VANCOUVER Rights of non-union workers are being set back 50 years, says Barry ONeill, President of CUPE BC, This is an unprecedented attack on the working conditions of employees who do not have a union to protect them.
Today the Campbell government tabled Bill 48 in the legislature that will see the elimination of the 8 hour working day, payment of overtime, the four hour minimum, and the effectiveness of the Employment Standards Branch to adjudicate grievances workers have with their employers.
Over 14,000 complaints are made to the branch each year against employers for violations of the Act. The ability of Industrial Relations Officers to take up these complaints on behalf of workers will be dramatically reduced. The government has replaced an independent tribunal with an employer run monitoring system that will require workers to defend themselves without help in front of an employer appointed board.
This is like putting the fox in charge of the chicken pen, says ONeill. Workers have been abandoned by this government in the face of employers who are demanding greater concessions from those who can least protect themselves.
The government will be supplying complainants with self-help kits to use in the complaint process. This is the creation of a system to intimidate workers into not filing a complaint, says ONeill, How many people will file a complaint when they know they have to go in front of an employer sponsored board with no legal help. Many employees will simply walk away rather than face such an intimidating experience.
The first signs of these significant changes came in January when the government cut 45 of 151 positions in the Employment Standards Branch. The cuts were alarming because it was clear the branch would not have enough staff to handle all of the complaints. But with so many cuts to workers protection in the Act, the Liberal government clearly knew there would be little to complain about.
Changes to the Act will see union employees lose protection now provided under the Employment Standards Act. Such items as: severance pay provisions, maternity leave, and jury duty will not apply to unionized workers if not specifically in their collective agreements.