Column: NDP’s labour overhaul unfairly benefits unions

Notes from the Legislature by Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo

John Horgan and the NDP like to talk about values like fairness, balance and transparency, but their actions are showing their true colours.

This week in the Legislature, MLAs debated the NDP’s proposed changes to the Labour Relations Code. The government is trying to pretend this overhaul is all in the name of making things better for B.C. workers, but I find this hard to believe given a number of heavy-handed NDP measures that will actually constrain the rights of workers.

One example is the NDP’s Community Benefits Agreement, which is anything but fair. It requires workers to join a union to be eligible to work on major public infrastructure initiatives, such as the Highway 1 transportation improvement projects from Kamloops to the Alberta border. The NDP is taking away the fundamental right of workers to choose not to unionize and, more specifically, sets out 19 select, hand-picked unions for them to join – conveniently, unions that are friendly to the NDP.

If workers are unionized with a progressive association like the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC), which isn’t on the NDP’s approved list of 19 unions because it doesn’t support the party- they’re out of luck when it comes to working on these projects.

Another example of NDP unfairness affects about 17,000 community-care workers in our province. Recent announcements by the government with respect to wage redress are now creating further disparity between private sector employees and unionized employees who are providing exactly the same level of care, for the same level of work. A significant wage increase will go to the unionized employees and not their private sector counterparts. There’s simply no way the NDP can justify this discriminatory action.

The NDP has also chosen to move 4,000 private home support workers back into government. Existing contracts with the private care providers will not be renewed, and these workers will be forced to join a health authority – in other words, become unionized.

Where is the fairness? I don’t see it in these examples, and I don’t see it in the NDP’s Bill 30 which amends the Labour Relations Code.

Read more: B.C. unions expect membership gains from labour code changes

Read more: B.C. VIEWS: Going back to the disco era of labour relations

Read more: Kids under 16 can keep working for now, B.C. labour minister says

The government wants to reduce the timeline for a union certification vote from the current 10 days to five. This shrinks the amount of time an employer will have to respectfully discuss with their workers how unionization may impact the business and their relationship. It’s being done with no data to support the minister’s claim that the proposal will address concerns that employers are taking that longer time frame to strong-arm employees into rejecting unionization.

There’s no balance here, because a union holds all the cards-literally. It can collect union certification cards from employees and quietly hold onto them until the business finds itself in a tumultuous time when morale is low and employees may be upset at the employer – and thus, more eager to unionize.

When we talk about the rights of workers, we also have to respect the rights of employers. They’re not all big, international corporations. Many companies are small, family-owned businesses whose owners work long hours, make financial sacrifices and work as hard as they can to keep their businesses afloat. They deserve the same respect that the law extends to their workers.


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