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.