NDP continues to consider changes to province’s labour code

On Friday, B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan addressed members of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union during a conference at the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver, following a warm introduction from BCGEU president Stephanie Smith.

Horgan spent much of his address reiterating campaign pledges to improve public services and affordability, and spoke of his pride for BCGEU members’ work in the province. But he didn’t mention his plans for B.C.’s Labour Relations Code, which could have a major impact on how unions form.

In May, before the NDP formed an alliance with the B.C. Green party, Horgan told the editorial boards of the Vancouver Sun and The Province that an NDP government would review the labour code, with the intention to remove the current rule that sees employees who want to unionize take a vote by secret ballot.

Employers have said it’s key to preventing workers from being intimidated by co-workers into union certification. Horgan said he prefers a system called card check, in which a union is certified if a majority of members sign union cards.

“I believe that the right to join a union is a fundamental right in Canada and I believe card check is an appropriate way for that happen,” he told the board.

BCGEU representatives were not made available before deadline. But in a 2016 report by the B.C. Federation of Labour — of which the BCGEU is a member — its authors expressed support for card-check certification, recommending it be implemented to “restore some fairness and functionality into the system.”

Horgan wasn’t made available to media following his address Friday. Shane Simpson, the NDP MLA for Vancouver-Hastings who was labour critic before the election, said the party remains “quite supportive” of card-check certification.

“We believe it’s a legitimate thing to do,” he said. “We’ll be moving forward around labour code changes and other changes that support workers’ rights. We haven’t resolved how that will unfold, entirely.”

Simpson said there will be conversations and consultation before anything is changed.

Asked whether he believes the Greens would be on board with a move to card-check certification, Simpson said he believes “they’re happy to be part of the conversation” regarding any changes to the labour code, Workers Compensation Act or Employment Standards Act.

“We’ve come to an agreement around strengthening workers’ rights,” he said. “The specific details of that — there’s still work to be done.”