On May 30, 2019, British Columbia’s Bill 30 – Labour Relations Code Amendment Act (“Bill 30”) received Royal Assent. Bill 30 made significant changes to the Labour Relations Code (the “Code”) following a government-commissioned report by the Labour Relations Review panel, which contained 29 recommendations of a wide range of topics. Changes to the Code are largely labour-friendly.
Note that changes to the Code have been accompanied by changes to the Employment Standards Act, discussed in more depth in this article.
The following are some of the key changes that employers should be particularly wary of going forward:
1. Free Speech
The Code previously provided that persons had the freedom to express views on any matter, including matters relating to an employer, a trade union, or the representation of employees by a trade union. This section has been replaced by language which limits communications to employees to “statements of fact or opinion reasonably held with respect to an employer’s business.” This provision will limit employers’ abilities to express critical views of the Union or of the certification process where such may be considered unreasonably held beliefs.
2. Remedial Certification
Prior to Bill 30, the British Columbia Labour Relations Board possessed the remedial authority to impose certification without a vote where there was a finding of an unfair labour practice and the Board deemed it just and equitable to do so. Bill 30 introduced provisions which specifically provide expanded powers to order remedial certification.
3. Statutory Freeze Periods
Previously, an employer could not make a change to the wages or any other condition of employment of an employee of the bargaining unit for four months following the certification of a union (the “freeze period”). Bill 30 has increased this freeze period to 12 months, and allows for the freeze period to be prolonged under certain circumstances.
Bill 30 made two changes to the raid process. First, union raiding is now restricted to the seventh and eighth month of the third year in the term of a collective agreement, and every year thereafter if the term is more than three years. For collective agreements less than three years in length, the raiding period is the seventh and eighth month of the last year of that agreement. Second, Bill 30 provides that, after a successful raid, an existing collective agreement may be cancelled if there are two or more years remaining in the term of the agreement.
The Code’s successorship provisions are amended by Bill 30 to apply where certain types of service contracts have been retendered and bid on by new contractors. Such services include building cleaning services, security services, bus transportation services, food services and non-clinical services in the health sector. The Code now provides, in such circumstances, a new contractor is bound by all previous proceedings under the retendered contract. Notably, this change has retroactive effect to April 30, 2019. This change will effectively bind the certification to the contract, as opposed to particular employers, and will be a consideration wherever there might be a change of management.
6. Definition of ‘Picketing’
Bill 30 amends the definition of ‘picketing’ to specifically exclude lawful consumer leafleting that does not unduly restrict access or egress from the place of business, operations or employment, or prevent employees from working at the place of employment.
7. Additional Changes to the Code
Bill 30 significantly increased penalties for breaches of the Code. The maximum fine to an individual increased from $1,000 to $5,000, and for corporations or trade unions from $10,000 to $50,000.
The amendments to the Code also include the establishment of a committee to continuously review the Code, changes to the decertification and certification application processes, changes to the time period for representation votes, changes to the adjustment plan process, changes to the time period to make an application for the revocation of bargaining rights, and changes to the industry advisory structure.
All of the changes under Bill 30 have already come into effect. If you are an employer who has questions about how Bill 30 may affect your business operations, do not hesitate to reach out to a member of Miller Thomson’s Labour and Employment Group.