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.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COLUMN: Extending Employment Insurance sickness benefits

One of the challenges, with so many different events occurring in Ottawa,… Continue reading

Campaign promotes Syilx/Okanagan language and culture

To support initiative, Nsylixcen t-shirts and water bottles are being distributed across Okanagan

Interior Health leading the way with innovative therapy for stroke patients

Percentage of ischemic stroke patients who received treatment has risen dramatically

The marrying of magic and dance – Celtic Illusion

Tickets still available for the Celtic Illusion show which starts at 8 p.m. this Saturday at SOEC

Gauthier will Bring Home the Noise for Children’s Showcase

Zac Gauthier is coming the Cleland Theatre and will Bring Home the Noise on March 8.

VIDEO: Wet’suwet’en supporters vow to keep protesting at B.C. legislature

Supporters say they will continue ongoing action to hold government accountable

VIDEO: Province promotes ‘lifting each other up’ on 13th annual Pink Shirt Day

Students, MLAs, community members gathered at B.C. Parliament Buildings Wednesday

Prepare for new coronavirus like an emergency, health minister advises

About 81,000 people around the world have now become ill with COVID-19

B.C. residents in Wet’suwet’en territory have right to police presence: Public Safety Minister

Nevertheless, Bill Blair said officials remain ‘very anxious’ for the barricades to come down

Winnipeg police investigating graffiti on RCMP and other buildings

Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen denounced the vandalism

B.C. seniors’ watchdog calls for better oversight after recent problems at Retirement Concepts care homes

‘There is no financial incentive right now to be a good operator’ - Isobel Mackenzie

Volunteers share amazing memories of Vancouver Olympic games

A decade ago this month, Vancouver hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics. Approximately… Continue reading

Trucking company fined $175K for Kootenay creek fuel spill

Decision handed down last Friday in Nelson court

B.C. city rebrands with new logo, cheeky slogan

‘Langford, where it all happens’ is the City’s new slogan

Most Read