Liberals’ labour code changes make it harder to join a union

Legislation will harm labour relations in B.C.

Premier Gordon Campbell and his Liberal government have moved quickly to weaken the rights of working people and their unions with a series of bills that have undermined the free collective bargaining process and will harm labour relations in B.C.

The latest, Bill 18 — the Skills Development and Labour Statutes Amendment Act — makes it harder for workers to join unions. Skills development and labour minister Graham Bruce tabled, on August 14, proposed labour code changes which:

  • removes automatic unionization when 55 per cent or more workers sign union cards, leaving those who wish to join a union open to recriminations from vindictive employers;
  • effectively eliminates the right of school support workers and teachers to strike; and
  • repeals sectoral bargaining in construction. 

“Premier Campbell is following up on his massive tax cuts for B.C.’s corporations and their millionaire owners with an attack on the fundamental freedoms of working people,” says B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair. “This can only lead to confrontation and undermine our economy.”

“Premier Campbell is making a serious mistake by attacking the basic rights of working women and men to join unions and freely negotiate collective agreements,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “The Liberals are jeopardizing the possibility of positive labour relations with their escalating attacks on unionized workers.”

Allnutt says that HEU organizers are all too familiar with the tactics employers resort to when employees begin to organize. “Health workers who are seeking the protections and benefits of union membership have been subjected to a wide range of intimidation and harassment tactics by employers, from pleading poverty and bemoaning the loss of “our family,” to threatening punitive disciplinary actions against, and even firings of, staff who advocate joining a union.”

The government has already sided with employers against health care workers and their unions when Bill 15 imposed concession contracts on paramedical professionals and Registered Nurses earlier this month. “Health care needs stability and labour relations need to be balanced,” says Allnutt. “This legislation will have the opposite effect.

HEU will be writing the premier and the labour minister to formally voice its opposition to the labour code changes.