The B.C. provincial government announced that changes to the Labour Relations Code will go forward based on the 29 recommendations of an independent review panel along with consultation of industry, the public and labour organizations.
According to the government, these amendments are an important step forward in restoring fairness to labour relations in B.C. This includes ensuring workers, who have built up fair wages and job security over years of hard work and dedication, do not see those stripped away when contracts are re-tendered.
While the construction industry generally acknowledges the challenges for the review panel in supporting the interests of all stakeholders, there are several concerns being raised, especially regarding new raiding rules.
“While we’re pleased that the government accepted the recommendation to keep the current secret ballot method of union certification, the 29 recommendations come with some challenges that both unions and employers will need to accept,” said Fiona Famulak, VRCA president.
Although it is good news that B.C. is maintaining the secret ballot method of certification, employers will now have new restrictions and less time to communicate with employees before a certification vote takes place. Government is shortening the time between an application for union certification and an employee vote from 10 days to five business days.
Government is also modifying the open periods in which one union can raid another. In the construction industry, raids will be allowed in July and August of each year, rather than the seventh or eighth month in later years of the agreement.
“During the busiest time of year, progressively unionized construction companies will be forced to contend with the turmoil of aggressive union organization drives,” said Paul de Jong, president of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada. “This detracts from the tremendous amount of work that needs to be done, and for no good reason.”
Of greater concern is the fact that a successful raiding union will be able to apply to the Labour Relations Board to cancel the collective agreement it inherits and negotiate new wages and benefits. This will affect a contractor’s ability to lock in labour rates when bidding on large, multi-year projects.
BCCA shared similar concerns and says while it is important to protect the rights of workers, it is also important to protect the rights of employers.