May 30, 2017
A NDP Minority Government? Storm Clouds on Horizon for BC Employers
Following a tumultuous few weeks, the B.C. Green Party has agreed to support the B.C. New Democratic Party in the British Columbia legislature. An agreement between these two parties was reached on May 29, 2017. This agreement paves the way for the NDP to form a minority government, with support from the Green Party. What does this means for B.C. employers from a labour and employment perspective?
The NDP election platform contains a number of proposed reforms affecting B.C. workplaces. Specifically, the NDP’s platform states that, if elected, an NDP government will:
- Raise the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour by the year 2021 after which future increases will be indexed to inflation;
- Review existing employment standards laws;
- Review existing laws concerning workplace safety and the enforcement of workplace safety rules;
- Implement a temporary foreign worker registry and require employers and recruiting agencies to register any temporary foreign workers with the government;
- Mandate effective apprenticeship ratios on government funded projects;
- Provide incentives to public sector employers to hire and train apprentices; and,
- Provide incentives to employers to increase the number of women hired in apprenticeship roles.
Beyond the official NDP platform, party leader John Horgan also announced that an elected NDP government will review and reform the BC Labour Relations Code during its first term.
Amid other planned changes, the NDP will reinstate the automatic “card-check” method for union certification. This proposed change will significantly impact the rules for certifying a union for British Columbia employers.
Currently, the Labour Board is required to hold a vote in every application for certification, regardless of whether the union claims to have the support of the majority of employees.
Under the proposed “Card Check” system, where a union is able to demonstrate the support of a majority of employees in a proposed bargaining unit by having those employees sign a “membership card”, the union would be automatically certified without a vote. This makes it easier for unions to organize, as employees often sign cards under a misunderstanding of their significance. Only a secret ballot vote ensures that certifications are based on the actual wishes of employees.
Although it is presently not clear where the Green Party will stand on the labour relations changes proposed above, the Green Party platform included a commitment to review and establish a new minimum wage, and to modernize and reform British Columbia’s existing labour laws. It is fair to say that employers in British Columbia should expect significant changes.
All of the proposed changes referenced above will have significant impacts on British Columbia employers should they take effect. Depending how they are ultimately implemented, these items may result in significant cost implications to employers, and increased regulatory and administrative requirements.
Employers should consider how these changes may impact their business. If you have questions regarding the potential impact of these changes, or to discuss them in more detail, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer in our Vancouver office.
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