Feb 24, 2011

When everything you ask for isn’t enough – BC business calls for more cuts to labour standards


Last November BC’s Labour Minister quietly announced his Ministry was conducting a review of employment standards and the minimum wage.  There has been virtually no news coverage on this.  That’s too bad because the results could be important for BC workers.  The recommendations could offer a blueprint for BC’s new Liberal Premier to be chosen Saturday.

The Liberals made drastic changes to employment standards in the first few years after they were elected in 2001.  As a result, BC now has the weakest child labour law in North America.  Employers were relieved of the burden of posting a statement of employee rights under employment  standards legislation.  Enforcement was gutted through closing of offices and cutbacks in staffing.  Protections for agricultural workers were cut.  The rule that said if you were called into work you had to have four hours work paid for was reduced to a two hour “call in.”  And of course, the minimum wage was frozen at $8 with a sub minimum wage introduced targeting young people, immigrants and women re-entering the work force.

Basically, the business community got everything it wanted.

It now turns out that everything they wanted wasn’t enough.  The Coalition of BC Business has made a submission to the government calling for even fewer protections for working people.  The Coalition calls for:

  • No pay for statutory holidays until someone has been employed for 90 days.
  • Denying stat holiday pay unless the employee has worked both the scheduled day before and after the holiday.  Of course, employers are responsible for scheduling.
  • Reduction in overtime pay for commission workers.
  • Creating a “flexible” system in which overtime is determined over a multi week period.  Work seventy hours one week and possibly receive no overtime pay.
  • Employers should be free to bargain individually with senior and technical employees on hours of work and compensation packages below the standards of the Act.  This could have an enormous impact on workers in the technology and film making sectors.  And, of course, there is no equality in bargaining between a corporation and an individual employee.

As recently as last summer the Coalition was still opposing any increase in the minimum wage.  Recognizing the inevitable, in its recent brief they grudgingly accepted increases but only if they  are delayed and spread out.  The first increase would not come until next January and then there would be no increase larger than 50 cents.  Minimum wage workers would wait until June 2013 to see their wages rise to $10 an hour.

What have other organizations like the BC Business Council had to say about possible changes to employment standards?  We don’t know.  The “consultation” has been closed and secret.

What we do know is that the last time BC’s business community got everything they asked for.  Now they want more.

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