Union cites 'the devastating impact of changes made by the B.C. Liberal government' to labour laws and employment standards since it was first elected in 2001.
Vancouver (3 Feb. 2011) - The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) is calling on Iain Black, the provincial minister of labour, to initiate a comprehensive public review of labour laws and employment standards.
In a letter to the minister, BCGEU president Darryl Walker says such a review is necessary given the devastating impact of changes made by the B.C. Liberal government to the employment standards system since 2001.
"These changes have eroded essential protections for workers and resulted in an uneven playing field (favouring) employers," Walker writes.
The government has made a series of dramatic changes to B.C.'s employment standards regime since 2001, including:
- Changes to the rules around child labour resulting in exceptionally inadequate protection and low minimum standards for young workers, including the province's objectionable $6.00 "training" wage.
- Legislative amendments that exclude unionized employees from core legal protections and minimum standards.
- Legal and policy changes that have resulted in a weakened enforcement system, incentives for employer non-compliance and reduced access to information and assistance for workers.
In addition, between 2000-01 and 2004-05, the government closed half the Employment Standards Branch (ESB) offices across the province, cut staffing levels by one third and reduced the employment standards budget by 16%. Funding for employment standards continues to decline with fewer staff assigned to protect a larger and more vulnerable workforce.
"BCGEU members who work in employment standards have witnessed, first hand, this overhaul of the system and have borne some of its brunt," says Walker.
One notable change not made by the government is raising the minimum wage. It remains the lowest in Canada.
Ministry of labour staff are holding meetings with stakeholders to discuss the minimum wage and employment standards. The BCGEU is participating in this process along with other unions through the B.C. Federation of Labour (BCFL). It will continue to monitor any developments.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE