protected under the changes, giving successorship protection to service contracts re-tendered by employers in janitorial, security, transportation, food and non-clinical health services, said Bains.

Jennifer Whiteside, the Hospital Employees Union secretary-business manager, said protecting union contracts in the service sector will improve health care delivery where direct care and support services have been undermined by privatization and contracting out.

The union said the practice of contract-flipping in health care has resulted in entire care teams being fired from nursing homes.

“These are real game changers that will fundamentally improve working conditions for our members,” she said.

Secret ballots votes for union certifications will be retained, but the Labour Relations Board will have broader discretion to impose union certification if an employer is found to have interfered in the process, he said.

Ken Peacock, B.C. Business Council chief economist, said retaining the secret ballot provisions ensures “some balance in the labour code.”

He said the business council has concerns that granting successorship rights to union contracts in the service sector will diminish competition and result in higher costs over time.

Bains said he didn’t agree with the panel’s recommendation to support secret ballot certification votes, but conceded his minority government’s partners in the Green party were adamant in their backing of secret ballots.

“If I was proceeding with a majority government that would have been my preference,” he said.

Green Leader Andrew Weaver said the government’s support of the secret ballot achieves balance in the workplace while protecting the rights of workers to exercise choice.

Opposition Liberal labour critic John Martin said he was pleased the government plans to keep secret ballot provisions in the code.

“It’s a good day for workers and democracy,” he said, adding other parts of the proposed amendments are vague and will face debate in the legislature.

Laird Cronk, the B.C. Federation of Labour president, said the proposed changes are positive steps forward for workers after the pro-business approach of the former government.

He said protecting the rights of workers to negotiate contracts is “one of the greatest poverty reduction tools we have in this country.”

The labour code changes follow Monday’s tabling of amendments to B.C.’s employment standards to protect children on the job, workers fleeing domestic violence and ensure that service workers are entitled to keep their tips.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 1,731 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday

The province’s central zone has 992 active cases

Collin Orthner, manager at McBain Camera in downtown Red Deer, stands behind the store’s counter on Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
A few Red Deer businesses happy with Black Friday results

While this year’s Black Friday wasn’t as successful as it was in… Continue reading

Le Chateau Inc. is the latest Canadian firm to start producing personal protective equipment for health care workers, in a July 3, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Hundreds of millions of dollars for frontline workers yet to be released, says Alberta Federation of Labour

Information recently released by the Alberta Federation of Labour suggests more than… Continue reading

Red Deer RCMP say a 30-year-old man faces sexual charges against a teen. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Man killed in two-vehicle collision near Penhold, says Blackfalds RCMP

A 46-year-old man is dead following a two-vehicle collision on Highway 42… Continue reading

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Banff National Park. (The Canadian Press)
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

EDMONTON — A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths on railway tracks… Continue reading

Cows on pasture at the University of Vermont dairy farm eat hay Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Burlington, Vt. Canadian dairy farmers are demanding compensation from the government because of losses to their industry they say have been caused by a series of international trade deals. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Lisa Rathke
Feds unveil more funding for dairy, poultry and egg farmers hurt by free trade deals

OTTAWA — Canadian egg and poultry farmers who’ve lost domestic market share… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Canada's top doctor says the country is still on a troubling track for new COVID-19 infections as case counts continue mounting in much of the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
COVID-19 cases in Canada remain on troubling course, Tam says, amid rising numbers

Canada’s top doctor says the country is still on a troubling track… Continue reading

Hay’s Daze: Giraffe knows filling wishes can sometimes be a tall order

Last weekend, I had a lovely breakfast. “So what?” you may say.… Continue reading

A person enters a building as snow falls in Ottawa, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. Ottawa has been successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 during its second wave thanks to the city’s residents who have been wearing masks and staying home, said Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
People to thank for Ottawa’s success with curbing COVID-19: health officer

The city’s chief medical officer said much of the credit goes to the people who live in Ottawa

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh asks a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says tonight's public video gaming session with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is about reaching young people where they hang. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP leader stoked over ‘epic crossover’ in video gaming sesh with AOC

Singh and AOC discussed importance of universal pharmacare, political civility, a living wage

A south view of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf breaking apart is seen from Ward Hunt Island, Nunavut, in an Aug. 20, 2011, handout photo. The remote area in the northern reach of the Nunavut Territory, has seen ice cover shrink from over 4 metres thick in the 1950s to complete loss, according to scientists, during recent years of record warming. Scientists are urging the federal government to permanently protect a vast stretch of Canada's remotest High Arctic called the Last Ice Area. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-CEN/Laval University, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Scientists urge permanent protection of Last Ice Area in Canada’s High Arctic

Tuvaijuittuq has the thickest and oldest ice in the Arctic

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s $55 million Lotto Max jackpot

No winning ticket was sold for the $55 million jackpot in Friday… Continue reading

Most Read