B.C.'s Labour Code is the rule book for how workers organize to join unions as well as how unionized workers and their employers interact. Despite its importance to working people and unions, the Code had gone without an update for more than 15 years until the provincial government launched a legislative review process in 2018. Your union made a submission to that process that recommended a series of bold changes that would make it easier for more unorganized workers in more sectors to join unions, make it more difficult for employers to interfere in the organizing process, and strengthen successorship rights for unions to ensure long-term stability once a workplace is organized.
I am happy to say that on Wednesday, one of the last days of the spring legislative session, the provincial government passed amendments to the Code that do much of what our submission asked for, and give more power to unions and workers.
Here are some highlights of the amendments passed this week:
- Workers in unorganized worksites will have a greater ability to hold discussions amongst themselves about working conditions.
- Employers will have less ability to interfere when workers are actively organizing a worksite.
- Employers are prohibited from altering terms and conditions of employment for 12 months after a certification while a first collective agreement is negotiated.
- Workers in unionized workplaces will have more protection against contract flipping or re-tendering when a new employer takes over their worksite. These amendments to the Code build on the provincial government's repeal of two bills that enabled contract-flipping in the health services and community social services sector earlier this year.
- The Code will be reviewed at least every five years to ensure that it is adaptable to changing economic conditions.
Despite these positive steps, I'm disappointed that some of our most critical recommendations were not among the amendments passed this week.
For instance, our submission recommended the restoration of a single-step card check certification system to replace the current two-step system in which a worker must sign a union card and also participate in a secret ballot vote, which is attended by the employer. It is our view that signing a union card is effectively a vote to unionize and the secret ballot is unnecessary and unfair.
Our submission also recommended measures to make the Code more responsive to the challenges faced by workers in precarious, part-time, and contract employment. And we pushed for easier access to collective bargaining rights for workers in sectors that are traditionally hard to organize. These recommendations were not included in the amendments passed this week.
Read about our submission here: BCGEU brings 15 recommendations to labour code review panel, calls for fairness and balance for B.C. workers
There is a lot to celebrate in the Labour Code amendments. And there is still a lot of work for all of us to do to ensure workers and unions have the power and protection necessary to create safer, healthier, more equitable workplaces and make B.C. a more prosperous province. With an ongoing review process now in place, we have already started working with activists and staff across the province to build on these gains on behalf of the BCGEU's 79,000 members, and all working people in B.C.
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