On October 25, 2018, B.C.’s Minister of Labour released the report of the Labour Relations Code Review Panel. The report contains sweeping recommendations with respect to amending the B.C. Labour Relations Code ( the “Code”). A copy of the Panel’s report can be found here.
Generally, the recommendations can be characterized as moving the Code to the left; protections for Unions are strengthened, and rights of employers weakened. That said, the Panel does not go so far as to seek to restore the Code to its pre-2002 form under the old NDP government.
Key recommendations are:
Regular review: The Panel recommends a public consultation process to consider further review of labour relations legislation every five years.
Restricted communication: The Panel recommends a restriction on an employer’s right to communicate to employees during the certification process. The Panel suggests that employers be limited to expressing “objective neutral information that best assists the exercise of employee choice”. The Panel expressly rejects allowing an employer to campaign against certification and instead recommends that the Labour Board speak on behalf of employers through an enhanced website and the provision of neutral materials to employees.
Expanded remedial certification: The Panel recommends an expansion of remedial certification to allow the Board to certify a group of employees, if it deems such a remedy equitable given the conduct of the employer. This would replace the current standard that only allows remedial certification if the Board is of the view the employees would have certified but for the conduct of the employer.
Maintain a secret ballot: A significant victory for the employer community is the preservation of the current secret ballot system to determine certification. A majority of the Panel rejected the alternative of a card based system where an employer could be certified provided the Union could show enough employees had signed union cards.
Shortening time for a vote: The Panel recommends shortening from 10 days to 5 days the time for a vote following a Union’s application for certification or an application by certain employees to decertify. The 5 days would be business days, not calendar days.
Extension of card validity: The Panel recommends extending from 90 days to 6 months the validity of union cards needed to gain support to apply for certification. This would mean that employers would have to govern themselves as if a certification campaign was ongoing for at least 6 months following the last known union activity lest they face an unfair practice complaint (eg. terminating an employee without “proper cause”).
Expansion of successorship: The Panel recommends a successorship for the re-tendering of contracts in the health services, security, custodial and bus transportation sectors. This would result in an incumbent collective agreement applying to a new contractor tendering for work in those areas. This provision parallels the current contractual obligations of employers in the forestry sector to whom the Woodlands Letter applies.
Expansion of statutory freeze: The Panel recommends expanding the statutory freeze following the certification of an employer from 4 months to 12 months. This expansion would prevent employers from making changes to their business without consent or an order of the Board, except that employers would retain the right to discipline for proper cause.
Expansion of dispute resolution mechanisms: The Panel recommends an expansion of the Board’s dispute resolution processes, including increased access to expedited arbitration processes. The Panel also recommends increased funding for the Board and a requirement that the Board upgrade its website and publish a poster setting out the rights of employees and obligations of employers under the Code.
The government now plans to engage in additional consultations with key stakeholders with a goal of introducing amendments to the Code in spring 2019. You may make submissions to the Ministry of Labour via email: LRCReview@gov.bc.ca by November 30, 2018.