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

Duo robs Harrison Hot Springs gas station

Husky manager planning to tighten security

Snow prayers answered as Manning Park ski hill opens Friday

Ski hill will be open seven days a week starting Dec. 14, and cross-country trails as well

Fleeing driver picks fight with Chilliwack police dog, loses

Good dog ‘Griff’ also locates large quantity of what police believe to be crystal meth in Abbotsford

UPDATE: Heavy rainfall, strong winds in forecast for Lower Mainland

Heavy rains, snow expected till Friday morning

Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

Of the 105 current senators, 54 are now independents who have banded together in Independent Senators’ Group

Man dies after falling from B.C. bridge

Intoxicated man climbed railing, lost his balance and fell into the water below

Hundreds attend Hells Angels funeral in Maple Ridge

Body of Chad John Wilson found last month face-down under the Golden Ears Bridge.

B.C. animation team the ‘heart’ of new ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’

The animators, largely based in Vancouver, ultimately came up with a creative technique that is drawing praise

Light at the end of the tunnel for UN climate talks

Meeting in Katowice was meant to finalize how countries report their emissions of greenhouses gases

Gas prices to climb 11 cents overnight in Lower Mainland

Hike of 17 cents in less than 48 hours due to unexpected shutdown of Washington state pipeline

Janet Jackson, Def Leppard, Nicks join Rock Hall of Fame

Radiohead, the Cure, Roxy Music and the Zombies will also be ushered in at the 34th induction ceremony

Supreme Court affirms privacy rights for Canadians who share a computer

Section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects Canadians against unreasonable search and seizure

B.C. fire chief pleads with Ottawa for traumatic stress support

Campbell River fire chief Thomas Doherty presented concerns to federal government

Most Read