Govt. introduces long-awaited reforms to employment standards, labour code: HSABC | National Union of Public and General Employees

Govt. introduces long-awaited reforms to employment standards, labour code: HSABC

HSABC/NUPGE sees these as long-overdue reforms and welcomes the news to see the government take these first steps to restoring balance and fairness for working people. While these reforms do not cover everything — this is only the start — HSABC/NUPGE will continue to advocate for more changes going forward.

Vancouver (6 May 2019) — Last week the Minister of Labour, Harry Bains, introduced 2 pieces of legislation that Health Sciences Association of British Columbia (HSABC/NUPGE) sees as a dramatic increase in protections for BC workers and their right to join a union.
 
HSABC/NUPGE sees these as long-overdue reforms and welcomes the news to see the government take these first steps to restoring balance and fairness for working people. While these reforms do not cover everything — this is only the start — HSABC/NUPGE will continue to advocate for more changes going forward.

Employment Standards Act 

On Monday, April 29, amendments to the Employment Standards Act were introduced. The Employment Standards Act is the law that sets the basic standards for all workplaces in the province. However, these standards have been eroded over time, tilting in favour of employers and in many circumstances, leaving employees with few rights or protections.
 
The amendments introduced by the provincial government address a number of areas where BC lags behind the rest of the country and address gaps that left workers vulnerable.
 
Highlights of the changes include the following:

Enhanced Employment Standards Branch

  • The government is finally removing the "self-help kit" introduced by the BC Liberal government in 2003 when they closed Employment Standards Branches and drastically reduced staffing. It will be replaced with a new process for workers who need help to file a complaint against their employer.

Child employment

  • The new law raises the age a young person can work, from 12 years old to 16 years old. This is to protect the health and safety of young people and to fall in line with the international standards.

Job-protected leave

  • The new legislation provides 10 non-consecutive days of unpaid, job-protected leave for victims of domestic violence, with an option of 15 weeks of consecutive unpaid leave.
  • The legislation also protects workers needing leave to care for ill family members, aligning it with the federal Employment Insurance benefit.

Tips and Wage Recovery

  • The new Act protects a worker’s right to the tips they earn, and restricts employers from withholding tips or claiming a portion of tips when pooled by employees.
  • It extends the period an employee can recover wages owed, from 6 months to 12 months.

This is just a brief summary of the amendments. You can read the government’s full press release and backgrounder here

Labour Relations Code 

On Tuesday, April 30, the BC government introduced amendments to the Labour Relations Code — the law that governs the relationship between unions and employers, and protects the rights of working people to join or form a union. The labour movement has been fighting for the Code to be updated for years to create a more level playing field for working people. After almost 26 years, these reforms are doing just that — bringing long overdue balance to the law.
 
Some highlights of the legislation are as follows:

Protection of successorship rights for workers

  • Contract flipping has been a huge issue for workers in health care, food services, janitorial, and transportation services. This is when the employer flips the contract of a service provider as a means to dismantle a union, cut jobs and wages, and eliminate benefits. Under the new legislation, any time a service contract is flipped, the existing union contract must be honoured.

Tightening up of the union certification process

  • The legislation reduces the time allowed between when an application for union certification is made and when workers vote on joining a union. The shorter window (5 days from 10 days) is important to reduce employer interference with the certification process. The legislation also allows for the Labour Relations Board to award the union certification if it finds the employer has interfered with employees’ rights to join a union.

Improved raid windows

  • In an effort to reduce raiding and disruption, the new legislation moves the raiding window from the 7th and 8th month of each year of a contract to the 7th and 8th month of the 3rd, and subsequent, year. There is an exception made for workers in the construction industry, in which case, the raiding window remains every year. 

This is just a summary of the amendments to the Labour Relations Code. You can read the government press release and backgrounder here.


NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 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

 

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