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.

Just Posted

Otter Co-op’s CEO wins top business award

Jack Nicholson was awarded the Business in Vancouver CEO of the year award on Nov. 15.

Cyclist injured in Langley hit-and-run

Rider was taken to hospital

Phasing plans for Brookswood defeated

Council voted against staggering neighbourhood planning in Brookswood-Fernridge.

Murder victim Jagvir Malhi was not involved in gangs, says IHIT

Investigators say Abbotsford man was ‘associated to those involved’ in conflict

Langley’s supportive housing plan moves forward

Township council will now hear from the public before making a final decision.

VIDEO: B.C. legislature clerk, sergeant at arms suspended for criminal investigation

Clerk of the House Craig James, Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz on administrative leave

Former NHL player and coach Dan Maloney dies at 68

Maloney coached the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets

Ex-MSU president charged with lying to police about Nassar

Lou Anna Simon was charged Tuesday with lying to police during an investigation

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead under B.C. bridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

Otter makes a snack out of koi fish in Vancouver Chinese garden

Staff say the otter has eaten at least five fish

Police looking into two more incidents at private Toronto all-boys’ school

Police and the school have said two of the prior incidents involved an alleged sexual assault

B.C. lumber mills struggle with shortage of logs, price slump

Signs of recovery after U.S. market swings, industry executive says

25% of Canadians still won’t say they use pot, survey says

Statistics Canada poll says Canadians on average were 18.9 years old when they first tried pot.

Mustangs down Totems

Aldergrove senior boys basketball team in pre-season games

Most Read