Party like it’s 1999: Labour Minister Harry Bains joins B.C. Building Trades executive director Tom Sigurdson to celebrate the construction organization’s 50th anniversary, October 2017. (B.C. government)

B.C. VIEWS: Every day is Labour Day for John Horgan’s NDP

Union sign-ups, minimum wage for farm workers on the table

Employers in B.C. are nervously awaiting the results of the B.C. government’s overhaul of the Labour Code, to see if the traditional swings of provincial politics repeat themselves.

Since the minority NDP government took office a year ago, they have seen the shift to a new payroll tax to pay for health care, increases to the minimum wage totalling 34 per cent over four years, phasing out the alcohol server wage, increasing corporate taxes and imposing the first hike in the carbon tax on fuels in seven years.

Now the government is awaiting a report from its appointed committee on whether to do away with secret ballot votes for union certification, prevent employers from communicating with employees during a certification, and generally reverse changes made in 2003 after the B.C. Liberals took office.

Labour Minister Harry Bains tells me the report was delayed for a month at the committee’s request, and should be out shortly. He wouldn’t comment directly on the long-standing demand by the B.C. Federation of Labour and others to do away with secret ballot certification votes, except to say employees should be free to choose “without interference from anybody.”

We’ve seen how that’s going to work in public construction, where every employee will be forced to join one of 19 selected international unions for the duration of the job. One obstacle faced by Bains is that B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver has indicated he won’t support scrapping certification votes.

B.C. Liberal labour critic John Martin isn’t reassured.

“Last year, Andrew Weaver kind of drew a line in the sand on that one, and we did see the NDP back down,” Martin told me. “But since then, there’s been a realization that there’s a lot of huff and bluff from Andrew on that. So I expect them to bring that one in.”

In his mandate letter appointing Bains to cabinet, Premier John Horgan also directed him to update the Employment Standards Act, unchanged since the last years of the previous NDP government. One of the demands made by the union-backed B.C. Employment Standards Coalition is to end the “second-class status” of farmworkers, setting a “minimum-wage floor” that would be imposed on the traditional piece-work rates.

Bains came to politics in 2005 from the United Steelworkers, which you may recall is the U.S.-based union that directly paid top NDP campaign staff for last year’ nail-biter election. That’s not going to happen again, since the NDP and Greens got together to replace union and corporate donations with contributions from taxpayers. It’s kind of like union dues you are being charged by political parties, even if you didn’t join or didn’t vote in the last provincial election.

Bains assures me he is sensitive to the needs of business, and the cumulative effects of various policies such as the payroll tax and minimum wage.

“When [business and labour] work together they create wealth,” Bains said. “That’s the kind of business environment that I would like to facilitate, working with them both.

“I think we are in a good position to do that. We have a strong economy, we have a lot more jobs than there are people.”

As was confirmed last week by audited financial statements, B.C. managed a big surplus for the fiscal year that ended in March, despite $3 billion in additional spending by the new government.

One thing for sure about good economic times, they don’t last forever.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Business Beat

Coal Valley Boxing reopens to public Fernie and Sparwood’s Coal Valley Boxing… Continue reading

Sparwood ramps up recreation activities

The district launched their summer camp, a street banner program, and opened the Fitness Centre

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

The Mountain Market showcases local goods

The Mountain Market is held each Sunday morning in Fernie’s Rotary Park

Summer races kick off at Fernie Alpine Resort

FAR jumps into their summer programming with mountain biking and trail running races

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Sports fishers protest Fraser River Chinook closures

Public Fishery Alliance wants hatchery fish open for harvest

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

Most Read