Labour Minister Harry Bains joins BCGEU president Stephanie Smith and supporters recycling copies of the Employment Standards Branch “self-help kit” for workers reporting pay disputes, Surrey, Aug. 28, 2019. A teachers’ union representative holds a banner behind to protest the lack of a new contract. (B.C. government)

B.C. VIEWS: More Labour Day milestones for the NDP

Gift to U.S.-based construction unions keeps on giving

Labour Minister Harry Bains got a rare thumbs-up from the opposition with his latest move to remake the province’s workplace rules, this time adding more compliance staff to the Employment Standards Branch.

The main aim is to help migrant workers and new immigrants who tend to be in casual work, like farm work, where long hours and short paycheques are more likely to be a problem. Bains says 60 staff are being added to the office, and he made a show of ceremonially tearing up and recycling the “self-help kit” for employment standards complaints introduced by the B.C. Liberals in 2003.

Complaints fell from 11,000 to 6,000 annually over the years since, and “the employers didn’t suddenly decide to obey the law,” Bains said. Workers who lack language skills or were afraid to confront an employer over wages were just letting it go.

Bains hastened to add that most B.C. employers don’t rip off vulnerable workers, but some do, and they get an advantage over honest operators. He was joined by representatives of Mosaic, a charity helping migrant workers, and B.C. Government Employees Union president Stephanie Smith, whose union expands again.

(Smith left the event in Surrey to announce strike notice to shut down the Kootenay Lake ferry for the Labour Day weekend.)

These employment changes passed the B.C. legislature this spring, along with new restrictions on kids under 16 working, a big expansion of union successor rights into the private sector for contracted food, security, bus and janitorial services, and new union “raiding” provisions.

RELATED: Cost jumps 35% for Highway 1 widening project

RELATED: Salmon Arm highway safety issues long-standing

B.C. Liberal labour critic John Martin said his party has no issue with increasing Employment Standards Branch staff. We aging baby boomers had better get used to more migrant workers for all those jobs we can’t do, and our children mostly won’t.

Martin is concerned about other regulations that are only now getting cabinet approval and taking effect. This fall harvest will indicate how large farms will cope with age restrictions, higher minimum wages, the employer health tax and the rest of the NDP agenda.

Union-only highway and bridge construction is about to get into high gear as well. I’m advised by the transportation ministry that the Pattullo Bridge replacement budget has not changed from $1.377 billion as the award of contract approaches. That’s to replace this 80-year-old four-lane bridge between New Westminster and Surrey with a four-lane-plus-bike-lane bridge.

The NDP’s absurdly misnamed “community benefits agreement” will, Transportation Minister Claire Trevena concedes, increase the Pattullo cost by seven per cent. This is to provide union wages and dues, strict craft lines dividing tasks, and a new bureaucracy for the 19 selected unions to collect dues and a new administration tax on workers.

By my calculation, $100 million is 7.26 per cent of the budget, so that’s the Pattullo price tag for returning B.C.’s public construction to the golden age of the 1970s.

The first highway job under the union deal, four-laning a short section of Highway 1 near Revelstoke, jumped 35 per cent when it was awarded, due to undisclosed labour cost, plus unforeseen increases in steel and asphalt prices.

Still to come on the Kamloops-to-Alberta stretch of Highway 1 are a new Quartz Creek bridge and 2.5-km widening near Golden; widening 12 km east of Chase; four-laning, frontage and intersection upgrades at Salmon Arm; four-laning two kilometres with bridge replacement at Sicamous; and the fourth and final phase of the spectacularly expensive Kicking Horse Canyon.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Elevators back in service at Royal Inland Hospital

Repairs were completed a week earlier than expected

Gilbertson ready to step down from organizing Barriere’s Walk For Alzheimer’s

By Margaret Houben Liz Gilbertson has been chairing the Barriere and Area… Continue reading

Don’t fall for scammer who says, “Your Windows license is expiring”

They explain you need to upgrade your operating system if you want your computer to keep working

Valley Voices: This time of year brings out the memories

A personal look back on a young girls immigration to Canada

VIDEO: Feds look to help 126 Canadians quarantined in China for coronavirus

China has confirmed more than 4,500 cases of the new virus, with more than 100 deaths

Sap thief taps Saanich park maple trees, faces hefty fine

One tree found with four taps in Mount Doug Park

B.C. reports first coronavirus in Vancouver region

First patient visited Wuhan, China, reported symptoms

Uber threatens legal action to ‘defend its right’ to operate in Surrey

‘I have no concerns,’ Mayor Doug McCallum replies

Victoria resident says WestJet employee uttered racist comment, refused to let her on plane

Customer claims she was told ‘You guys can’t handle your alcohol’ by WestJet employee

Bystander who tried to help dog being attacked not liable for its death: B.C. tribunal

Owner of dog killed tried to get $5,000 in damages from man who tried to save it

INFOGRAPHIC: See how fast your B.C. city grew in 2019

The province’s fastest-growing municipalities were located on Vancouver Island

Landowner hearings begin for Trans Mountain expansion in Alberta

Detailed route talks start in Spruce Grove, in B.C. communities soon

Alessia Cara to host and perform at 2020 Juno Awards

Multi-platinum Canadian singer-songwriter also up for six awards, including Artist of the Year

Most Read