Amendments to Labour Relations Code

Harry Bains
Harry Bains

GREATER protections for workers, job security, labour rights and stability for employers are the focus of amendments to the Labour Relations Code.

“For many years, B.C.’s workers have seen employment rights and job security seriously threatened. And yet the Labour Relations Code hasn’t had a substantive review since 1992,” said Harry Bains, Minister of Labour. “Between rapidly evolving workplace environments and a concerted attack on labour protections, too many hard-working people are struggling to get ahead or plan a future for themselves and their families.

“By bringing in changes to the Labour Relations Code, we will ensure better protection of collective bargaining rights for workers in British Columbia and promote more stable and harmonious labour relations for employers and unions.”

The changes to the Labour Relations Code support the recommendations put forward by an independent review panel after a thorough public consultation and engagement process last year with labour organizations, businesses, industry, individual people and legal professionals.

These amendments are an important step forward in restoring fairness to labour relations in B.C. This includes ensuring workers, who have built up fair wages and job security over years of hard work and dedication, do not see those stripped away when contracts are re-tendered.

“These amendments to the Labour Relations Code are critical to improving working and caring conditions in nursing homes and in our hospitals,” said Jennifer Whiteside, secretary-business manager, Hospital Employees’ Union. “By expanding successorship protections to include the retendering of contracts by health authorities and care-home operators, frontline health-care workers will be more secure, while seniors and patients will benefit from more stability and less staff turnover.”

To ensure the Labour Relations Code continues to meet the needs of workers and employers, an independent review of the code will now be required at least every five years.

Improving fairness for workers and ensuring balance in workplaces are shared priorities between government and the BC Green Party caucus, and are part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.

 

BACKGROUNDER

The Labour Relations Code establishes the relationships between organized labour and management – how workers join unions, how employers and unions interact, and how collective bargaining disputes are resolved.

The code was first established in 1973 and has not seen a substantive public review since 1992.

In February 2018, Bains appointed an independent three-member panel to undertake consultations and a review of the code and provide recommendations on updates to support a sustainable economy with fair laws for both workers and businesses.

The review panel submitted its report, Recommendations for Amendments to the Labour Relations Code, to government with 29 recommendations for updating the code or policies.

Government proposes amendments to the Labour Relations Code to act on the recommendations. Highlights include:

Successorship (contract flipping)

* Extend successorship protection to re-tendering of service contracts in specific areas:
* building cleaning/janitorial services;

* security services;

* bus transportation services;

* non-clinical services in the health care sector; and

* food services.

Union certification

* Provide the Labour Relations Board with broader discretion to impose union certification when an employer is found to have unduly interfered with the certification process.

* Shorten the requirements for the time between an application for union certification and an employee vote – from 10 days to five business days.

Raids

* Reduce the divisiveness and disruption to employers, unions and employees by modifying the open periods in which one union can raid another, to provide a more balanced approach and be more consistent with other Canadian jurisdictions.

* Current legislation allows for raids to occur in the seventh or eighth month of each year of the collective agreement. The amendments will amend the period of raids as follows:
* For collective agreements of three years or less, raids may occur in the seventh or eighth month of the last year of the agreement.

* For collective agreements of more than three years, raids may occur in the seventh or eighth month of the third year of the agreement, and in each subsequent year.

* In the construction sector, however, raids will be allowed in July and August of each year, rather than the seventh or eighth month in later years of the agreement. This reflects the seasonal nature of construction work, with most workers represented during summer months.

Education as an essential service

* Remove references to educational programs as “essential services” in recognition of the 2015 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that the right to strike is constitutionally protected, and that essential services are limited to a “clear and imminent threat to the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population.”

* The Labour Relations Board will continue to have discretion to establish essential services in the education sector if a dispute poses a threat to the health, safety or welfare of the residents of B.C.