B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains and Premier John Horgan announce a series of minimum wage increases to bring the rate to more than $15 an hour, February 2018. (Black Press files)

B.C. NDP prepares to move on labour, employment standards

‘Frightening time for business,’ B.C. Liberal John Martin says

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains says he’s proceeding carefully with changes to labour and employment standards legislation, as businesses raise concerns that employers are burdened enough by NDP government actions.

Bains is awaiting a report from a panel he appointed to review the Labour Code, expected by the end of August. Unions advised the panel they want certifications done by signing up a majority of members, ending secret ballot votes brought in by the previous government.

“I think there’s a constitutional right that every worker has that they are able to join association of their choice without interference by anybody,” Bains told Black Press in an interview. “It could be anyone, the union organizers or the employer.”

An independent review is also nearing completion, looking at employment standards and the definition of contractor and employee.

B.C.’s Employment Standards Act was created in 1973, combining 10 earlier statutes that dated back to the early 1900s. The B.C. Law Institute has been meeting for three years, reviewing employment standards across the country and the impact of a shift to part-time and contract work that generally does not include pensions and benefits.

“It’s a sensitive area for most contractors as well as employers, because contractors often want to be contractors and don’t want to get classified as employees for tax purposes,” said Ken Peacock, chief economist at Business Council of B.C.

Bains said his mandate letter from Premier John Horgan requires him to update employment standards, and he already has recommendations from the B.C. Federation of Labour and the union-affiliated B.C. Employment Standards Coalition. The coalition is calling for an end to what it calls “second-class status” for farmworkers, with a “minimum wage floor” that would replace piece-work rates.

The B.C. NDP government’s initial move last year was to increase minimum wage rates. The latest increase June 1, from $11.35 to $12.65 an hour, is part of the government’s pledge to raise the minimum wage in steps to $15.20 by 2021, with increases each June. That’s a 34 per cent increase in three years.

RELATED: Most minimum wage earners aren’t poor

RELATED: Fraser Valley growers condemn payroll tax

Chilliwack MLA John Martin, the B.C. Liberal labour critic, says B.C. businesses are already facing new costs for the employer health tax on payrolls, minimum wage increases, increased corporate taxes and elimination of the alcohol server wage for bars and restaurants.

“Overall it’s a pretty frightening time for small and medium-sized businesses,” Martin said. “We’ve seen in Alberta the job losses that now are being specifically associated with a rapid increase in the minimum wage.”

Bains said his review must weigh the competitiveness of business with the need to update employment standards to reflect the rising number of people working in the “gig economy,” such as meal delivery and ride hailing services. Like farm and other casual workers, they are not classed as employees and are not entitled to vacation pay, statutory holiday pay and other employment benefits.

“One thing is for sure, the workers should be paid fairly,” Bains said. “They should be treated fairly. At the same time there should be fair flexibility between employer and employee, how they conduct their business so they can be competitive.”

He said it is a good time to review employment standards.

“We have a strong economy, we have a lot more jobs than there are people,” Bains said.

The B.C. NDP government introduced its first changes to employment standards this spring. They include longer unpaid leave for workers caring for a dying family member, allowing pregnancy leave to begin earlier and permitting parental leave to be taken for a longer period.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureLabour

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

Just Posted

Surrey man found guilty in West Kelowna killing of common-law spouse

Tejwant Danjou was convicted of second-degree murder in the July 2018 death of Rama Gauravarapu in West Kelowna

New collective debuts with Crescent Beach show

Nela Hallwas and Lyn Verra-Lay team for ‘Flow’

‘Lifting Hands’ mural on White Rock wall celebrates community’s COVID efforts

High school students, grads inviting health-care workers, emergency crews to add handprints

Former students’ mural showcasing Delta elementary school’s new logo on hold, for now

Ashriya and Karam Purewal painted the spirit logo last spring; formal logo mural delayed due to COVID

Refund emails from City of White Rock a ‘phishing’ scam

IT staff work to nullify security breach in ‘classic phishing campaign’

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

Conservation seizes fawn illegally kept captive in Vancouver Island home

A Comox Valley resident charged and fined under the Wildlife Act

Pandemic could be driving more parents to get on board with flu shot: study

University of B.C. study gauges willingness for parents to vaccinate children for influenza

Watchdog clears Okanagan RCMP in death of man after arrest over alleged stolen pizzas

The man died in hospital after having difficulty breathing and broken ribs

35,000 doses of fentanyl part of huge Maple Ridge bust

Largest seizure in RCMP detachment’s history included submachine gun, body armour

Have you seen Berleen? B.C. pig destined for sanctuary goes missing

Berleen was less than two weeks from travelling to Manitoba when she vanished

Health Canada says several kids hospitalized after eating edible pot products

People warned not to store cannabis products where children can find them

‘It’s not just about me’: McKenna cites need to protect politicians from threats

Police investigation was launched after someone yelled obscenities at a member of McKenna’s staff

Michigan plans dedicated road lanes for autonomous vehicles

First study of its kind in the U.S. to figure out whether existing lanes or shoulders could be used

Most Read