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.

Just Posted

Queen Charlotte crackdown

RCMP target impaired driving amidst rising numbers of the offence

Australian gold mining giant acquires Red Chris mine

Newcrest now owns 70 per cent of the mine south of Iskut and operatorship

Haida Gwaii storm causes B.C. ferry delay

Skidegate to Prince Rupert route affected

Rainfall warning for Haida Gwaii

High winds also expected to hit the islands

Haida Gwaii eagles recovering in Ladner care facility

Treatment for the eagles is both costly and time intensive

Clean the house, prep for your next trip: Tips to nix the post-vacation blues

48 per cent of travellers are already stressed about ‘normal life’ while still on their trip

Couple could go to jail for taking 88 lbs. of Italian sand

Pair said they didn’t know it was illegal to take the sand, which is protected as a public good

More women may need breast cancer gene test, U.S. guidelines say

Recommendations aimed at women who’ve been treated for BRCA-related cancers and are now cancer-free

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft: RCMP

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

VIDEO: RCMP unveil new, state-of-the-art forensics lab

The laboratory is expected to handle thousands of forensic services from across Canada annually

Scheer promises EI tax credit for new parents if Conservatives form government

The government currently taxes employment insurance benefits for new parents

Most Read