Legislative Update – June 2019
Busy Spring Session Over: This legislative spring session is now over. The House is now in recess until they return to the House on October 7. The Spring session was very busy. They passed over 33 bills. Among those passed, government has:
- created better protection and supports for non-union workers;
- updated the labour code to reflect the current work environment;
- committed to eliminate MSP premiums as of 2020.
- expanded recognition for occupation-related diseases for first responders;
- eliminated the ability to hide property ownership behind numbered corporations;
- imposed new restrictions on rent increases;
- protected the public from strategic lawsuits designed to prevent their free speech;
- brought in a provincial witness security program;
- launched their climate change strategy;
- enacted new payday loan rules;
- brought in a new family dispute resolution system;
- secured an LNG project;
- expanded the civil forfeiture system for proceeds of crime;
- increased protections for agricultural land reserve properties;
- added over 100 hectares to the parks and protected area system;
- improved ferry services for coastal communities;
- brought in new information management requirements that require the government to record key decisions;
- eliminated ticket bots and mass-buying software and improved consumer protections;
- increased oversight of BC Hydro by the province’s independent energy regulator;
- improved forest management practices; and
- strengthened protection for archeological sites.
Strong and Fair Economy: The government is working collaboratively to build a strong, sustainable economy that works for everyone – and it’s yielding results. BC continues to lead the country in economic growth, has the lowest unemployment rate in Canada and eliminated the operating debt for the first time in 40 years. Interest on B.C. student loans was eliminated, and a ferry fare freeze was extended. The government has hired thousands more teachers and education assistants and lowered childcare costs. The Province continues to tackle the housing crisis and has launched a public inquiry into money-laundering. The Fair Pharmacare deductibles were lowered or eliminated for 240,000 families and the province has committed to $1.3 billion over three years for more doctors, nurses, hospitals and primary care centres, as well as increased access to diagnostics and improved drug coverage for patients.
Minimum Wage Increase: B.C.’s general hourly minimum wage increased to $13.85 from $12.65, and the minimum wage rates for liquor servers, resident caretakers and live-in camp leaders also increased, effective June 1, 2019.
Worker’s Rights Improved: Changes to the Employment Standards Act and Labour Relations Code were passed into legislation in the last session. Both pieces of legislation represent a significant step forward for workers in BC, bringing more fairness and balance to all workplaces in the province. These changes were brought about through a combination of a progressive government that recognized the imbalance in worker’s rights over the last 16 years and strong lobbying by unions and working people.
Employment Standards Act Key Changes
- Minimum Standards for All Workers: New or renegotiated collective agreements may not have provisions that are less than the Employment Standards.
- Minimum Working Age Increased: Increases minimum age to work to 14. Light work permitted for children 14 and 15-year-old with parental permission. Other industries have minimum wage ranging from 16 to 19.
- Dependent Care Leave: Unpaid leave of up to 36 weeks available to care for critically ill child and 16 weeks for adult family members.
- Critical Illness or Injury Care Leave: Unpaid leave of up to 36 weeks per year to care for or support a family member who is under 19 years of age and up to 16 weeks’ unpaid leave per year to provide care or support to a family member who is 19 years or older.
- Tip Protection: Employers restricted from participating in tip pooling unless they do the same work as their workers are doing.
- Wage Recovery: Allows workers to apply to recover up to 12 months of lost wages, or up to 24 months in particularly severe situations.
- Self-Help Kit Eliminated: A requirement for workers to use a self-help kit and attempt to resolve matters with their employer directly was discontinued and instead complaints will be investigated by the Employment Standards Branch.
- More Investigators to be Hired: The Employment Standards Branch will hire more than 40 new employees over the next year.
Labour Code Key Changes
- Education No Longer Essential Service: The right to strike is restored for education workers.
- Regular Reviews: A review of the Code is now required at least every five years to ensure it stays up to date.
- Remedial Certifications: The Labour Board is empowered to order certification in cases where the employer has engaged in certain bad faith activities.
- Freeze Period Extension: The time during which an employer cannot alter pay or other terms or conditions of employment following certification was increased from 4 months to 12 months.
- Employer Anti-Union Speech Prohibited: Restrictions on anti-union statements by employers during organizing drives are reinstated
- Leafletting Permitted: The definition of picketing is amended to specifically exclude lawful consumer leafletting that meets specified conditions.
- Reduced Representation Vote Period: Newly organized workers are assured a vote within five business days unless the vote is conducted by mail.
- Improved Successor Rights: Contractors in health care, bus transportation, cleaning services, security and food services are bound by a collective agreement if a service is retendered.
- Quicker Arbitration Process: Case management conferences are mandated, the timelines for expedited arbitrations are reduced,
- Improved Dispute Resolution Services: Increased access to facilitators or mediators to assist parties to resolve issues earlier.
- Increased Fines for Violations: Parties who violate the Code face much higher penalties for bad behaviour.
Workers’ Compensation System Review: Government is holding a public engagement on British Columbia’s workers’ compensation system and how to shift the system to become more worker centred, as well as how to increase worker and employer confidence, is open for feedback. The public and interested stakeholders are invited to share their views until July 19, 2019. People can submit written feedback by email to Info@wcbreview.ca or by filling in a questionnaire online. Details of the engagement process and a link to the questionnaire can be found here. There will be public hearings in 14 communities around the province. All meetings will be open to the public. Half the times will be reserved for injured workers to ensure their views are heard about what an improved workers’ compensation system should look like. CUPE BC will be making a submission on behalf of CUPE members.
BC’s Human Rights Commissioner Named: Kasari Govender was appointed as Commissioner of the recently reinstated Human Rights Commission. Govender is a practising lawyer and serves as executive director of the non-profit organization West Coast LEAF (Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund). She has represented equity seekers at all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada.
Women now nearly half of public board members in B.C.: Women now make up over 49% of public sector board members in British Columbia, up from 41% in 2017 — an increase of 174 women. Mitzi Dean, Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity, noted that “Our government values what diverse voices bring to the table.” Government will continue to consider ways to improve women’s representation in leadership in the private sector, where women only represent about 20% of corporate board members.
Collective efforts aim to prevent sexual violence on campus: The province brought together stakeholders in post-secondary education to take action on preventing and responding to sexual violence in order to make campuses safer for everyone. As a first step toward a co-ordinated sexual violence prevention approach, the closed-door forum complemented the provincial initiatives worth $760,000 including co-ordinated resources, so institutions can learn from each other, share best practices and access training resources. The funding will also support plain language policies and processes regarding sexual violence and misconduct to ensure that they are clear.