Business groups call on government to keep secret ballot for union certification

Deadline to provide feedback to government on the issue is today

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains spoke to the BC Fed convention on November 29 | Glen Korstrom

A broad range of 13 business groups on November 30 called on the B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains and his NDP government to maintain the current system for how workers certify a union in the province – one that requires a secret-ballot vote.

November 30 is the deadline for the public to provide feedback to the government on the issue, and it follows a lengthy consultation process that involved a three-member, government-appointed committee hearing from stakeholders earlier this year and releasing a report in October that had 29 recommendations, one of which being to maintain the status quo on the union certification process.

One member of the committee, however, dissented from that recommendation, and it is unclear where Bains or Premier John Horgan stand on the issue.

Business in Vancouver asked Horgan why he did not address the matter in his November 28 speech to the BC Fed, and where he stands on the matter.

“We’ll wait for the feedback to happen and then we’ll comment on it,” he said. “That’s the whole point of consulting with people. You wait to hear what they have to say.”

Bains on November 29 addressed the BC Fed convention and described what he called a “full and aggressive agenda” to “fix” what the former BC Liberal government “broke” when it revised labour law in the province.

Unions want the NDP to restore parts of the B.C. Labour Relations Code, which during the 1990s allowed union certification to go ahead if a simple majority of workers signed union cards, with no secret-ballot requirement.

The Gordon Campbell government in the early 2000s changed the law to require union organizers to get 45% of workers in a workplace to sign union cards, and then to apply to certify a union. A 10-day campaign period follows, and then a secret-ballot vote is held.

“I want you to know, and I firmly believe, and I know you firmly believe, that every worker in Canada has the Constitutional right to join a union of their choice without any interference from their boss,” Bains told the 1000-plus union delegates in the room.

He did not specifically address, however, whether that “interference” meant the 10-day campaign period and the requirement for a secret ballot.

Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) president Chris Gardner strongly opposes any change to the union certification system.

“The public knows that forcing unionization and stripping the democratic right to a secret ballot is wrong and unfair,” said Gardner. “It’s time for the NDP government to abandon this outdated approach to labour relations and protect this basic worker right.”

The business groups filed their joint submission on November 29. It was signed by the ICBA, as well as the BC Chamber of Commerce, BC Hotels Association, BC Trucking Association, Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Canadian Franchise Association, Canadian Home Builders Association, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, Restaurants Canada, Retail Council of Canada, Urban Development Institute, and Vancouver Regional Construction Association.