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

Gas prices spike in northern B.C. ahead of the long weekend

Fuel went up 17 cents overnight in Prince Rupert

Stellar musicians, performers recognized at 54th Pacific Northwest Music Festival

More than 150 awards, scholarships given out to Northwest B.C. participants

Cyclist braking stigma on addiction from coast to coast

Mathew Fee aims at world record for longest distance on BMX bike while sharing his story of recovery

MP Nathan Cullen to testify at oil tanker ban committee hearings

Senators travel to Prince Rupert and Terrace as part of fact-finding mission on Bill C-48

Hazelton RCMP officer pleads not guilty to assault

A trial date for Const. Eric Unrau will be set on Apr. 23

UPDATE: Four victims identified in deadly Penticton shooting spree

John Brittain, 68, faces three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder

BC Ferries to pilot selling beer and wine on select sailings

Drinks from select B.C. breweries and VQA wineries will be available on the Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen route

Elizabeth May’s B.C. wedding will be a ‘low carbon affair’ on Earth Day

Green party leader’s wedding party to depart in a cavalcade of electric cars

4 victims killed in Penticton shooting spree remembered at vigil

John Brittain, 68, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder

B.C. awaits Kenney’s ‘turn off taps,’ threat; Quebec rejects Alberta pipelines

B.C. Premier John Horgan said he spoke with Kenney Wednesday and the tone was cordial

Federal government extends deadline to make Trans Mountain decision to June 18

The National Energy Board endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline on Feb. 22

Prince George sweeps to first-ever BC Hockey League crown

Spruce Kings beat Vernon Vipers 3-1 in the Okanagan Wednesday for 13th straight playoff win

Hwang’s first MLS goal lifts Whitecaps to 1-0 win over LAFC

Vancouver picks up first victory of season

Verdict scheduled in Giesbrecht murder trial

B.C. Supreme Court justice will render his decision May 24

Most Read