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'Banner year' for workers in B.C.

Last Updated Sep 2, 2019 at 1:42 pm PDT

A member of a Steelworkers Union holds up a sign during a protest in Montreal on November 28, 2018, where he demonstrated against the lockout of workers at an Alcoa smelter plant in Becancour, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

The Employment Standards Act got updated in 2019

Changes include making sure workers keep their tips, and prohibiting young teens from working in heavy industry

BC Federation of Labour President Laird Cronk says the relationship with government has drastically improved

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Labour Day is about recognizing efforts to try to ensure that workers’ rights are strengthened, and a union leader in B.C. says there’s a lot to celebrate this year.

The rights of workers in the province have been strengthened after significant policy changes, according to BC Federation of Labour President Laird Cronk.

“For the first time in two decades we’ve seen substantial improvements in the Employment Standards Act,” he says.

These changes include making sure workers keep their tips, prohibiting young teens from working in heavy industry, and leave for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

An increase in the minimum wage in 2019, with another one coming in 2020 will get workers in B.C. closer to earning $15 per hour.

The working relationship with the NDP government is much better than it was with the Liberal government under Premier Christy Clark, which didn’t listen to workers.

“While we don’t always agree on every point with the provincial government there is a respectful conversation that takes place, a consultation that is available to the labour movement and I believe they have a true respect for workers.” he says.

Cronk offers two examples of disagreement.

“We would have like to have seen a one-step organizing process where, if 100 per cent of workers sign cards in their workplace, it would be respected that they have a union in the workplace, so they can start to negotiate a fair collective agreement with their employer,” Cronk says. The NDP government has kept a two-part process that requires a vote in addition to the signing and filing of cards, although they did shorten the amount of time the process takes.

The federation also would have liked to have seen paid leave for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Cronk counts unpaid leave as a victory, but says they will keep pressing to make sure these workers are compensated when they need time off.

“It’s a banner year for worker’s rights, it’s also an ongoing struggle for workers in the province,” Cronk explains, adding it’s particularly tough for migrant workers and striking steel workers.

“We need to respect and support those workers to try and secure their rights.”