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

Sagmoen’s arrest was valid, Vernon RCMP officers say

Curtis Sagmoen saga continued Tuesday with defence counsel questioning validity of warrant

Tax increase allows for more firefighters in Vernon

City of Vernon councillors approved a 4.91 per cent tax increase in 2020

Truck fire spreads to property in gated Vernon community

A loud bang rang out as flames spread to the grass

RCMP traffic services moves to Falkland to slow down speeders

Falkland detachment to serve as new HQ for RCMP’s North Okanagan Traffic Services

Mr. Mikes Vernon to recognize local charities with $500

Restaurant looking for Deeds Well Done in 7th annual holiday campaign

B.C. seaplane company set to test the first commercial electronic plane

The plane is powered by a 750 horsepower electric motor

Meng Wanzhou wins right to more documents involving arrest at Vancouver airport

Defence lawyers allege the Huawei executive was unlawfully detained, searched and interrogated

Truck with body inside found at bottom of lake near Kootenay ferry

Investigators believe no foul play is expected but are unsure how the vehicle ended up in the Arrow Lakes

VIDEO: Calgary man narrowly escapes from avalanche while running at Lake Louise

Bryon Howard caught the entire wild experience on camera

Former Summerland lifeguard to be sentenced in January

Edward Casavant has pleaded guilty to child assault and pornography charges

Map points to mysterious ‘Waterdome’ in the middle of Salmon Arm Bay

City would like to have map marker removed, pilot recalls its significance

Montreal Canadien stars lend helping hand to Okanagan charity

John Perlinger hopes his signed portrait of Shea Weber and Carey Price will boost new website

RCMP asks Kootenay cannabis shop to remove image of famous Mountie from storefront

Owner happy to comply with RCMP, but wants more information first

Most Read