Teachers and other public sector union members rally on the B.C. legislature lawn during 2012 strike. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Keep secret ballot votes for union certification, B.C. panel says

Drop essential service rule for schools, Harry Bains advised

The B.C. government’s review panel for Labour Code changes has recommended preserving a secret-ballot vote for employees considering joining a union, over the objections of the lawyer representing unions.

In its report, released by Labour Minister Harry Bains Thursday, two of three experts recommend that B.C. remain the only Canadian province to require a vote to confirm the decision by a majority to sign a union card.

Another key recommendation is to eliminate the essential service designation for public school education, except for provincial exams for graduating students. The panel noted B.C. is the only province to have the provision.

The review panel was convened in February, chaired by Michael Fleming, a mediator-arbitrator and former associate chair of the B.C. Labour Relations Board. Two labour lawyers were the other members, with Sandra Banister representing union interests and Barry Dong on behalf of employers.

Fleming and Dong said certification votes should be protected by shortening the time frame for votes and for considering unfair labour practice complaints that may arise. Banister said the secret ballot is unnecessary.

“The idea that employees may be coerced into joining a trade union is not supported by unfair labour practice statistics,” Banister wrote. “Nor is there any evidence to support the suggestion that some employees join trade unions due to peer pressure.”

Bains said in an interview that he will wait for union and employer groups to respond to the report before making decisions.

“I’d like to see the feedback from the stakeholders first,” Bains said.

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver has said he does not support removing secret ballot provisions.

RELATED: Green leader gets his way on minimum wage

Other recommendations include:

• removing the ability of employers to “engage in anti-union campaigns provided there is no coercion or intimidation.” The panel said taking out this 2002 change would make B.C. consistent with other provinces.

• Giving the B.C. Labour Relations Board the ability to reinstate employees unlawfully fired during union certifications, and to order a second vote in case of unfair labour practices by employers.

The report notes that union membership in B.C. went from one of the highest in Canada, 45 per cent in 1983, to the largest decline. Private sector union membership fell from 24 per cent in 1997 to 16.7 per cent in 2016, while public sector “union density” was still 65 per cent of public sector employment in the province.

The B.C. Business Council identified three labour market trends: a shift from stable employment to more precarious work and self-employment, an increasing income gap between skilled and non-skilled workers and a declining quality of jobs with more being part-time.

“The phrase ‘gig economy’ was coined during the 2008 financial crisis, when unemployed workers made a living by ‘gigging’ or working several part-time jobs with payment for individual tasks,” the report says. Services such as grocery delivery have grown, as have “virtual employees” who advertise their skills through online platforms and short-term contracts.

The report describes another trend since the 1980s, globalization. Outsourcing business services, dismantling of barriers to movement of goods, capital and people and round-the-clock competition among global business creates pressure for more work flexibility.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

BREAKING: Gilbert, Drynock charged with first degree murder of Branton Regner

The accused also face two counts of attempted murder in connection with Rudy Johnson Bridge incident

B.C. salmon farm inspection deal reached with Indigenous people

Monitoring to determine if any Broughton region farms stay open

COS urges compliance in wake of province-wide drive for enforcement

The COS has undertaken a province-wide project focused on enforcement as well as education.

B.C. offers early retirement, training fund for forest workers

Communities eligible for $100,000 for permanent closures

UPDATE: Missing mushroom picker located in Anahim Lake area

The mushroom picker was from Ulkatcho First Nation

VIDEO: Trudeau asks Canada to look to current, not past, actions on race

Liberal leader says he never spoke about the racist photo because he was embarrassed

Legislature gifts, clothing, travel need better control, B.C. auditor says

Audit follows suspensions of managers by Speaker Darryl Plecas

‘Really disturbing:’ Trudeau’s racist photos worry B.C. First Nation chief

Wet’suwet’en Chief concerned the photos will sow fear in Indigenous communities

‘Unacceptable’: What politicians have to say about Trudeau in blackface

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi: ‘When I saw that picture last night, certainly it was a sucker-punch’

‘He’s trying to kill me’: Victoria police commandeer boats to reach screaming woman

No charges laid and civilians to be awarded honours after incident on Gorge Waterway

VIDEO: B.C. man accused of assaulting sex worker loses temper in interrogation

Defence lawyer says statements made by accused Curtis Sagmoen should be deemed inadmissible

John Horgan promises action after fatal mid-Island bus crash

Premier cites students, local Indigneous community as reason to repair the road

Teens charged in stabbing death of B.C. man in strip mall parking lot

Two youths, aged 15 and 16, charged in Aug. 16 killing of South Surrey’s Paul Prestbakmo

Forestry watchdog warned B.C. government about Bamfield Road in 2008

Ombusman’s specific concerns re-surface in wake of bus crash that killed two students

Most Read