British Columbia

B.C. extends layoff provisions until end of August, but some workers say further protections needed

Labour Minister Harry Bains says the extension to a maximum of 24 weeks allows employers and employees to work out agreements during the pandemic, while still protecting a worker's right to receive severance pay.

Local 40 union president says hotel workers, like the ones she represents, can be terminated come September

People walk past the Rosewood Hotel Georgia in Vancouver on Aug. 23, 2019. Many of the workers at the hotel have been laid off since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The B.C. government says it is extending temporary layoff provisions until the end of August, giving employers and workers more flexibility to support economic recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Labour Minister Harry Bains says the extension to a maximum of 24 weeks allows employers and employees to work out agreements during the pandemic, while still protecting a worker's right to receive severance pay.

The government extended the period to 16 weeks last month, but employers and the Opposition Liberals were calling for a further extension to help businesses facing bankruptcy and to align with the federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Bains says the government heard from employers that the extension was needed.

He says it's important to make sure that workers know they have to be involved in the agreement with their employer to extend the temporary layoff and have a right to decline the layoff and accept compensation.

Opposition Liberal labour critic John Martin says if the extension was not granted, thousands of people would have lost their jobs, and many businesses would have gone bankrupt.

Recall rights should be extended: hotel workers 

But not everyone was pleased with the announcement. 

Zailda Chan, the UNITE HERE Local 40 president, said there are still no protections for workers themselves, saying they are vulnerable to a wave of terminations come September. 

"We are incredibly disappointed by the government's decision today to extend temporary layoffs and delay severance to help the business community without any protections for workers," Chan said in a statement.

James Milling, a doorman at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, was laid off from his job halfway through March. He says he's been lucky because his wife, an essential worker, is still able to work but he's worried about making ends meet when the CERB period ends. 

Milling says he's worried he will lose his job because he is nearing the deadline of his recall rights — the right of an employee to return to the job they were in. 

"If an employee is unable to work or does not work for a set period of time, at the end of that period they would be considered terminated by that employer," Milling said. 

"What it means is at the end of the September, the employees that they have currently in limbo — like myself — will simply no longer have a job."

Milling says he's hoping the government can extend recall rights for workers, so that if they are forced to remain laid off for the next few months, they wouldn't lose their jobs. 

"Vancouver is a world-class destination ... it may take some time, but we're all here waiting, myself and my colleagues ... to get back to work and welcome people back."

With files from the Canadian Press, On The Coast

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