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ICBA MEMBER ALERT: NDP Forced to Keep Secret Ballot, But Labour Code Changes Still Skew Against Employers

A message from Chris Gardner, president of ICBA:

Today, the BC NDP Government introduced significant changes to the Labour Relations Code. We are still analyzing all the different aspects of the legislation, but there are some major issues that construction employers need to understand.

First the good news: the secret ballot for union certification votes will remain. This is a big departure from the typical NDP playbook, and is thanks to the work of associations like ICBA and the steadfast opposition to cardcheck by the BC Greens and the BC Liberals. In his news conference today, NDP Labour Minister Harry Bains made it clear he would have scrapped the secret ballot if the NDP had a majority government. Without Andrew Weaver and the Greens’ support, the NDP didn’t have enough votes to strip the secret ballot out of the code.

However, the legislation does shorten the communication period before a secret ballot vote takes place from 10 days to 5 working days. It also greatly curtails an employer’s ability to communicate with workers during a certification vote period. We will have more detail on this to come.

Other key points:

  • Minister Bains says fines for employers violating the Labour Code will be increased by five times
  • The Labour Board will have greater discretion to impose automatic union certification if an employer is found to have interfered with the certification process
  • Construction will be treated differently from other sectors – union raids will be allowed in July and August every year of a collective agreement, rather than longer intervals for other sectors
  • There will be Code reviews at least every five years

These Labour Code changes come a day after the NDP Government made a series of changes to the Employment Standards Act, including:

  • A requirement to “meet or exceed” the Act’s requirements in collective agreements, which could have a big impact on scheduling, overtime, and shortened work weeks
  • New restrictions on employing children under the age of 16 (and rules around the type of work 16-18 year olds can do) – Minister Bains cited construction specifically as an industry that should not have younger workers
  • In disputes, employees can go back up to two years for unpaid wages, rather than the six months previously allowed
  • The Employment Standards Board will be ordered to investigate every complaint and be more proactive
  • The right to an oral hearing has been taken away

Taken together, these changes skew Employment Standards and the Labour Code to the NDP’s big labour allies. There will be no benefit of the doubt given to employers by this government.

We will continue to inform you of changes and concerns as we assess and analyze these pieces of legislation.

ICBA NEWS: Another Award For Our Big Gas Video

Oops, we did it again: we won another major North American award for our Get Canada’s Big Gas Moving web video.

This time, it’s a 2019 CampaignTech Award for Funniest Web Video.

The CampaignTech Award comes on the heels of Big Gas winning five Reed Awards, including Best Web Video – Overall. (ICBA itself won a sixth Reed Award, for North American Trade Association of the Year.)

Big Gas has been viewed more than 700,000 times in the past year, and its message still resonates as British Columbia drivers struggle under the highest gas prices in North American history.


TRAINING ‘THRONESDAY’: Municipal Map Reading and Utility Safety Workshop

April is Safe Digging Month, and as we’re wrapping up the month we have a few courses coming up that focus on that topic! Are you looking to gain an understanding on how to interpret and read documentation that relates to the Municipal Infrastructure? We have the course for you!

Check our Municipal Map Reading workshop in Burnaby May 9 or August 7, Prince George on May 31, and Victoria on August 30.

Participants will learn the related Regulations, Acts and Master Municipal Construction Documents as well as blueprint reading symbols, legend and design specifications for local cities, municipalities and townships.

You will also review BC One Call documentation, utility owner’s roles and responsibilities, ground disturbers’ roles and responsibilities, and safe utility locating practices.

After completing this course, students will get a better understanding of how to read and interpret municipal Construction Drawings.

Here are the course objectives:

  • Reviewing Utility information and hazards
  • Understanding Workers Compensation Act & WorksafeBC Regulations
  • Utility Safety Awareness
  • Review BC One Call Documentation
  • Blue Print Map Reading Group Activities
  • Review on Locating Underground infrastructure
  • Understanding Safety Procedures and Practices
  • Knowing the Emergency Response for Utility Owners

Plus, you’ll earn 3.5 Group A CPD Points and 4 Group B CPD Points from BC Housing!

You can register for this workshop and any of our other training courses at

TRAINING THURSDAY: Lean for Construction – A Practical Approach

Are you familiar with the principles of Lean Construction? We can help!

The application of Lean Construction principles within the industry has gained considerable traction over the last decade due to the need for productivity gains and shortened lead times.

The challenge is that traditional Lean is centered around manufacturing environments, making some tools ineffective in the construction arena. In this session, learn a simple and practical approach to implementing the Lean concepts within construction to boost productivity, shorten lead times, and heighten customer value.

In this fun and interactive full-day workshop, participants will be introduced to key Lean tools:

  • The 8 types of waste negatively impacting cost, lead time, and quality
  • How to use Value Stream Maps to identify where waste is
  • The 5S system for maintaining a safe and organized work environment
  • The Last Planner® System for heightened collaboration and effective work plans
  • The Plan, Do, Check, Act system for problem solving

Plus you’ll earn 1 Gold Seal Credit and 7.5 Group A CPD Points from BC Housing! Our next session takes place May 2 in Victoria, and July 24 in Burnaby. Register for this or any of our upcoming workshops at

And don’t forget to subscribe to our training newsletter at to receive biweekly updates on courses and events in your area.

TRAINING THURSDAY: Microsoft Excel Courses

Looking to Excel at work? We have some courses for you!

Our Microsoft Excel for Business course will teach you to use Excel to create budgets, track costs, generate quotes and more. Participants with even a very basic knowledge of Excel will progress quickly to creating basic databases, budgets, graphs, reports and equations. Here are some of the skills you’ll learn:

  • Customize excel options and views
  • Create and manipulate tables
  • Filter and sort data
  • Apply formulas
  • Use the correct syntax to insert functions
  • Create and format cells and ranges
  • Order and group cells and ranges
  • Apply cell ranges and references in formulas and functions
  • Summarize data with functions
  • Apply conditional logic in functions
  • Format and modify text with functions
  • Create and format charts and objects

This course offers 1 Gold Seal Credit.

And if you’re looking to build on your skills, we have a Microsoft Excel Advanced course! You’ll learn to use advanced functions such as lookup and reference, conditional logic and conditional summary, and work with shared workbooks and worksheets. You’ll also earn 1 Gold Seal Credit for this course.

Interested? Our next Excel for Business course is in Prince George May 6, followed by June 5 in Victoria and September 24 in Burnaby. Our next Excel Advanced course is in Prince George May 7, Burnaby May 9, and Victoria June 6.

Register for these or any of our other upcoming workshops at

OP/ED: City Hall Failing Residents on Affordability

This op-ed by ICBA President Chris Gardner first appeared in The Province on April 10, 2019.

Why do politicians given the reins of power seem so allergic to common sense?

Time and again, governments pull out of their policy hats, with a conviction that would make the boldest of rats blush, policies that confound and confuse average voters.

Federally, the Trudeau Liberals are about to impose a ban on tankers on only one of our three coasts – the west – with no scientific rationale. In addition, the Liberals sought to punish every entrepreneur and small business with a draconian set of new tax policies that penalized people for taking risk and starting a new business.

Provincially, we have seen the NDP make a ridiculous and expensive attempt to change our electoral system, restrict participation on taxpayer-funded construction projects to their favoured unions, and, with callous disregard for public sentiment, keep ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft from operating in B.C.

Ottawa and Victoria always get plenty of press, but what about local government? Much of what impacts our daily lives comes from city hall, and there are a lot of city halls and a lot to be confounded about.

And it is here where the nexus between housing affordability and families looking to purchase homes at reasonable prices meets with results that do not end well for homebuyers.

In communities across B.C., local councils make decisions every week that makes it more difficult to buy affordable homes. They impose red tape and regulations that make it harder and more costly to build homes. It is a fact that in many communities, it now takes longer to get a project approved and permitted than it does to build it. This is a stunning indictment of the ability of unchecked local councils to make life more unaffordable for homebuyers.

Take North Vancouver District for example. Newly elected Mayor Mike Little and most of his council have decided the way to bring about affordable housing is by rejecting virtually all new housing applications, including, unbelievably, non-profit affordable housing.

Shortly after their election last November, Council shot down an 80-unit affordable housing project by Catalyst Community Developments Society – a non-profit housing group. The project, two years in the making, involved the District contributing land in the form of a parking lot at the former Delbrook Recreation Centre. In return, Catalyst would build the project and offer the 80 units at approximately 20% below market rents.

Mayor Little led a 5-2 vote on Council to defeat the project, even though the proposal won an award for engaging the community.

Next up was the non-profit Hollyburn Family Services project. Hollyburn spent years putting together a 100-unit affordable housing project on district-owned land at Burr Place. The goal? All units would be offered at below market rates to provide desperately needed housing for low income seniors, families and youth.

North Vancouver District Council voted to kill the project during a closed-door meeting, before plans for it could be shared with the public. Again, it was a 5-2 vote, led by Little. In a bizarre comment following the vote, Little said that he campaigned not on creating affordable housing but on social housing!

With successive provincial governments sitting idly on the sidelines, similar stories play out in too many communities across B.C.

Whether it’s a new seniors centre, a townhome complex, high-rise or a new road, as soon as a project is proposed the forces of “no” rally for the status quo and “more consultation.” Traffic, noise, views and quality of life are trotted out at council meeting after council meeting wrapped up in a dystopian narrative that sends local councils running in full retreat.

In the middle of a full-blown housing affordability crisis, one might think city halls would be focused on increasing supply, reducing red tape and making it easier to bring housing stock on the market faster in an effort to reduce the pressure on the prices of homes.

Unfortunately, we see more “Nero fiddling” and buck-passing than city halls acting with the speed, purpose and boldness required to make a real difference in the local housing market. The actions of councils like North Vancouver District demonstrate that for families looking for relief at city hall, the wait will be long indeed.