B.C. labour laws need serious reform, workers' advocates say

B.C.’s minister of labour says the province's review of its Labour Code, which covers unions and other workplace topics, is long overdue.

Advocacy groups want stronger enforcement of rules and protection for workers in 'gig economy'

Minister of Labour Harry Bains says his ministry received a report on changes to B.C. labour laws on Friday. He says the government is reviewing the report before making it public. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

B.C.'s minister of labour says everything is on the table as the province reviews its labour laws.

Harry Bains is overseeing the government's review of B.C.'s Labour Code, which covers unions and other workplace topics.

It's a process he said was long overdue.

"The Labour Code hasn't been reviewed in 15 years," Bains told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition. "The idea is to bring labour laws that reflect the changing economy and the changing workplaces."

Bains said he received a report on Friday from a committee about possible areas for reforming labour laws.

The committee, he said, included union and employer representation with an independent chair. It travelled through the province to hear from experts, workers and business groups about possible changes to labour rules.

The minister said his goals from the review are to make workplaces the safest in the country, give workers a feeling of more respect and to increase confidence in the Labour Relations Board.

Listen to the full interview with Harry Bains:

B.C.'s minister of labour says everything is on the table as the province reviews its Labour Code, which covers unions and other workplace topics. Harry Bains says it's a process long overdue. 9:53

'Room for improvement'

One worker advocacy group says immediate improvement is needed in enforcing labour laws.

The B.C. Employment Standards Coalition says it will be making a submission as part of the review calling for more proactive investigations into labour-law violations and for more resources for the Employment Standards Branch.

"We've been lobbying him over the past year to do this," coalition co-chair David Fairey told On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko. "Except for the fair wages commission... there's not much has been happening."

Fairey was also critical of B.C.'s labour laws on sick leave and child workers, which he called the most lax in North America.

"There's a lot of room for improvement," he said.

Listen to the full interview with David Fairey:

The B.C. Employment Standards Coalition says it will be making a submission as part of B.C.'s labour law review calling for more proactive investigations into violations and for more resources for the Employment Standards Branch. 6:39

Piece rate 'discriminatory'

The B.C. Federation of Labour said progress is needed when it comes to precarious workers, especially when it comes to "piece rate," where a worker is paid based on tasks completed instead of hours worked.

President Irene Lanzinger called it a "discriminatory" practice that treats farm workers unfairly.

"We want to see that exemption removed," Lanzinger said. "We say the minimum wage should be the base. You can pay people bonuses or extra for picking more, but everyone should earn the minimum wage."

Bains said precarious work will be a focus of the reforms.

He said the province is focused on setting minimum pay standards for "gig economy" workers and to enforce rules for employers hiring those workers.

Bains said the report he received Friday will be reviewed by the government and then made public.

Listen to the full interview with Irene Lanzinger:

The B.C. Federation of Labour said progress is needed when it comes to precarious workers, especially when it comes to "piece rate," where a worker is paid based on tasks completed instead of hours worked. 8:15

With files from CBC Radio One's The Early Edition and On The Coast

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