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BC Labour Relations Code Review Report: A Concerning Future for Employers

The BC Labour Relations Code Review Panel, appointed by the Minster of Labour in February 2018, has completed its review of the Code and released its report and recommendations as of October 25, 2018.  These recommendations will form the basis for anticipated changes to the Code by the NDP Government.

The most noteworthy recommendations include:

  • Place significantly greater restrictions on employer communication during an organizing drive or certification application, to prevent employers from expressing virtually any negative views about unions or unionization. Currently, employers enjoy free speech rights permitting the expression of views on union representation, provided they do not act in a coercive or intimidating manner.
  • Allow union membership cards to remain valid for a period of 6 months, instead of 90 days. This is expected to increase the duration of union organizing drives.
  • Enable the Board to require an employer to provide a list of employees (and their personal contact information) when an application for certification is filed. Employee support for the filed application does not appear to be a prerequisite for access to such a list.
  • Retain the secret ballot vote in the certification process. The union-side panel member dissented from this recommendation, instead endorsing a return to card-based certification.
  • Require that a vote relating to certification or decertification occur within five days following an application, rather than the current 10-day requirement.
  • Provide the Labour Relations Board wider discretion to certify a union without a vote, when the Board determines the employer has engaged in unfair labour practice(s). When combined with the restrictions being placed on employer free speech rights, this presents the potential for certification without majority support from employees.
  • Apply the successorship provisions of the Code whenever contracts change hands in the building cleaning, security, bus transportation, and healthcare industries, meaning the new contractor will be bound by the previous contractor’s union certification and collective agreement.
  • Increase the statutory freeze period following certification, during which terms and conditions of employment cannot be altered, from 4 months to 12 months, and prohibit decertification for the same 12-month period.
  • Ensure compliance with the requirement to file all collective agreements with the Board by not allowing parties to a collective agreement who fail to comply to rely on the collective agreement for Code
  • Remove the requirement to have a strike vote as a prerequisite to obtain the assistance of a Board mediator for first collective agreements.
  • Authorize the Board to impose fines of up to $5,000 for individuals and $50,000 for companies who fail to comply with a Board order, a five-fold increase on the previous amounts.
  • Remove education as a designated essential service.
  • Increase funding for the Labour Relations Board.

The full Report can be found here.

These recommendations have not yet been proposed in the Legislature or passed into law, and it remains to be seen which will be adopted. The Minister of Labour also reserves the right to introduce additional changes, or amendments that deviate from these recommendations.  As a result, the possibility for a return to card-based certification, without a secret ballot vote, remains.

We will continue to keep BC employers posted on new developments in relation to these recommendations, and actions the BC Government takes with respect to them.

If you have questions regarding the impact of these potential changes, please do not hesitate to contact one of the lawyers in our British Columbia office.

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