Party like it’s 1999: Labour Minister Harry Bains joins B.C. Building Trades executive director Tom Sigurdson to celebrate the construction organization’s 50th anniversary, October 2017. (B.C. government)

B.C. VIEWS: Every day is Labour Day for John Horgan’s NDP

Union sign-ups, minimum wage for farm workers on the table

Employers in B.C. are nervously awaiting the results of the B.C. government’s overhaul of the Labour Code, to see if the traditional swings of provincial politics repeat themselves.

Since the minority NDP government took office a year ago, they have seen the shift to a new payroll tax to pay for health care, increases to the minimum wage totalling 34 per cent over four years, phasing out the alcohol server wage, increasing corporate taxes and imposing the first hike in the carbon tax on fuels in seven years.

Now the government is awaiting a report from its appointed committee on whether to do away with secret ballot votes for union certification, prevent employers from communicating with employees during a certification, and generally reverse changes made in 2003 after the B.C. Liberals took office.

Labour Minister Harry Bains tells me the report was delayed for a month at the committee’s request, and should be out shortly. He wouldn’t comment directly on the long-standing demand by the B.C. Federation of Labour and others to do away with secret ballot certification votes, except to say employees should be free to choose “without interference from anybody.”

We’ve seen how that’s going to work in public construction, where every employee will be forced to join one of 19 selected international unions for the duration of the job. One obstacle faced by Bains is that B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver has indicated he won’t support scrapping certification votes.

B.C. Liberal labour critic John Martin isn’t reassured.

“Last year, Andrew Weaver kind of drew a line in the sand on that one, and we did see the NDP back down,” Martin told me. “But since then, there’s been a realization that there’s a lot of huff and bluff from Andrew on that. So I expect them to bring that one in.”

In his mandate letter appointing Bains to cabinet, Premier John Horgan also directed him to update the Employment Standards Act, unchanged since the last years of the previous NDP government. One of the demands made by the union-backed B.C. Employment Standards Coalition is to end the “second-class status” of farmworkers, setting a “minimum-wage floor” that would be imposed on the traditional piece-work rates.

Bains came to politics in 2005 from the United Steelworkers, which you may recall is the U.S.-based union that directly paid top NDP campaign staff for last year’ nail-biter election. That’s not going to happen again, since the NDP and Greens got together to replace union and corporate donations with contributions from taxpayers. It’s kind of like union dues you are being charged by political parties, even if you didn’t join or didn’t vote in the last provincial election.

Bains assures me he is sensitive to the needs of business, and the cumulative effects of various policies such as the payroll tax and minimum wage.

“When [business and labour] work together they create wealth,” Bains said. “That’s the kind of business environment that I would like to facilitate, working with them both.

“I think we are in a good position to do that. We have a strong economy, we have a lot more jobs than there are people.”

As was confirmed last week by audited financial statements, B.C. managed a big surplus for the fiscal year that ended in March, despite $3 billion in additional spending by the new government.

One thing for sure about good economic times, they don’t last forever.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Annual Chilliwack Community Services event whisks guests off to “Versailles”

Secret Soiree has become a major fundraiser for programming and services

Chilliwack Chiefs clinch first place with win over Prince George

The Chiefs were out-shot 36-13 but goalie Daniel Chenard was superb in a battle of the BCHL’s best.

New Chilliwack YMCA was ‘worth the wait’ say visitors

Family Day will mark officially opening for new building, after sneak peek tours on Saturday

Nanaimo Clippers goalie steals a win from Chilliwack Chiefs

Landon Pavlisin was outstanding in the Clipper net, leading Nanaimo to a 2-1 road victory.

Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, resigns amid SNC-Lavalin furor

Butts categorically denies the accusation that he or anyone else in the PMO improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould

Aaron Pritchett and George Canyon to headline Gone Country concert in Cloverdale this summer

‘Early bird tickets on sale via Twins Cancer Fundraising website

Lost a ring? This B.C. man will find it for you

Chris Turner founded The Ring Finders, an international directory of metal detector hobbyists

Poverty coalition has high hopes for B.C. poverty reduction strategy

Funding allocation expected to be released with 2019 budget

‘How did we get here?’: B.C. mom of transplant recipient worries about measles outbreaks

Addison, 7, cannot get a live vaccine because she has a heart transplant

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls for public inquiry over SNC-Lavalin questions

Vancouver member of Parliament Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet last week

Canadian airlines waiting for guidance from Ottawa over X gender option

Major U.S. airlines said they will change their process so passengers can identify themselves along non-binary lines

UPDATE: Plane flips over at Pitt Meadows airport

The pilot and lone occupant exited the aircraft on his own and uninjured.

Moose Hide campaign takes message to Canadian schools

Campaign launches new K-12 education platform

Most Read