Food services were expanded and re-tendered for Rogers Arena in Vancouver, ending a union contract with 750 employees in 2014. Labour Minister Harry Bains uses this as an example to make union terms automatic when services change hands. (Wikimedia Commons)

B.C. NDP using ‘sledge hammer’ on contract employers, business group says

Labour code expands union succession rights for food, security, janitorial, bus services

Fourth in a series on proposed changes to B.C.’s labour code.

The B.C. government’s plan to expand union succession protection to a wide range of private sector contracted services is an “extraordinary” state intervention into the open market for labour, the Business Council of B.C. says.

BCBC chief policy officer Jock Finlayson said the automatic transfer of union contracts for food services, security, building maintenance and bus transportation is the main objection of employers in the Labour Relations Code overhaul that is now before the B.C. legislature.

“We’re concerned about the impact, which I think could be fairly far-reaching,” Finlayson said in an interview with Black Press.

“For businesses that contract out for services, and a lot of them do, it’s going to substantially remove the competition in the market for contracted services. So competition and choice for those who outsource these services are going to be substantially curtailed as a result of these provisions, and I think a lot of organizations are going to wake up and realize that’s a fairly big change from what they’ve been used to.”

READ MORE:

B.C. unions expect membership gains from labour code changes

Kids under 16 can keep working for now, labour minister says

B.C. union rules could create ‘battle zone’ in big construction

B.C. NDP keeps secret ballot for union certification votes

The B.C. government has repeatedly pointed to “contract flipping” by operators of senior care facilities, some of which have seen multiple ownership changes that force employees to reapply for work and accept pay and benefits that may be reduced. Finlayson said the extension into private sector services will likely drive up costs across a large swath of the economy.

“If there are examples of particular abuses or practices that a reasonable person would view as unacceptable, and those things do exist out in the marketplace, then the appropriate remedy is not to bring a sledge hammer down and try to take the competitive forces in contract provision out of the market,” Finlayson said. “If there is a real problem, the way to deal with that is through targeted measures.”

Labour Minister Harry Bains said employees in food services, janitorial, security and bus transportation, as well as non-clinical health services like care aides, are “often vulnerable” and need more protection.

He said the labour code changes are designed to ensure that all union agreements carry over when contracts change.

“What it does is say the new contractor steps into the shoes of the old contractor,” Bains said. “If that means preserving a collective agreement, a certification and employment, that’s the intent.”

The change is one of two areas where the NDP government went against the recommendations of it panel of business and union experts, which held hearings around the province last year. The other area is union raid provisions in construction, where the legislation reinforces the ability of unions to stage membership raids every summer.

Bains used the example of food services at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, which were re-tendered when Canucks Sports and Entertainment made a new deal in 2014 with Philadelphia-based Aramark Corp. to expand food and beverage offerings.

The move terminated the employment of 750 people who work at hockey games, concerts and special events. It was disputed by Unite Here Local 40, whose employees were making $13 to $17 per hour in serving jobs where they receive tips, and $18 to $21 an hour in the kitchen. The employees had to reapply.

Finlayson said successorship legislation also leaves room for the B.C. cabinet to add other areas of the contract work economy as it sees fit. He gave the example of information technology contractors.

“Lots of organizations, instead of building up their own IT departments, contract out for those services, and use a firm like Accenture or IBM, somebody who’s an expert,” Finlayson said. “Cabinet could wake up one day and decide to add contracted IT services. That would get a lot of attention from employers.”

He said many employers are not yet aware of the effects of changes expected to take effect when the legislation passes by the end of May.

The B.C. Green Party objected to removing a secret ballot from union certification votes, forcing Bains to drop that idea and follow the advice of the expert panel to keep secret-ballot votes. Green MLAs have been lobbied to oppose other parts of the NDP bill as well, before it becomes law by May 30.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Terrace Minor Softball closes season with wins

Teams with be competing in nationals in Saskatoon

Malicious Monster Truck Tour returns to Northwest

Crowds gathered at the airport for show

Northern B.C.’s Ridley coal terminal sold, Canada divests, First Nations to own portion

Ten per cent of shares transferred to the Lax Kw’alaams Band and the Metlakatla First Nation

Skeena mainstem closed to recreational sockeye

Escapements expected to be below 800,000 threshold

VIDEO: B.C. MLA Michelle Stilwell takes first steps in nearly 30 years

‘It actually felt like walking. It’s been 27 years… but it felt realistic to me’

Report of dead body in B.C. park actually headless sex doll

This discovery, made at Manning Park on July 10, led police to uncovering two other sex mannequins

Grand Forks fire chief found to have bullied, harassed volunteer firefighter: report

WorkSafeBC, third-party human resources investigation looking into allegations complete

Dog recovering after being drenched in hot coffee, B.C. man charged

Man was taken into custody, charged, and released pending a court date

Taekwondo instructor, 21, identified as B.C. bat rabies victim

Nick Major, 21, an instructor at Cascadia Martial Arts in Parksville

Science expedition to Canada’s largest underwater volcano departs Vancouver Island

Crews prepared for a two-week research mission to the Explorer Seamount

B.C. shipyard to get one-third of $1.5 billion frigate-repair contract

The federal government has promised to invest $7.5 billion to maintain the 12 frigates

Worried about bats? Here’s what to do if you come across one in B.C.

Bat expert with the BC Community Bat Program urges caution around the small creatures

B.C. on right road with tougher ride-hailing driver rules, says expert

The provincial government is holding firm that ride-hailing drivers have a Class 4 licence

Most Read