Premier Horgan mum on potential labour code changes in BC Fed speech

B.C. government consulting on changes to labour code that could see end of secret ballot for unionization

B.C. Premier John Horgan gives a first speech by a sitting B.C. premier to a BC Fed convention in 20 years |Chung Chow

B.C. Premier John Horgan received a rock-star welcome November 28, as he stode to the stage at the BC Fed convention to the sounds of Serena Ryder’s Stompa.

As the first premier to address the biennial convention in 20 years, the approximately 2,000 delegates and assorted visitors stood and cheered and interrupted Horgan’s speech many times with applause.

But while Horgan rattled off a list of what he considered to be his government’s accomplishments, he was silent on where he stands on a major issue for which unions have been lobbying: changing B.C.’s Labour Relations Code to do away with a provision that requires a secret ballot vote by workers before a union can be certified.

In March, unions made clear to a Labour Relations Code review committee that they wanted the law changed to eliminate the requirement that there be a secret-ballot vote by workers at workplaces where workers were trying to unionize.

The current code requires 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.

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

The three-member, government-appointed review committee released a series of recommendations in October, with one of those being to maintain the secret-ballot provision. One member of the committee, however, dissented from that recommendation.

Labour Minister Harry Bains told Business in Vancouver minutes before Horgan’s speech that his ministry will accept feedback on the report’s recommendations for another two days, until November 30.

BIV then cornered Horgan after the speech to ask what his position is on the issue and why the issue was not part of his speech to the large contingent of union members and activists.

“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.”