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Great progress for workers’ rights and protections

Minister of Labour Harry Bains

BY HARRY BAINS

Minister of Labour

VICTORIA – This is an exciting time for British Columbians. Every day, our government focuses on improving the lives of the people of our province – your well-being, prosperity, rights and the services you rely on.

My priorities as Minister of Labour continue to be supporting worker health and safety, and ensuring our employment standards and labour laws are fair, respectful and reflect society’s needs. We’ve completed an incredible amount of work and I am proud of all we’ve achieved.

In 2018, we made it easier for first responders, sheriffs and correctional officers to access workers’ compensation for mental health disorders caused by their work. In 2019, we expanded that recognition to include nurses, emergency dispatchers and publicly funded health-care aides. These changes are about fairness and compassion for workers who serve British Columbians and whose jobs put them more at risk of developing mental injuries.

We’re moving forward with WorkSafeBC to shift B.C.’s workers’ compensation system to a more worker-centric delivery model. We’ve launched an independent review of the system, with public hearings now taking place in 14 communities around the province. The reviewer is hearing from injured workers, employers and others who use the system, on what improvements could be made. You can provide your comments in person, by email or by written submission: engage.gov.bc.ca/workerscompensationreview (https://engage.gov.bc.ca/workerscompensationreview)

Building on the spring 2018 updates to the Employment Standards Act around parental and compassionate care leaves, we have now made further, much-needed amendments to employment standards. These will better protect children and youth from dangerous work, make it easier for workers to get help when their rights have been violated, ensure people are paid wages they are owed and provide more job protection to people dealing with difficult personal circumstances, like escaping abuse or caring for a critically ill loved one.

As well, we’ve made progress to modernize the Employment Standards Branch to better serve workers and employers. We are piloting a multi-lingual phone service and hiring more staff to improve service delivery and proactively audit and inspect businesses. And to better protect and support foreign workers who are vulnerable to abuse, our government brought in the new Temporary Foreign Worker Protection Act.

Last year, I appointed an expert review panel which, after extensive public engagement, prepared detailed recommendations on updating B.C.’s labour relations system. These recommendations directly informed the changes we made to the Labour Relations Code this spring. The result is that B.C.’s labour legislation better reflects our modern workplaces. There will be more stable and harmonious relations between employers and unions. And workers in several sectors – and the people they serve – will be protected from the devastating impacts of contract flipping.

We have also made progress, in a reasonable and measured way, to increasing the minimum wage – currently at $13.85 as of June 1 – to at least $15.20 by 2021. Now the Fair Wages Commission is exploring how we can close the gap between the minimum wage and living wages in our communities.

Effective and enforced employment standards, stable labour relations and safe, healthy workplaces mean B.C. can attract and retain the workers required to grow our economy. Businesses can invest here knowing there is a level playing field.

This important work, and the positive difference these changes make in workers’ lives, is the result of the Confidence and Supply Agreement between government and the BC Green Party caucus. I look forward to continuing this work.