Labour Relations Code should improve fairness for workers

As part of its commitment to improve fairness for workers, the NDP is conducting a review of the BC Labour Relations Code. The Labour Relations Code is the main legislation governing employment standards  in the province’s unionized workplaces and guarantees that right of every employee to join a union.

A review panel consisting of a labour representative, an employer representative and a chair person is holding public consultations and reviewing the Code to ensure BC’s unionized workplaces support fair laws for workers and businesses, and are consistent with the labour rights and protections enjoyed by other Canadians. This is the first review of the code since 2003.

“The current legislation is creating significant challenges for workers wanting to form unions, especially in sectors with high levels of turnover and seasonal workers,” UFCW 1518 organizer Keith Murdoch told the three-person panel.

Murdoch described a recent organizing campaign in Whistler-Blackcomb where the employer had an unfair advantage as it had sole access to the employee list. Equal access to the employee list is essential “to provide workers with the building blocks to form their union while ensuring that all workers have a fair opportunity to make an informed choice about joining the union or not.”

In addition to access to the employee list, UFCW 1518 made other recommendations to ensure the Code meets the need for meaningful access to collective bargaining, including a return to card-based certification, reducing the maximum time for a vote, and restoring the prohibition to anti-union campaigning. “Mandatory vote systems are a demonstrated invitation to improper and unlawful employer conduct that prevents the exercise of constitutionally guaranteed freedom of association by employees,” the union stated in its written submission.

In an effort to eliminate anti-union pressure from the employer, UFCW 1518 also recommended reinstating the prohibition against this. That would “address employer interference during certification campaigns and assist in leveling the inherent employer-employee power imbalance” in the workplace, which has been recognized as “an improper barrier to access to collective bargaining.”

Added Murdoch: “The employer has a lot of power over their employees. They shouldn’t be allowed to use their resources and influence to steer workers to a decision that they prefer.”

Public consultations on the Labour Relations Code continue across the province until April 24. You can read UFCW 1518’s submission here.