1987 Legislative Session: 1st Session, 34th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
THURSDAY, APRIL 23, 1987
[ Page 747 ]
Victoria Foundation Act (Bill PR402). Mr. Huberts
Introduction and first reading –– 747
Protest on legislature lawn. Mr. Sihota –– 747
Rent review process. Mr. Blencoe –– 748
Job assessment and referral project. Ms. A. Hagen –– 748
Vancouver regional transit commission. Mr. Mercier –– 748
Job assessment and referral project. Ms. A. Hagen –– 748
Planting of seedlings. Mr. Williams –– 749
ICBC and WCB premium penalties. Mr. Sihota –– 749
Assessment appeal board appointment. Mr. Clark –– 749
Industrial Relations Reform Act, 1987 (Bill 19). Second reading
On the amendment
Ms. A. Hagen –– 749
Mr. Gabelmann –– 751
Division –– 761
On the main motion
Mr. Skelly –– 761
Hon. L. Hanson –– 765
Division –– 766
Teaching Profession Act (Bill 20). Second reading
Hon. Mr. Brummet –– 766
Appendix –– 768
The House met at 2:10 p.m.
HON. MR. VEITCH: In the gallery today is a very good educator from Burnaby who is not teaching just at the present time, and a very good supporter, Mrs. Irene Lewis. I would ask the House to bid her welcome.
MR. KEMPF: With us this afternoon in the gallery is Mr. Dave Chapman, a logging contractor from Smithers. Would the House please make him welcome.
MR. CLARK: In the gallery today we have a visitor from the riding of Skeena. He's a strong trade unionist and a New Democrat. I'd like the House to welcome Bruce Ferguson.
HON. MR. SAVAGE: I rise in the assembly today to ask for recognition of long time neighbours, a farming family in the Delta constituency: Mr. and Mrs. John Friesen, who have worked considerably hard for our cause.
MR. HUBERS: I would like to ask the House to welcome members of the Young Socreds, one of the largest political youth groups in Canada, who are in Victoria today preparing for the British Columbia Young Socreds provincial affairs conference at UVic on May 13. With us today are Darin Nielsen, president of the British Columbia Young Socreds, and Kevin Falcon, Zdenka Burik, Diana Buric, Sharon Ducharme, Ray Irvine and Ryan Beedie. Some of these members may very well be members of this House in the future, so let's give them a great welcome.
HON. MRS. JOHNSTON: In the gallery this afternoon we have three guests visiting us from Surrey: Dale Sidhu, and Mr. and Mrs. Sunil Ahuja. I would ask the House to please make them welcome.
MR. RABBITT: With us today in the precinct we have the first shift of 100 grade 11 students from Hope Secondary School and several teachers. The trip, I believe, was organized by one of their social studies teachers, Mr. Donald Dale. I would like the House to join me in giving them a hearty and warm welcome.
MR. BLENCOE: I don't know if the members are aware, but today is St. George's Day.
MR. BLENCOE: So what? He's the patron saint of England. And in Victoria, of course, that is a special day. I should also tell the members that St. George is the warrior saint, and I'm sure he'd feel extremely happy in this chamber. Would the House please give a hand to all those who support St. George's Day.
HON. L. HANSON: Mr. Speaker, in the gallery today we have three members of the Okangan North constituency, residents of the city of Vernon, the top of the Okanagan. They are Mr. Harold Thorlakson, Mr. Wayne McGrath and Mr. Alan Hill. Would the House please make them welcome.
MR. LOVICK: I noticed a few moments ago two very dear friends from Nanaimo in the precincts, and I would like the members to join me in welcoming them. I might mention, Mr. Speaker, apropos of St. George's Day, that these two people are members of the arts community in Nanaimo, and probably among the very few in this area who have actually read Spenser's Faerie Queen and know about St. George. Please join me in welcoming Roy and Jane Plater from Nanaimo.
MR. MOWAT: It's my pleasure to introduce to the House today, in the members' gallery, Randy and Nina Sandhu of Vancouver — very strong supporters. I'd ask the House to make them welcome.
Introduction of Bills
VICTORIA FOUNDATION ACT
Mr. Huberts presented a bill intituled Victoria Foundation Act.
MR. HUBERTS: The Victoria Foundation is a successful non-profit foundation. It was founded in 1936 by an act of this House, and the bill is designed to alter the act to bring it up to date. By bringing this act into 1987 we will equip the foundation to handle its growing role in this community.
Bill PR402 introduced, read a first time and referred to the Select Standing Committee on Standing Orders, Private Bills and Members' Services.
PROTEST ON LEGISLATURE LAWN
MR. SIHOTA: My question is to the Provincial Secretary. The court has chosen in a decision this afternoon not to rule on the matter of rights accorded to either the Crown or to protesters with respect to the incidents at the Legislature last week. That leaves open, of course, the potential for a repeat of the incidents of April 8 to 11. As a member of the board of internal economy, has the minister decided to take this matter to that committee so that guidelines can be drafted immediately to prevent a repeat of the incidents that occurred between April 8 and 11?
HON. MR. VEITCH: While I'm not a lawyer, and the hon. member is, I would not even approach anything that might be considered sub judice in this chamber; so I'm not going to comment on anything that the hon. judge said. However, I certainly am still vehemently opposed to using the front lawns of the Legislature as a tenting ground, as I'm sure the hon. member is. You have members as well on the board of internal economy, and I'm sure this will be one of the items that come up. The board is not really constituted yet by statute; however, we've been having some ad hoc meetings and we'll bring that up there, as well as elsewhere. It will be dealt with.
[ Page 748 ]
RENT REVIEW PROCESS
MR. BLENCOE: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Labour and Consumer Services in his capacity as the minister responsible for residential tenants in the province. In two highrise apartments in my constituency, 250 to 300 long-term tenants, mostly seniors, face leaving their homes due to very high rent increases — some as high as 20 percent. It appears that the volatile rental market in Victoria is failing to supply adequate affordable shelter for seniors. Has the minister decided to establish a rent review process that would prevent such exorbitant rent increases and ensure secure tenancy, and if he hasn't done that, why not?
HON. L. HANSON: I certainly am aware of the concern that the member has raised. I had a considerable briefing from the Rental Housing Council of B.C., and the circumstances that he is alluding to I don't think are entirely accurate. In any case, the answer to your first question is no; the answer to your second question is that it is future policy of the government, and we will not be commenting on that until it is evolved.
MR. BLENCOE: Does the minister agree, though, that particularly senior citizens, those on fixed income and those who have been hit hard in the last few months with other increases.... Doesn't he agree that there should be some mechanism whereby huge rent increases can be reviewed in the interest of fairness and of protecting the homes of those senior citizens?
HON. L. HANSON: Mr. Speaker, the information that I have been given is that relative to the market value of rental facilities in Victoria, the increases were not excessive in terms of the competitive market. While the difficulty of senior citizens is certainly something that we on this side appreciate, there are mechanisms in place through the Ministry of Social Services and Housing to assist people who have difficulty with their rentals.
MR. BLENCOE: A supplementary for the Minister of Social Services and Housing. But first I should mention to the Minister of Labour that many of these rent increases are over $100 a month, Mr. Speaker.
I'd like to ask the Minister of Social Services and Housing what study he has done on the impact of increased rents for persons on fixed incomes and the resultant increase in demand for services provided by his ministry. What studies has he done?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: We have an excellent program in place with the B.C. Housing Management Commission and the federal government to address just the concerns that the member is speaking of. In fact, this year in the province of British Columbia we will be building 1,886 units of housing for senior citizens.
MR. BLENCOE: Mr. Speaker, the supply of senior citizen housing is nowhere near adequate in the province of British Columbia. The minister is also aware that shelter allowances have not been increased for a number of years. Given these huge rent increases, what budget planning is the minister putting into effect to take care of the increased demand for this sort of huge rent increase? Is he looking at increasing shelter allowances in the province?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: It was announced in the budget earlier this year that we are increasing the shelter allowances by some 4.5 percent later in 1987.
JOB ASSESSMENT AND REFERRAL PROJECT
MS. A. HAGEN: My question is to the Minister of Social Services and Housing. In trumpeting the results of the job assessment and referral project and its extension to greater Vancouver, the minister's press release of last week made no reference to the actual numbers of participants placed in jobs or training as a result of that program. Can the minister tell us how many people actually got jobs out of this program?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: Yes, I can, Mr. Speaker.
VANCOUVER REGIONAL TRANSIT COMMISSION
MR. MERCIER: I have a question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. It has been reported that there are changes contemplated or already made in the directors of the B.C. transit authority. Would the minister confirm the changes that have either been contemplated or made that were announced and referred to?
HON. MRS. JOHNSTON: I don't have to take that on notice. I read the information in the Vancouver Province myself this morning, and it was very interesting to see the report. But I can confirm that changes are contemplated, as is the case with all appointments to boards and commissions that are made provincially.
JOB ASSESSMENT AND REFERRAL PROJECT
MS. A. HAGEN: To the Minister of Social Services and Housing. Would the minister care to report to this House the numbers of people who have received jobs out of the assessment and referral project that is about to be extended to Vancouver?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: Yes, I would. I have the numbers in my office right up to date, as a matter of fact, as of this morning, and I'll try my best to quote from memory. In Kamloops and in Surrey they have just started to implement the placement of people into jobs; the total in Kamloops is 38 placed in jobs and another 19, I believe, in the process, and in Surrey it's about 28 or 29 actually placed into jobs and another 15 or 16 in the process, plus numerous people who have been referred to the appropriate training courses — and the number is increasing every week. So for a program that was really designed just to computerize information to assist these people to get jobs, it's working very, very well. The actual placement has only been going on for about two or three weeks.
MS. A. HAGEN: The project identified 62 percent of the participants as job-ready, with 31 percent needing new training. In spite of the minister's statistics on the slow increase in the number of people getting jobs, it's clear that there is a lack of jobs and a lack of adequate training in the province. What new programs to create jobs is the minister now prepared to
[ Page 749 ]
recommend to this House, in view of the large number of people in his ministry who need jobs in this economy?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: The creation of new programs has been well delineated in this House, not only by me in my ministry estimates but also for other ministries, notably Economic Development, Tourism and Advanced Education. In fact, the amount for job creation in this year's budget, if my memory serves me correctly, is $81 million.
PLANTING OF SEEDLINGS
MR. WILLIAMS: A question to the Minister of Forests. A couple of days ago the minister was asked about the Prince George region and whether ten million seedlings would be trashed or whether they would have to rob other programs. Can the minister advise the House what decision has been made?
HON. MR. PARKER: A reply will be tabled in the House later today.
ICBC AND WCB PREMIUM PENALTIES
MR. SIHOTA: A question to the Minister of Labour, who I understand is in charge of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. Both the Insurance Corporation and the Workers' Compensation Board are charging interest on premium penalties or other penalties in excess of 20 percent per annum. Those are credit-card interest rates. What is the government's rationale for those charges, and is the government willing to reconsider and lower those rates?
HON. L. HANSON: First of all, the Crown corporation of ICBC has its own board of directors who establish their interest rates. Secondly, I might just comment that the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia is not a financial institution. The interest rates they charge are an encouragement to collect premiums, not to make money from the financing of them.
MR. SIHOTA: The Insurance Corporation clearly is acting as a financial corporation. My information is that those interest rates are established by government regulation. That notwithstanding, interest rates for damage deposits in this province have been steadily reduced, from 8 percent last year to 5.25 percent as of February 1 this year. How can the minister responsible for protecting consumers reconcile this contradiction in policy?
HON. L. HANSON: First of all, the reason that ICBC has outstanding accounts receivable is because people haven't been paying the billings that are accumulated. ICBC is not in the financial business and doesn't finance the premiums on insurance other than indirectly.
The rate that's established in the security deposits — I imagine that's what you're referring to — that are put up for the protection of rental units, is tabbed to the rate the individual would earn had they their money in a savings account with a financial institution.
ASSESSMENT APPEAL BOARD APPOINTMENT
MR. CLARK: A question to the Finance minister regarding assessment appeal board No. 6. Mr. Douglas McBride was the Social Credit candidate in the Nanaimo constituency in the last election. Could the minister tell the House what bearing that had on his decision to appoint him as chairman of assessment appeal board No. 6?
HON. MR. COUVELIER: This particular member seems to have an affinity for attacking the bona fides of British Columbia citizens who happen to have the sense of community spirit to offer their services to public commitments. I find that a little bit disconcerting and disturbing.
The fact of the matter is, the government is seriously looking at the operating style of the Assessment Authority appeal system, and has spent a great amount of its energy looking at past practices and future prospects. It became quite evident in that process that we must not only expand the number of boards that we have in place, but we must also make certain that we recruit the proper kind of talent in order to perform that function. The questioner might have noticed, Mr. Speaker, that in those new appointments we were particularly focusing on those people who had the appropriate background, legal, property appraisal or technical financial, to be able to weigh the heavy matters they have to adjudicate from time to time. These initiatives were undertaken in an effort to provide a better level of public service. and to ensure that the average British Columbian's interest, when he brings an appeal forward to the system, gets due consideration. It is only by the appointment of qualified people that we can ensure that the system will work properly.
The appointment of this particular individual suits our requirement of making sure that we have people from all parts of the province appointed to these areas, so that we can properly ensure that there is local input on these matters. If he is interested, I would be happy to supply the speaker with the curriculum vitae of the individual in question.
Hon. Mr. Michael tabled an answer to a question placed on the order paper by the first member for Nanaimo (Mr. Stupich). [See appendix.]
Hon. Mr. Parker tabled replies to two questions taken on notice on April 21, 1987. [See appendix.]
Orders of the Day
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Adjourned debate on second reading of Bill 19.
INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS REFORM ACT, 1987
On the amendment.
MR. SPEAKER: The member for New Westminster has 13 minutes.
MS. A. HAGEN: As I adjourned debate at lunchtime, if I can in fact recall exactly where I was in my comments at that time, I think the issue that we were discussing was the matter of flexibility and some degree of pluralism in dealing with the very complex matter of negotiating labour matters between
[ Page 750 ]
employers and employees –– I was noting the singularly oppressive and inflexible powers that had been accorded to Commissioner Peck, and referring to a schema, which is really very complex in its outline, of how the new dispute mechanisms would work if Bill 19 goes forward without amendment.
There is no question, as we have said on many occasions in the course of our discussions, that the willingness of people to be governed depends on the fragile relationships that come out of people's recognition of the reasonableness of the laws which govern them. As a number of my colleagues have stressed in their comments today, the role of working people in that regard is one that has evolved over many years and has become increasingly complex but at the same time increasingly sophisticated with the parties recognizing the many roles that they must fill in arriving at working relationships.
There is no question in any legislation that the right of working people to control their labour, which is in fact the tool that they bring to the economy in all of its many facets, is one that should not be put in any jeopardy without very careful consideration. In controlling that labour the worker has the opportunity to influence his or her employer in many ways. In most instances that influence occurs around the bargaining table, often at great length and with many convolutions, but there is always the right to withdraw labour and to inform the public about that withdrawal. In fact, there's always the right to inform the public in the broader range of the operation of a particular business or enterprise. And with that withdrawal of labour there is pressure on the employer to take action, and there is some balancing of the kinds of issues that are still on the table.
Very clearly, in the realm of labour negotiations over time there has grown up a very sophisticated body of workers and employers who know the nature of that table. As I was saying earlier, the diversity that exists is really quite remarkable. I've been involved in negotiations with teachers moving from simply bargaining salaries and bonuses to discussing a much broader range of bargaining, and I know the care with which those issues needed to be developed. In organizations where there is a long history of collective agreements with employers, there are very complex agreements in place. It is clear that the parties have evolved a knowledge and a working relationship that makes for self-government.
In a democracy we are looking at pluralism. We are looking at the rights of many individuals to exercise their responsible authority over matters that concern them, and the role of legislatures in that regard has evolved equally slowly and with some ups and downs.
It seems to me that to some considerable extent we have been reinventing wheels that were looked at 20 years ago, and in the ten years that followed that period one of the reviews that I read had a very interesting commentary that I think we as politicians might take to heart. The discussion is around the question of having very stringent and inflexible rules such as those that are associated with the commissioner and those who work with him against what in this discussion was called ad hockery — the ability of legislatures to respond to specific situations as they occurred and in the context of those situations.
A number of people are debating this issue with considerable expertise in their background. In fact the discussion had been motivated by a very serious and comprehensive review of labour legislation over a period of ten years by Jim Matkin, and a number of actors were then discussing some of the perspectives that Mr. Matkin had put on the table. I'm going to read some comments of Mr. Carrothers about ad hockery. He is, in case it is lost to members, speaking with some irony and some tongue in cheek. In the spirit of St. George's Day, perhaps recognizing that there is some tilting at dragons, where we need to stand back and see the results of that particular kind of flirting, he says:
"Feeling strongly pressed to devise an alternative to ad hockery in public service disputes, we decided to go into a collective trance."
Something that might perhaps be equivalent to what we have been involved with in our first stages of looking at this legislation.
"We put Abbe Dion in the chair for the time being and then engaged in hyperventilation for a few minutes, and eventually made contact with Mackenzie King's mother. She said she would 'ask my boy Willy,' who was after all the authority on these things, and we eventually obtained a penetrating glimpse into the present. It was necessarily transient. We decided to try to find some means of bringing aid to the political process, without usurping the function or responsibility of politicians in the circumstances where the government as sovereign must supersede the government as employer.
"The public interest disputes commission was the product of our collective judgments. It was rejected by labour, management and" — interestingly, aside from the quote — "government, largely because they didn't think that the country contained the requisite Platonic guardians to compose the commission. It was, in other words, viewed as unrealistic. This indicates that we must take the political process and the behaviour of politicians as a given and recognize that there is a good deal of theatrics in the political process, including the posturing, grandstanding and upstaging, to say nothing of the use of cosmetics. Particularly in the wage/price issue, there is probably a need for an external stimulus to the political process within parliament."
"My own thinking is that ad hoc legislation is not as bad as people perceived it to be in 1966, and within our political process it may be a perfectly legitimate choice to make in the determination of procedures for the containment of a public interest dispute."
That quote was very much associated with public sector employees, but I think it's germane in our discussion around the whole issue of public interest and who are going to be the actors in this regard. There is no question that the role of the Legislature and of elected people needs to be in place, and there are times, to be determined on the basis of circumstances, when the Legislature may in its wisdom decide that it is going to act.
But in the spirit of good labour legislation evolution and a recognition of the work that has been done by all parties in making the rules and regulations and developing the processes important for a good climate for economic development, there is no question that the proposed legislation. . . . To use the words of the member for Kootenay (Ms. Edwards), in the "dragonian" process of enshrining the powers in the hands of Commissioner Peck, we are going backward, not forward.
[ Page 751 ]
I would hate to be reading ten years from now a review of legislation that was put in place where the second thought, the careful consideration and review and amendment had not occurred — to have us recreate some of the circumstances that we got into 20 years ago and that proved to be ill-advised, ill-considered and unproductive. It suggests that we are not looking at the way in which pluralism, decentralization and the workings of democracy, where people freely gather to achieve the goals that they enter into with collective agreements. . . . I'd hate to see us moving backward to the day when that kind of situation is again on our doorstep, and all of the aspirations that we have spoken about to the voting public, around peaceful working relationships between partners freely entered into, are being set back in time. Our time warp is one that should have us looking forward, not just paying lip-service to the statements that we make in political debate and discussion during elections and in the House, but rather ensuring that the processes are in place with legislation.
This amendment suggests that we learn from history, take that second look and accord to democratic process and free collective bargaining the potential that it has in this province. We should get on with the work of the province, with those people who are looking to us as legislators carrying out their roles and us interfering in those roles only when we can determine that there is an issue of such merit that we have to interfere with those freely-entered-into agreements.
MR. GABELMANN: Mr. Speaker, it may be that my comments this afternoon will take longer than the 30 minutes. Given that I believe we haven't used a designated speaker yet on this motion, it may be necessary for me to operate under that designation. I'll try, however, to be briefer than the. . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Two hours.
MR. GABELMANN: No, I have no intention of speaking for two hours just because two hours are available; I want to speak for the time that I think I need to make some points, however long that is, within the two-hour framework.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday the minister indicated that in response to our moving an amendment, to quote from the Blues: " . . . I would give my undertaking as the Minister of Labour that we will give very serious consideration during the committee debate on the specifics of the legislation to the specific issue you have raised . . . ." And of course that issue was the question of 8.1 of the Code, or section 62 of the bill.
This afternoon I want to try first of all to talk about some philosophical questions and then some practical ones, and then following a general overview deal with particular clauses and issues involved in section 62 of the bill. I think that will be in order, given the terms of our amendment which relates to the awesome powers — or, as the government would say, sweeping powers — accorded to the commissioner of the council and also the chairman of the disputes resolution mechanism agency within the council.
[Mr. Pelton in the chair.]
I want to start by quoting briefly from a couple of newspaper articles, both of them February 22, 1968. The first one is an article written by George Dobie, whom members of this House I'm sure know well, datelined Victoria: "British Columbia's proposed new peace-keeping labour law unveiled Wednesday will abolish strikes and lockouts wherever the provincial cabinet believes they could affect the public welfare." These days we talk of public interest; in 1968 they talked about public welfare — same point. Later in the article: "The legislation will set up an all-powerful mediation commission which will bring down final and binding decisions in labour disputes referred to it by the cabinet." Further on:
"Section 18" — of that bill, Bill 33 — "says no employer of a private company can strike and no employer can lock out workers when the cabinet has referred a particular labour dispute to the commission, which will set up in Vancouver. In addition, an existing strike or lockout must stop immediately a dispute is referred to the commission by a cabinet order."'
Then there's further discussion. There was a lot of concern that year about an impending woodworkers' strike. In those days the bargaining was more fragmented, and there had been a strike in the interior and there was one threatened on the coast. It parallels with our striking today, in my view.
I'll come back to that in a moment, but first just another quote from . . . . That incidentally was the Vancouver Sun and this is the Victoria Daily Times. Mr. Les Peterson, who at the time was Labour minister also Education minister, if my memory is correct — said:
". . . our object is to ensure industrial peace in the province, which is necessary to permit our economy and our people to progress."
If you think about that, it's very similar to the things being said today in terms of the Premier's and the Minister of Labour's comments about the need to secure an industrial climate in British Columbia that will attract investment.
Jack Moore — since deceased — was regional president of the IWA at that time. He said something that turned out to be quite true: "This will blow right up in their faces sooner or later." He said that compulsory arbitration "has been tried in many places and ended up by getting governments and industry and everybody else into a big mess."
Well, the history of the Mediation Commission — under first of all Labour minister Peterson and then later Labour minister Chabot — is one that we should look at carefully in considering what we're doing with this legislation and the powers that this new Industrial Relations Council will have, because the parallels are there. There was concern at that time about strikes and lockouts, particularly in the forest industry. The same concerns appear to exist today: concern about public interest, defined, then as public welfare; concerns about investment and our economy. The same issues were on the political agenda of that day.
A mechanism was chosen at that time that was similar to the one that's being proposed now under this section of the bill. It didn't work. There are a variety of reasons why it didn't work, but the overriding one of course is that compulsory arbitration — however it's dressed up — has never worked in a free and democratic society anywhere in the western world. The Australians tried it for years and suffered more labour unrest as a result of the law, and finally of course they've gotten rid of their compulsory arbitration system. Western European industrial relations are civilized, I would suggest, and lead to very few labour disputes in economies where unionized workforces include as many as 90 percent of
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the workforce, operating under a free collective bargaining system — very centralized, mind you, particularly in the Scandinavian countries, but nevertheless a free collective bargaining system — without agencies of this kind established.
The government in '68 decided to try. It established the commission. It never really functioned very well, and the main reason it didn't function, apart from the philosophical problems, was that one side felt that it was set up to beat it down. The labour movement decided that it couldn't live with compulsory arbitration, and decided not to participate in efforts to make that particular agency work. As a result, it didn't work. In effect, a boycott was launched, and trade unions refused to take their disputes to the Mediation Commission. Finally, the thing fell apart and was, of course, abolished with the introduction of the Labour Code in '73.
I don't want to go through a long recitation of what happened and why in '68-72, but I think it would be worthwhile for the minister, in his consideration of what he intends to do in terms of possible changes to the bill as it stands now . . . . It would be quite instructive for someone in the research bureau of the Ministry of Labour to do a neutral summary of what in fact happened in '68-72, and why that particular process didn't work.
This proposed IRC is more complicated than the old Mediation Commission. In some ways it's less straightforward; there are more options available. But the bottom line remains compulsory arbitration. The bottom line still is that a non-elected person, sitting in an office in Vancouver, not accountable to anybody, will have the right to impose collective agreements, vary collective agreements, intervene in the process at any stage and publish documents which he can compel parties to provide, such as, presumably, financial statements or the minutes of a local union meeting at which tactics and strategy have been determined — a whole variety of things that, I think, both labour and management would be most concerned about, in terms of the confidentiality of their processes. But I'll get to some of those issues and others when I get to the more detailed part of my comments.
I think the government should think about how it went about determining public input into the drafting of this particular legislation. I don't think I can be proven wrong on this particular point: for the most part — and there are exceptions — legislation works better when it evolves from a process that the parties are involved in. I put that badly, but I'm basically saying that legislation of any kind that governs relationships will only work if the people governed have some real say in how that governing is determined. The hearings that were held by the government around the province prior to the introduction of this bill did not in fact deal with the details in this bill. I'm not going to criticize the hearings. They were a good thing to do. But they didn't deal with a presentation to the public which said: "Here's an industrial relations council, with all of these powers, and we're going to have hearings to solicit your response." The public didn't know that this kind of agency was being proposed.
Mr. Speaker, I think someone would like to make an introduction. If that's the case, I'll just sit down for a moment.
MR. RABBITT: I'd like to thank the hon. member for interrupting his speech so that I can ask leave of the House to introduce a class.
MR. RABBITT: As I mentioned earlier today, we have 100 students from Hope Secondary with us, and we have the second shift of the men with them today — accompanying them is one of their teachers, Mr. Bill Scott. They're here to witness democracy in action. I ask the House to join me in offering them a very warm welcome.
MR. GABELMANN: I was just talking about the need to involve parties who are going to be governed by legislation in determining the makeup of that legislation. That did not in fact happen this time around, because parties, the public and concerned individuals were asked to make presentations about labour legislation, and what they thought should be included in it, in a very general kind of way. No one had an opportunity to respond to this particular legislation.
Also, it's quite clear — difficult to prove, but quite clear that the legislation evolved from something very different than the public hearing process that was held. Both the Premier and the Minister of Labour have suggested that the legislation is a result of these public hearings and that every item that's included in the legislation comes from some presentation made at one of the public hearings. In fact, when you look at the history and the bill, it's clear that someone in the government, presumably at a senior level of the bureaucracy in Victoria, was keeping a list for the last four or five years of every court decision and every Labour Relations Board decision that went against management. They just kept a list of those issues. Every one of the major ones has found its way into the bill. So that's one source of the legislation.
Clearly, in many ways, another source of the legislation is the report Ian Stewart did for the former government in 1984. Many of his proposals have found their way into this legislation, but I think he would no doubt be appalled by the extension of his proposals, which really were calling for a non-interventionist model: a model of an agency that could assist parties in dispute resolution, but in a non-interventionist way, based on the government not getting so involved in collective bargaining, as they do by this process.
I don't happen to share Mr. Stewart's view of the way to solve labour relations. I found his report particularly troubling and, I thought, unbalanced in terms of a fair balance between labour and management. But that's arguable. Different people have different opinions about that; that happens to be mine. But it went so far that many people in the industrial relations community said, "It's unworkable because it goes too far in terms of intervention," even though he described it as a non-interventionist model. This particular legislation takes his proposals and magnifies them tenfold, in terms of the kinds of powers that are given to the commissioner.
We had the shopping list of issues, we had Ian Stewart's report, we had the Premier's decision last fall as he struggled with the IWA-FIR dispute — his determination that some mechanism should be in place so that he wouldn't get dragged into it the way he was during that strike. When you put all of those things together, you've got the bill. The bill as it sits could easily have been written prior to any of the public hearings that were held — and, in some form or another, probably was. Not in its final form, no doubt, but in my opinion the work had been done last fall and was ready by the new year in one form or another. Perhaps legislative counsel
[ Page 753 ]
hadn't dressed it up yet, but certainly that formulation had been made.
In addition to that, we now learn that some private sector lawyers have also been contacted by drafters of the legislation — non-political drafters of the legislation; not a canvass of the industrial relations legal community to get a neutral and unbiased opinion about what should be in the bill, but in fact discussions with Jordan and Gall, who end up getting most of the attention because they are fairly dynamic and represent a lot of employers and have a keen interest in securing management rights for their clients. What I think is more than curious, and perhaps an appalling situation, is public servants of this Legislature, employees, contacting a legal firm — at least one, perhaps others — who are clearly partisans in the field, to get their opinion about certain sections of the bill. That's entirely inappropriate, in my view. If there's going to be that kind of discussion, it should be public, and it should be with any parties out there who may want to have some comment.
I won't say much more about that, other than to make the general point that it's clear the bill was drafted prior to public consultation, public hearings; that it was drafted with an agenda in mind, an agenda established by those people who lost fair fights time after time with the labour relations board, and in the courts on occasion. And what do they have? They have all of their decisions and all of their positions reinforced by new legislation.
I want to say to the minister on this question of consensus and developing a mechanism for communicating with the people who are affected — I guess I've made this point before — that however it is done, there needs to be an opportunity for the affected parties to have full and open consultation with the government about the language of this legislation. I would prefer that it be done in a public forum so that everybody's cards are on the table and we all know what is happening; but however it's done, there needs to be a fairly lengthy consultation process with everybody out there who is affected. I want to make it clear that I include the public in that particular comment. It is not just the private preserve of trade unions and industrial relations people acting on behalf of the employers. There needs to be that public process; otherwise, this legislation will suffer the same fate that the Mediation Commission Act suffered in 1968 to 1972. The real loser of that particular legislation was the economy of British Columbia, because our reputation was affected quite badly by the tumult and the furor that came from that. I don't like to predict it, but the same result is going to happen with this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, we are talking about this particular section, with all of these wide powers, and what it really is an expansion of mediation services whereby the government made available personnel who could assist parties if they were having difficulty. Or if the Minister of Labour thought the parties needed some assistance, the minister could inject himself into it by appointing a mediation officer. Those mediation services were generally effective, in my view, they needed to be beefed up, needed to have the provision of outside people in some cases — a useful kind of thing. If the minister is serious about trying to achieve the goal of peaceful relations out there, about trying to avoid the kind of lengthy disputes that we had last fall, then what's required is a beefing up of the mediation services, number one, and number two, the development of trust between the parties. That, of course, is not done by this legislation at all. What is done is to make certain that government intervention will become a regular feature in bargaining.
Once government intervention becomes a regular feature, it becomes expected, and once it becomes expected, it becomes depended upon. Once it is depended upon, the ability of parties to freely negotiate is virtually out the window. I don't know that that point is understood very well by a lot of people either in this House or in the public. Bargaining is successful in any matter, not just for a collective agreement, if people feel there is an objective that can be reached; if people feel they can live with whatever result is reached, then that bargaining can take place in good faith, and will take place on repeated occasions, not just on that one occasion. But the moment you interject the third party — in this bill, in some cases even a fourth party; we'll get to that later — you start to take responsibility for living up to the agreement away from the parties, because they're no longer involved in making that agreement, and by a succession of procedures.
It is my concern, and also my prediction, that bargaining in British Columbia in fact will become dependent upon government intervention. It may start out slowly, but it will become a regular feature. I just think that will lead to relationships between the parties that will not reach or deliver the goal that the government says it wants, which is peace and productivity, because if an agreement is forced upon you, you are less likely to feel obligated to honour it. We'll get to that point again too in a little bit of time here.
I'm going from notes, Mr. Speaker, rather than doing an off-the-cuff kind of thing, because I want to make sure I cover all of the issues. I want to talk later about the requirement for voting and the opportunity for employers to demand that a vote be taken by a union. I want to talk, too, about retroactive legislation. I want to talk about how provisions for freely negotiated agreements have been taken away. I want to talk about some of the provisions that take confidentiality and make it a thing of the past in industrial relations, both on the management and the labour side, and I want to talk about how much authority is needed to ensure peaceful resolution of disputes. I made the argument, of course, that this bill contains far too much authority.
Leaving aside those kinds of philosophical concerns, many of which will come up as we go through it in detail, let's just deal with the practicality of the bill. Will it work? Will the legislation actually achieve the stated goal of bringing industrial relations peace in British Columbia, assuming that we don't already have it? You could argue that we have it already in British Columbia, given the fact that our work days lost are fewer than many other provinces. Looking at the situation out there right now, I don't think there's a major dispute of any kind in our society. But let's assume that we do have bad industrial relations; let's assume there is a problem. How is this particular legislation going to resolve it? Would the legislation, if it had been in place last fall, have resolved the IWA dispute? Clearly not. We'll get to that as well in dealing with the particular section.
Essential services, which were once a narrow kind of issue — health, firefighting, police; those kinds of issues — now have been so expanded that every labour dispute of any consequence in British Columbia can be included under the essential services definitions. The so-called right to strike for teachers is clearly not available — except, as I said somewhere else, that teachers will have the right to strike from July 1 to August 31. But under this legislation, the moment they
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have a strike that lasts longer than a day and that would affect educational services, that ability to bargain freely, which presumably includes the right to strike, will be taken away by the legislation.
The public interest advocate concept. How does the government think that the establishment of a public interest advocate, who is not elected, who is not accountable, and who has no terms of reference as to what the public interest is, can possibly deal with that very difficult concept of public interest? This person will not be accountable to the public. More importantly, in a sense, this person will play a role in negotiations which will deflect — take away from — the issues on the table by interjecting this other issue of so-called public interest, frustrate bargaining and make it difficult for parties to achieve the goal, which should be peaceful resolution, because it interjects a whole new concept and a whole new issue, and puts it onto the table in a way that will, in my view — and I'm just asserting this for the moment — make more difficult the resolution of the differences of opinion between the employer and the employees.
Let's just spend a moment on public interest. What is the public interest? Obviously in last year's IWA dispute the public interest is a mutually agreeable settlement. That, I assume, would have been the public interest — to have the strike ended. But under what terms? If the strike was ended and employers lost everything that they were trying to get, and as a result the issues continued to be underground for a while but then up on the table again in the next round, is the public interest served by resolving it in that way? On the other hand, is the public interest served by imposing agreements such as were proposed by one of the parties involved whose report could have been made binding under this legislation, which would have allowed companies to operate for 180 days of the year — every day, people working seven days a week, continuously for 180 days of the year — and then shut down for the next six months? That was one of the provisions.
Would that have been appropriate? That kind of provision was made in one of the options for settlement. The Premier obviously decided that it wasn't appropriate for him to recommend that that report be made the contract. Would Mr. Peck be different somehow? Would Mr. Peck's operation be more powerful than the Premier's? Would Mr. Peck's ability to pick a settlement be wiser than the Premier's? Not likely. In fact, the whole question of our needing this legislation to shorten disputes such as the one last year is ridiculous. I find it difficult to find the right words for it, because everything that the government wanted to do in terms of resolving it, including all of the mechanisms that are proposed in this bill, was available to it by a recall of the Legislature. All of those mechanisms were available.
The government chose not to do so, for very good reasons. If the government chose not to take advantage of those or other mechanisms, for good reason, why would Mr. Peck be inclined to take advantage of those provisions? Wouldn't he, too, think that the same good reasons that prevented the government from acting would prevent him from acting? And if he didn't act, wouldn't we then have a long dispute?
I haven't listened to everybody's speech; I haven't been able to do that. But I've listened to a fair number of them on both sides of the House. I've heard no one explain to me how Mr. Peck's options are better, more effective or stronger than the options that were available to the Premier last fall, and how this legislation will enable him to shorten that kind of dispute. No one, to the best of my knowledge, has made the case for that. Yet that seems to me to be the foundation upon which the bill sits: that we can't afford to have these long disputes. We all agree that they're difficult and we can't afford them, but how does this bill deal with that? It doesn't seem to touch that question at all.
I want to talk about the other thing the government keeps talking about: the rights of individuals in unions. It goes on at great length about needing to protect the individual's rights. Yet on the other side of that question, they change the legislation in a way that makes any corporation a person, for legal purposes. So a big forestry company becomes a person, for legal purposes, yet none of the shareholders can be consulted.
What about the rights of the shareholders? What about the rights of the members of the boards of directors? They're not protected in any way under this legislation. If a shareholder objects to a decision relating to industrial relations made by the board of directors of a company, that shareholder has no access whatsoever under this law. In the union, of course, every individual in that union who wants to take a different position than the union has the right to do so, and now will be protected; his job will be protected in the closed-shop situation. That's not at all a balance of powers between labour and management.
There's the assumption somehow that once shareholders elect boards of directors, the shareholders are no longer in existence, for labour relations purposes. The board of directors or the management become the body, and there are no rights any longer for the shareholders under the law. But on the union side, once the union has democratically elected its leadership, the law purports to give more power to those members to thwart the democratic decision of the elected leaders, and that's not balance either.
Mr. Speaker, dealing with the powers of Mr. Peck's office, the commissioner's office, one of the things he will do is order votes in some cases. Under new section 55.1 of the Code, we now have a situation where . . . . What are politely called "scabs" in less polite circles are called "replacement workers" in civilized places, I guess. We all know in British Columbia what "scab" means; it's a useful term, and I think I'll use it. Scabs will now have the right to vote on whether to accept or reject a collective agreement. Let's just talk about a hypothetical situation: this is a vote that can be ordered by Mr. Peck at any time on an employer's last offer, or at any other time if Mr. Peck so chooses. Let's take a hypothetical situation, a plant with 200 people working in it. They go on strike. Because of the reduced picketing powers and because of the inability to prosecute a strike through secondary boycotts, hot declarations or any of the other mechanisms that have been available, the employer is able to "scab the plant" and hires 210 people to do the job that the 200 did before, and then puts a "final offer" on the table.
Under this legislation, 410 people are eligible to vote. Now if the final offer is just a routine kind of offer, the 210 replacement workers are not going to vote for it, because if they do, the original 200 employees will go back to work and these 210 replacement workers will lose their jobs. So they certainly are not going to vote for a settlement. They will vote to keep the strike going. Alternatively, in the final offer put by the employer, there can be a clause which says that the seniority list is gone and that the employer has the right to pick and choose who will be working once the strike is settled, and that clause is in the agreement.
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So in that case, the 210 replacement workers vote for the final offer and the original 200 workers are gone. Unbelievable power is given to an individual — Mr. Peck — to order that kind of situation. The power to order that kind of vote is available under 8.1. The opportunity for scabs to vote is available under 55.1.
In 137.4, automatic reporting of disputes: what problem is that intended to resolve or to solve? "Where strike or lockout has commenced, the trade union or employer commencing the strike or lockout shall immediately inform the chairman in writing specifying the date the strike or lockout commenced." That's 137.4(l). The parties already would have had to report to the council that the dispute was in process. Presumably through its mediation services, council would be aware and would probably have a mediation officer there. Prior to a strike being allowed, a mediator would have had to book out. So why have a section in there having a requirement that the parties report that a strike has commenced?
What happens in the case of a partial strike? What happens where it's perhaps a rotating strike or where it's a refusal to work overtime or where because of essential services a union has decided to leave 60 percent of its workforce at work? Is that reported as a strike? It's not quite clear. I don't understand why this Section is in, and I don't understand what the problem is that it's attempting to resolve.
I also don't think that the drafters of the legislation have thought about what happens more and more frequently in labour disputes now. You do have strikes that aren't full-scale strikes, like the IWA one was last year, where in fact you have a certain portion of the workforce out, or you have rotating or you have a variety of combinations.
The legislation doesn't seem at all to deal with that particular issue. But after you report your strike or your lockout, then Mr. Peck has to report to the government after 28 days saying it's in place and then every seven days after that he has to report to the government. I'll give you an example. In September 1985, Beacon Hill Villa went on strike for 17 hours. Under the Code, if you don't go on strike within 90 days, I think it is, the strike vote is invalidated and you have to go through the process again. So in order to validate the vote, they went on strike in September 1985.
They went back to work after 17 hours, and they still don't have a settlement. Does Peck have to report to the government every seven days since September 1985 that the dispute is still in progress? Dominion Motors went out on strike in 1968. The place was successfully scabbed and the strikers walked the picket lines for God knows how many years. They don't walk the picket lines anymore, but under this legislation Mr. Peck would be reporting every seven days for 19 years, and probably forever, because . . . .
MR. WILLIAMS: The price of pulp would go up again
MR. GABELMANN: I don't want to be flippant about it. These are serious issues, but I raise that kind of issue just to illustrate the point that I don't think much consideration has actually been given to practical effects — how this legislation is going to work.
The 40-day cooling-off period, which has been an option available to cabinet under legislation to date, is now, of course, available to Mr. Peck. I assume from the minister's comments in the press that he is rethinking that particular provision. Nevertheless, it is in the bill as we have it right now, and that's all we can debate. Is there an assumption that people lose their heads in bargaining, that they get to a certain point and need to cool off, and that 40 days later they will have somehow cooled off and be able to resolve a dispute? That is occasionally the case, but almost always is not. In fact, people break down for a variety of reasons, but not because they have got hot-headed. A cooling-off period seems to respond to people losing their heads, but that is simply not the way it works.
The problem the government is trying to address, lengthy disputes — and I talked about how it won't work — comes about when you have an imbalance between the parties. The reason the Dominion Motors strike is 19 years old and long abandoned is that the parties were not equal. The company was able to hire replacement workers and carry on in business, and the ability of the trade union to prosecute was unequal. Slade and Stewart and literally hundreds of other issues in this province were lengthy disputes because the parties were unequal. The same thing happened last fall. In my view, the IWA dispute was as long as it was because the parties were unequal. The IWA membership were hurting, no question of that. The employers were making profits they hadn't made in any previous year of this decade. Why? Because the pulp mills and the paper mills were churning out the product.
If the intention of the government is to have a short dispute, it could have had a very short dispute in that industry by allowing secondary picketing and by allowing the employers' places of business to be struck and picketed. People don't like that, and I know that when I propose that kind of remedy, people say: "Oh, you can't do that. You can't shut down all the pulp mills. You can't shut down the whole industry." But if you want to prevent long strikes, that's how you do it. There is no question of that when you took at where strikes are resolved and where they aren't. Where they aren't is where the parties aren't equal. Of course, given the new picketing sections, the secondary-boycott sections and the hot-declaration sections, given all of those new provisions, combined with the powers that Peck has, the whole balance is completely gone, and what is going to happen, stupidly enough, is more strikes, not fewer. We are going to end up having more strikes. Many of them may be 28 days duration, but there are going to be a lot more of them. You are going to find workers putting money aside for an expected 28-day dispute, and that is just one of the realities of establishing these kinds of processes and procedures.
In these matters you need to have flexibility, and you need to have options that are not institutionalized. You need to be able to pick and choose how you are going to deal with a particular dispute when it is happening, and not have a set of procedures outlined that the parties know will have to be chosen among.
Those of us who are looking at this bill tried to do a chart to figure out what happens in bargaining. One of the people helping me with this suggested that section 137 is really a merry-go-round. It is just a continuous circle of events. I can't possibly begin to describe it, but what happens essentially is that once the commissioner decides to intervene, he can ask a mediator to get involved. The mediator can make a report; the report goes back to the commissioner. The commissioner can then do a number of other things. He may choose, if it is an essential service, to declare a public interest inquiry board. He may decide to impose a fact-finder. He
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may decide to do a variety of things, but each thing he does has to go back to the commissioner, and he is then given another set of options he can choose, including, finally, the special mediator, who is entitled to bring in binding collective agreement.
[Mrs. Gran in the chair.]
If you establish a merry-go-round of this kind and institutionalize it, in the early days the softer parts of it will be used; but increasingly the harder options will be used. I think that is demonstrable by looking at the history of legislative intervention in labour disputes. In the fifties and sixties W.A.C. Bennett rarely, if ever, legislated workers back to work. We began that process in the seventies, and every year we have more and more legislated return-to-work. Why? It was initially used rarely, then became a recognized way of dealing with things and then became depended upon. Some parties in some sets of bargaining knew that they could rely upon the Legislature to bail out their interests and so they did. We've seen that until this past year in the pulp industry; we've seen it in other areas as well.
The same kind of psychology will take place, given these powers, special mediators and fact-finders, especially the powers of the special mediator. They will be used very rarely initially — I'm sure of that. Mr. Peck would be unwise to use it very much. But once he uses it once it will become easier to do, once he uses it a few times it becomes even easier, and once it's being used fairly regularly it will come to be expected to be used. When that happens, you're going to have it institutionalized. That will not lead to productive labour relations.
Why would the government want to give Mr. Peck or his agents the power to intrude into bipartisan negotiations when the parties don't need someone involved, or are doing quite well by themselves, thank you? I can understand the Minister of Labour wanting to respond to a request for assistance, which comes more and more often these days in labour disputes. But why would the government want to give Mr. Peck the power to impose a mediator without the parties requesting and without even the parties' acceptance of a mediator?
How does that improve industrial relations — the imposition of a mediator in a situation where one may not be useful or wanted? Won't that just cloud and make more difficult the resolution of the dispute? If the answer to that is, "Well, we won't do it unless it's needed," that power exists now under the minister's hands. I think that if the minister was wise he would want to retain that particular power. It's a power that should be used sparingly and only when carefully considered. It's very much a political decision, because the imposition of a mediator in a dispute where one isn't wanted is most likely to be "needed" when there is some question of public interest at stake. That's a political question, not a question for bureaucrats to make.
I would suggest to the minister that he give serious consideration to taking back that power, taking that power away from non-elected people.
Technically, under that section, the mediator can be appointed before bargaining has even proceeded.
Another section allows for the chairman of the disputes resolution council to authorize the employment of consultants by special mediators: a public interest inquiry board, a fact-finder or an arbitration board. In other words, special mediators can be hired in addition to those formalized structures. That was the point I made earlier about a fourth level of intervention. I don't understand why that particular power would be required, as broadly based as it is.
I mentioned earlier the point about the commissioner having the power to solicit — or to demand, in fact — information relating to the dispute from either party. I mentioned the possibility of minutes, financial statements or notes of discussions. Presumably it could be a tape recording of a meeting if one was taken — anything that the commissioner wants. This power is given in 137.7(1). I just want to deal with that for a minute.
The chairman — not just Mr. Peck in this case; I want to clarify that, by reading this section:
"Where an employer and a trade union have commenced collective bargaining, the chairman or a person appointed by him" — and this could be somebody outside the bureaucracy of Peck's office — "may inquire into the progress of the collective bargaining between the parties, and the parties shall, where requested by the chairman or the person appointed, supply to the chairman or his appointees such information as he requests." Why? "Such information as he requests."
That information can be anything that this person — who isn't even an employee of the government perhaps, but is on contract to Mr. Peek's office . . . . Any information that that person . . . .
MR. GABELMANN: Any information that that person may request from either party shall be made available.
AN HON. MEMBER: Repent! Repent!
AN HON. MEMBER: Just a detonator.
AN HON. MEMBER: Hallelujah!
AN HON. MEMBER: It's the lights.
MR. GABELMANN: It sounded like an electrical explosion, and I think that's probably what it was, but I don't know where. Anyway, I'll try to continue. Just while we do . . . .
MR. GABELMANN: Electrifying speech? No, not this one.
I'll just take the opportunity, Madam Speaker, to introduce a few people in the gallery whom I happened to notice — who are not responsible for the noise. My wife's sister from New Zealand is here with her children. I'd like the house to welcome Christine Bell-Booth and her children, Anna and Emily. Welcome to Canada.
Before that interruption . . . . I'll see if I can get back to where I was.
It's the whole question of giving anybody the commissioner decides the power to subpoena any — not subpoena, just to request and demand — documents of any kind from the parties, and later on the ability to publish that, should he choose to. You know, you wonder why both employers' and employees' organizations are concerned about the wide powers that have been granted to Mr. Peck. This is yet another
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example of those kinds of wide powers that are really quite inappropriate.
The question — this is in 137.7(4) — of not allowing a strike vote until a certain stage of negotiations has been reached. I think there's a misunderstanding, at least, about what strike votes really are. When you look at a trade union, in almost every case — and I think you might find exceptions, but in almost every case — the leadership, the negotiating committee, is elected by the membership, and they normally in the course of events have a pretty good idea of what the membership wants, are trusted by the membership, and are empowered to do the collective bargaining on their behalf. But in order to demonstrate to the employer how serious the membership is about the set of demands, they usually have a strike vote in their hand or in their back pocket, to say to the employer, "Look, our set of demands is supported by our membership," whatever the percentage might happen to be. If they can't get that kind of strike vote based on the demands they're making initially, then obviously the demands are out of line. Normally they get a 90 percent strike vote because the demands are in line with what the members are thinking. If you don't go to the table with that strike vote in your back pocket, the employer says: "Well, you don't have any clout. I don't believe your members really want what you say they want. How do we know that this list of demands is supported by your membership?" That's the way the message is communicated to management about the seriousness of the set of demands.
If you don't have the strike vote, you're not going to have meaningful negotiations. They're just not going to take place until the union has the strike vote in their back pocket and can say to the employer: "Look, we mean business, and our members support us." And that's essential, I think, for resolution. We should keep in mind all of the time what the purpose of all of this is: it's resolution of the bargaining, and quick resolution, if possible — resolution prior to the expiry date of the collective agreement, if possible. This kind of provision where you say the bargaining has to take place and reach a certain level prior to the taking of the strike vote means that it will be sham bargaining for the most part. And why start off something as important as collective bargaining with sham bargaining in the first place? That seems to me to poison the whole atmosphere and attitude of the parties as they try to work toward an agreement.
In many ways, apart from those practical concerns, it is really quite insulting to trade unions to suggest that union members don't trust their bargaining committee to use the strike vote judiciously. There are very few examples in British Columbia labour history of where strike votes have been used injudiciously by union leadership, and where that has happened the leadership has been thrown out at the next local union election; and they know it, so they are not going to use it in an injudicious manner. It really is an insulting kind of approach to take.
But it goes a step further, and I find it difficult to understand why the government would want to put the employer in charge of the union strategy. To date, unions have had the ability, as have employers, to determine their own strategy, when they will take votes, what the right timing is and all of that. Now the employers are able to demand that unions take a vote at a certain point, and it has to happen. There is no choice there: the vote has to happen if the employers demand it, as I read the legislation. The union members are not given the right to demand that the bargaining committee for the employers take a shareholders' vote — perhaps board of directors or, if it is a council of employers, an accredited council, they can demand that the accredited council take a vote. That is parallel to local unions taking a vote, and the legislation doesn't say that local unions will have to take a vote if the employer suggests that one be taken. It says that every member of the union has to take a vote. But the balance isn't there either, in terms of the shareholders.
I am not suggesting that unions should have the right to demand the shareholders speak out on all of these issues. It would be quite rightly absurd. Similarly, it is absurd that the employer would have the right to demand that the union take a vote at any particular time.
I have some concerns about the changes that occur in 137.5, which is the new first collective agreement provision, which used to be section 70 of the Code, if my memory is correct. It empowers panel members appointed to impose the terms and conditions of employment on a first agreement to . . . . In very limited ways; it sets out specific rules and requirements. If you are going to have the imposition of first collective agreements imposed, you need to have some flexibility. It might be that a one-year term is not appropriate in that particular industry, for some reason that would become clear during the course of the discussion leading to the imposition of the first agreement.
I should say at this stage that this principle was first established in Canadian labour law in this Legislature in 1973 by section 70 of the Labour Code, where the whole concept of imposing a first collective agreement was given to the Labour Relations Board. I should tell members that I voted against that section in committee stage in 1973 because I thought it was wrong. I think the proof of my position is that it was never used. Why wasn't it used? Because in every case, if it had been used, it would have been to the benefit of employees, because all of the instances where the first collective agreement needed to be imposed are instances of places of employment where a strike or a lockout proceeds and replacement workers are employed; so the employer continues to make his profits and doesn't have any need to sign a first collective agreement, and the workers walk the picket line for a few years and eventually abandon the picket line. Governments have chosen never to use the powers of imposing a first collective agreement because it would have aided and assisted the union in virtually every case. So they don't do it.
MR. GABELMANN: I am hearing, Madam Speaker, from behind me, that the same principle will apply with Peck, that if you put something in law . . . . If I am hearing the interjections correctly, he won't use them, and it is just there as a bit of an incentive, just a reminder that . . . .
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. GABELMANN: That's what I am hearing.
If you don't intend to use a legislative provision, don't write it into law. If it's there as a threat or as intimidation, it shouldn't be there. That's not the place of this Legislature.
Anyway, I was making a different point until the interjections. The point I'm making about this particular section — the first collective agreement section — is that there are very
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strict and specific rules laid out in the five subsections, and one of those rules particularly concerns me: that is, that the agreement must be for no more than one year. This might be appropriate because of the nature of the business, the nature of the relationship between the parties, and a clear understanding that one year later the agreement will be abandoned by the employer and "replacement workers" will be hired unless there's time for that certification to take hold, to take root, and time for a proper relationship to develop between the parties. It may take longer than a year. If that's the case, then the people imposing a first collective agreement should have the right to do that. They don't have the right under this section.
Section 137.91 — all of these complicated numbers in an effort to preserve the numbering system of the old Code. I'm not sure it was a particularly useful way of designing a bill. In any event, here we go.
I want to ask the minister, when he looks at this particular section in his review of this bill, to think about some recent Supreme Court of Canada decisions in respect of the right to strike, because under this section Peck clearly has the right to order people back to work. There is a formal mechanism that requires legislative approval — retroactively in most cases, I would suggest — but the Legislature isn't going to vote against something that Mr. Peck has done; rather than do that, they would fire him. Or if the Legislature did vote against a settlement proposed by Mr. Peck, he would quit. It's ludicrous to imagine a situation whereby he would do one thing and the Legislature would later retroactively undo it. It just wouldn't happen. So to have the sham in here that the Legislature is actually involved is really just that — a sham.
I want the minister to consider the effect of a decision . . . . Even the Chief Justice now holds that there is some right to strike beyond the reach even of legislatures. That was a minority decision, as I understand it, on that particular decision, and only two . . . .
MR. GABELMANN: I've got some lawyers behind me trying to teach me law. I've learned over the last couple of weeks, in talking to lawyers and trying to understand this bill, that I'm delighted I chose never to enter law school. To digress for a moment, I got into the black hole of administrative law trying to have lawyers tell me what that means, and having lawyers of similar political views give me entirely opposite views of how administrative law works in relation to this particular bill; but we'll get into some of that stuff in committee stage.
In any event, it's clear that the right to strike exists in this country; it's clear that the majority of the Supreme Court have said that those rights can be limited by a legislature; but the question of whether those rights can be limited by an appointed official has not been tested, as I understand it. I wonder if the minister or the Attorney-General sought legal advice as to the constitutionality of that particular provision. If they did, I assume their advice was that you have to have the Legislature involved at some point, so you do it retroactively. I really wonder if that would stand the test of a court decision. And I wonder why the government would want to risk all of the turmoil that ensues from continual legal fights over the meaning of words, or over the powers given to a particular individual.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair]
AN HON. MEMBER: You don't need to be scared of lawyers.
MR. GABELMANN: Some of my nervousness about lawyers, Mr. Speaker, is rooted in living in this Legislature for some years with the member for North Van-Capilano (Mr. Ree).
Section 137.92(6) — these numbers are unbelievable: "A public interest inquiry board may determine its own procedure and is not bound by the laws of evidence applicable to judicial proceedings," etc. I am curious to know why, in this particular case, the government wants to give wide powers to this public interest inquiry board without any reference to rules of law whatsoever.
MR. GABELMANN: The first member for Vancouver-Point Grey (Ms. Campbell) whispers behind me that it is not a court. I agree. But in any dispute-resolution procedure, you need to have rules of procedure that are understood and clear so that the parties know the rules they are playing by. In this case, it is wide open. The rules can change in every situation, even during the course of one particular hearing. I suspect that that too will have some trouble in the courts. It defies natural justice and is possibly, I am told, unconstitutional.
As I have mentioned in earlier debates on this bill, section 137.9(7) is in principle the most appalling section of the powers that are given. In this case, it is not powers that are given to Mr. Peck; it is powers that are given to the employer. That is the question of a situation where an employee may disobey an order of the commissioner, of the Industrial Relations Council. The penalty for disobeying an order of this quasi-judicial agency is that the employer can fire. That's the penalty. There is no penalty in law or penalty that the IRC or the courts would impose.
The employer would be given the right to fire an individual for violating an order of the IRC, and the powers of an arbitration board are curtailed by another section in here to the extent that the dismissal cannot be varied. The only power that the arbitration board has under this law is to determine whether or not the individual in fact violated an order of the Industrial Relations Council, and if the arbitration board finds that it was violated . . . . Somebody may have been ordered to report at 8 o'clock, and if that person actually showed up at 8:30, it is a violation of an order, and the employer can fire. If that in fact happened, the penalty couldn't be varied.
Arbitration boards normally have the power to overturn the dismissal in dismissal cases, to confirm the dismissal or, more often, to vary the terms or to put a suspension in for six weeks or six months or varying solutions. Well, under this law you violate an order of the government, and the employer can fire you, and there is no opportunity to have a variation of the dismissal. The right of the employer to fire under this section should not exist in the first place. That should be clear and understood.
If an employer violates an order of the Industrial Relations Council, the trade union can't do anything to the employer. No worker of that employer and no representative of the workers in that employer situation can impose a penalty
[ Page 759 ]
on the employer. The worker can lose his job; the equal penalty should be the right of the union to say: "Okay, we'll confiscate your capital." The only capital the worker has is his job or her job, But there is no quid pro quo, nor should there be, because the first section shouldn't exist to begin with. The whole idea that the employer is allowed to be the enforcer of law in this province is absolutely wrong and inappropriate and has to come out of this legislation.
Section 137.9 (3) is this public interest stuff. We keep running into public interest in this legislation. If we are going to say the public interest is affected badly by industrial relations disputes, the public interest is affected too by the high cost of milk. It is in the public interest to have lower prices for milk and bread. We don't have a law in British Columbia that says that milk and bread should be priced lower because it is in the public interest. We don't have a law in British Columbia that says it is in the public interest for capital to invest in British Columbia, therefore it has to. We don't have a law in British Columbia that says it's in the public interest for corporations not to reduce their workforce because that puts people out of work and is a burden on unemployment insurance, on the community and, in particular, on individual workers; so we don't have a law saying it's in the public interest to prevent workplaces being shrunk or closed entirely by employers. I'm not advocating that we should do that, but that kind of legislation is logical if you have this kind of legislation.
Why is the worker and the only weapon the worker has, the right to withdraw his or her labour, the only area where public interest applies? Price increases in goods and services are often against the public interest. The high price of riding a bus in the lower mainland or anywhere else in this province is against the public interest. We don't have a law prohibiting the high cost of riding a bus. Why is it that only one sector in our society is selected to bear the burden of responsibility for public interest issues, and that's the workers? If it's in the public interest for workers to keep working, then surely to God it's in the public interest for capital to keep investing. Capital has the right to go on strike, and there is no law in British Columbia that prohibits capital's ability to go on strike — and they've done it in this province. I'm not suggesting that we should or could make a law requiring that capital be invested in British Columbia, or requiring that it not be deinvested. But we say that to workers about the only capital they have, and that's their labour. Is it in the public interest, for example, to have a merger between CP Air and PWA in which thousands of jobs are lost and competition is reduced? We haven't made laws in this province about those kinds of issues. If we don't do it there, we shouldn't do it to workers either.
Section 137.95, the interest arbitration section of the bill. I don't understand why it's in there, except for the public sector. For the private sector, the ability to choose interest arbitration exists now on a voluntary basis. You put it into legislation that it's available — again. I don't understand why that particular section would be put in. The parties can always agree to interest arbitration if they so choose. I think putting it into legislation creates a climate out there that reduces the ability of these parties to choose alternatives such as that, because they don't want to participate in this kind of legislation, so they won't choose that kind of remedy, which makes the ability to reach collective agreements weaker again.
I want to talk for a minute or two about the compensation stabilization program. In his introduction to the bill in first reading the minister announced that compensation stabilization was ended in British Columbia. In fact, the compensation stabilization program has been strengthened and is more in place than it ever was under the old program. The ability to pay becomes a permanent feature, and is paramount in the public sector. If anything, CSP II, as we might call it, will be more restrictive than the first version. I think the minister should, in his response at the close of second reading, agree that if he intended CSP to be abolished, as he announced it was, he would need to withdraw this particular section of the bill in order to accomplish that.
I dealt before with the issue of compulsory arbitration, and I don't want to do more of that, other than to say that it just hasn't worked anywhere, at least in free societies, which ours still is. It hasn't worked and it doesn't work for a variety of reasons, the most important being that when you have an institutionalized conclusion to a process, people will delay and not use alternative mechanisms, but will wait for that institutionalized mechanism to come into play. If you're going to go to an arbitration board for settlement, you're sure not going to take things off the table in bargaining, because you want to make sure that you have all of those items on the table before you go to arbitration. What that inevitably leads to, of course, is a failure to bargain effectively.
The special mediator's role. It's 137.98 and 137.99. The mediator's report under this section is deemed to be a collective agreement — just as simple as that. There's no ratification. The government's fond of talking about workers' democracy, but workers don't have the right to vote on that. It becomes the collective agreement without any rights of vote, with no right of appeal. The special mediator may have made some dreadful mistakes in law, or in fact, or in his conclusions, and there's no right to appeal and no due process of any kind. How can the government talk about rights of workers, democratic freedoms and all of those kinds of things, and have the special mediator impose an agreement about which there can be no vote? It flies in the face of the arguments made by the government.
Mr. Speaker, I'm going to wind down my comments now by making a few conclusions. I want to talk about respect for law in our society. I've made these kinds of comments on many other occasions in the Legislature.
Society is held together in a very fragile way. Society does not hold together because we have huge police forces holding us together. We don't have those state agencies that are envisaged in George Orwell's writing and that we see in other parts of the world today. We don't have that; we have a society that holds together because people agree that we should hold together. They have an opportunity to participate in law-making; they have an opportunity to elect or throw out governments. As a result of all of that, there's a glue that holds our society together without any heavy pressures. As a result of that, people will obey laws, even laws they disagree with — for the most part.
If governments or legislatures introduce laws that people cannot live with — and I suggest that this law is of that kind — then you begin the process of tearing down the glue that holds society together, because you make lawbreakers out of normally law-abiding citizens. When you make lawbreakers of normally law-abiding citizens you diminish respect for the law, and eventually the glue will disintegrate entirely.
For more than a hundred years in this province, governments have passed laws that were designed to frustrate, to delay, to complicate and to render ineffective the efforts of
[ Page 760 ]
working people to organize into unions and to bargain collectively. Governments have said to miners, loggers and workers of all kinds, and now to teachers, nurses and their own public employees: even if you have the right to organize and bargain collectively, we will do everything we can to frustrate any such efforts. We will wait for you to elect your leadership, and no matter how properly and democratically you do it, and no matter how massively that leadership may have been elected, the government will run around the province declaring publicly that those leaders don't really represent the membership. Then some members of this House will stand up, as the Minister of Forests and Lands (Hon. Mr. Parker) did, and make incredible speeches about union goons and absolutely untrue allegations about the way unions operate, designed to frustrate the efforts of people to work together.
There are a couple of important things to say about that long and sordid history of government involvement in intervention with ordinary workers and their organizations. The first is that despite every effort over many years, government's efforts have not worked. The unions are still here. Despite all this hostility, despite all the comments made about their leadership, those unions are still flourishing.
A more important thing: with each time we go through this kind of exercise, whether it was the 1959 amendments, Bills 42 and 43 in the'60s, the Mediation Commission in Bill 33 in '68, the in my view unnecessary widespread back-to work orders in 1975, the changes to the Code in '79, the incredible legislative activity in the summer of 1983, the amendments to the Code in '84, or this bill today, we as legislators further destroy the glue that holds this society together. You build a disrespect for law and for process when you do that, and you start down a slippery road that leads to a society where law is not respected. To quote Yeats: "The centre cannot hold." We see many countries around the world, in the left and the right, where that in fact has happened: where the only way society can police itself is by having heavy-duty police state apparatus in place. Whether it's Chile or the Soviet Union, it's the same solution. If we weaken our respect for law in this country, we start on that road. I'm not suggesting we're at that place yet, by any means; but we start on the path of weakening respect for all laws. If for no other reason, this kind of heavy-handed legislative intervention should be rejected.
What should happen now with a bill that everybody agrees is inappropriate? It contains powers that are awesome in the hands of the Legislature, but particularly awesome and frightening in the hands of a non-elected public servant. The provisions totally tip the scales one way and overturn every court and labour board decision of the last 10 years that went against management. The legislation clearly will not be workable. Given the need of the parties to support legislation of this kind if it is going to be workable, what should we do now?
I gather that the government intends to take some time to have a look at the wording. That's good, as far as it goes. But what is really required is some full discussion and full consultation with members of the public who understand the issues and the implications, and who understand that in fact this legislation is going to lead to some pretty difficult times in British Columbia, is going to lead to the kind of turmoil that we went through from 1968 to 1972. I hope it doesn't lead to that kind of turmoil that led to some fairly vicious incidents, including incidents that affected members of this House at that time.
It's my responsibility, I think, as a member of this House, to point out to the government that that's exactly the kind of situation that is likely to develop if this legislation is pushed through. An intention that it go to a Committee of the Whole for further discussion is not appropriate for legislation as complicated as this. The House of Commons approach of sending legislation to a committee so that witnesses can be called is far more appropriate for this bill. I wouldn't argue that for every bill. But for a bill like this, where I don't pretend all of the provisions — and I'm sure most members of the House don't understand all of the provisions . . . . It's a bill, people tell me, where they discover new things every day about the way in which it can be interpreted. Keep in mind that it is not what the government intends will be the law but what the words say, as interpreted by either the IRC or by the courts, that will be the law. We in this House don't fully understand what the words say.
We would be well served if we were able to call witnesses. I'm not suggesting a travelling boondoggle, nor am I suggesting something that will take an inordinate amount of time. The government had a political agenda, and it has the right to have that political agenda. It has the right to achieve philosophical objectives that it feels are important to it, just as we will have the right to do the same thing when we're in government, after the election. That right exists, and we wouldn't take it away. But it's essential that the legislation go through a process, with people who can tell us not just what the words actually mean or that they mean different things, which might lead to a conclusion that you want to be more specific about the words, so that they mean specific things, but in more general terms that the effect of the law will be to lead to more chaos.
I'm not talking, as I said, about a boondoggle; I'm talking about a process that could be done in a few months at the outside. It could be done in Victoria; it doesn't have to travel. We can ask people to come here to meet with a committee of the House. We can do what they do in Ottawa, which is to allow substitutions on the committees, so that if particular members who have strong concerns don't happen to sit on the committee, they could replace other members who sit on the committee for particular meetings or for particular discussions. There's nothing wrong with us devising solutions of that kind.
But of all the bills that I have ever had to deal with in this Legislature — and there have been many hundreds, I guess, over the years — this more than any other requires that kind of expert discussion that, with all due respect to all 68 of you, we can't do in this House, because we don't live with this kind of law on a daily basis. We don't know what it does. We can make rhetorical speeches, and we can make suggestions about what we think, but we really don't know. There are people out there who, if they don't know completely, have a pretty good idea of the likely meaning of particular sections or the likely impact of particular sections.
I want just to say as seriously as I can that I think the bill should be withdrawn completely and we should start from scratch. I recognize that the government is not likely to do that. But let me tell you that if the decision is to do that, we will applaud you, and full marks will be given. That can be followed with a process that leads to new legislation. If, as I said before, you want it to contain certain objectives, you
[ Page 761 ]
obviously have the power to do that, but at least the process would be one where the parties could be involved.
If you don't do that, then let's have a discussion here. I think the discussion here might well lead to a conclusion, if it's done in a committee with witnesses, that you're causing more trouble than you're solving. We can only assert that, and assertions aren't worth a heck of a lot no matter how quietly they are asserted. We can only assert that this legislation will lead to more labour trouble, as it's called, more industrial unrest. I can assert, because I believe it, that it will lead to more strikes, not less. I can assert, and I believe this too, that it will lead to increased international recognition of B.C. as a place where there's nothing but labour trouble, however that's defined. If these assertions are incorrect, then that will come clear in listening to people who know more about the subject than I do, or than any of us in this House does, for that matter, as we go through the process of committee.
I make that appeal not just to the minister but to the cabinet. If that's not acceptable, then if we can, within the rules of the House . . . . And I'm not familiar enough with them to know quite how we can do this in an informal way, but if we're going to have Committee of the Whole, maybe we should set some time in that committee — and we can agree to some limits on this Particular element, I would think — when we actually call witnesses here to the bar of this House in an informal way, not in an intimidating way; and that we agree that we won't do this forever, and we agree to try to organize it in a way that will limit the number of participants.
If it can't go to a committee, and we have to go to Committee of the Whole, as it appears the government is intending to do, then let's have an opportunity to hear witnesses on the bill. I make the suggestion in all seriousness, and I make it with a commitment that I think I can offer on behalf of the official opposition that we will work to make sure that that's an efficient, manageable process and procedure. But let's find some way to educate ourselves about the implications of this particular legislation.
I tried this afternoon to pick a few of the sections in part 8 that concern us. In doing that, I recognized as I spoke that I lose the ability to make an effective overall argument when I start dealing with it piece by piece. But it's so complicated and so important that I think it was necessary to isolate individual sections in that way; not as a conclusive list of problems, by any means, but to suggest that there are a variety of concerns — some of which are philosophical, most of which are practical — that need to be addressed, and that we need to find a way of doing that in an intelligent and informed manner. So I leave that with the government to consider, and I hope that one way or another a way will be found to have some proper consultation on this bill before it ever passes through committee stage.
Amendment negatived on the following division:
YEAS - 18
NAYS - 33
|B.R. Smith||Johnston||R. Fraser|
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Speaker, continued debate on the main motion, Bill 19, second reading. The member for Alberni.
MR. SKELLY: Thank you. What was that?
MR. SKELLY: No chance. I'd have to give back my bagpipes. Well, I'd like to thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank the members for their applause. I'm sure that after I've finished what I have to say we'll probably be seeing a different story, but I intend to be fairly brief. I know we've gone through close to three weeks' debate on this issue and that, in a House where 49 percent of the popular vote elects 66 percent of the members, at some point the number of opposition speakers expires and ultimately we get to a vote, so I imagine that that's going to happen shortly.
I'm sorry that the government rejected our suggestion to delay second reading of the bill for six months, to give the government an opportunity to consult with various groups throughout the province on how this bill might be amended in order to improve it. I regret that the government did not see fit to accept that amendment. I further regret that the government voted against the amendment that was just debated in the House, even though they accepted the argument that excessive powers had been granted to Mr. Peck to interfere in the resolution of disputes that take place throughout the province. So I regret that the government did not accept those motions. I want to say, Mr. Speaker, that the motions were not submitted to delay unduly the debate on the bill, but were simply put on the floor to give the government an opportunity to reconsider the bill in its entirety. And it's the bill in its entirety that we are now back to discussing.
I think the amendments have allowed one thing to happen, though, Mr. Speaker. That is that more information has come to light about the flawed consultation process that took place in advance of this bill being presented to the House. The opposition criticized the government for the consultation process that did take place. I think information that surfaced recently in the Vancouver Sun at least justifies the criticisms that were made by the opposition, especially the story yesterday by Terry Glavin which indicates that the government, in spite of the public consultation process, hired consultants behind the curtain, behind the scenes, who actually took part in the drafting of the bill and who in fact were hired through the office of the Attorney-General (Hon. B. R. Smith) to draft the legislation. It's interesting, although the government and
[ Page 762 ]
the Minister of Labour didn't see fit to name the consultants that it appointed, that one of the consultants indicated that he did assist in drafting parts of the legislation, and at the same time drafted almost a dozen of the submissions that were made to the public consultation process.
[Mr. Pehon in the chair.]
I have to ask you, Mr. Speaker . . . . This government has been attacked on the issue of conflict of interest before, but here is a case where a firm of lawyers was hired by some of the people who presented briefs to the public consultation process, and was then hired by the government to assist them in drafting the legislation. It's a conflict of interest, because naturally those people are going to give more weight to the submissions that they drafted on behalf of management in that public consultation process than they are to those in the trade union movement or to other people, members of the public, who also made submissions in good faith to that public consultation process. The government allowed these people to make submissions to the public involvement process, and then turned around and allowed these lawyers to compromise themselves by assisting in the drafting of the legislation and giving more weight to the submissions that they made to that public involvement process. So one of the advantages of the prolonged debate that we've had on this bill and on the amendments to the bill is that the information is gradually coming out about the flawed public consultation process that took place.
I believe that this further supports the case being made by the opposition, Mr. Speaker, that this bill, rather than having second reading completed or going to committee stage right away, should go either to a select standing committee of the Legislature or to a public consultation process that involves both government and the opposition members, and that also goes out to consult with those people who are directly involved in the industrial relations process in the province of British Columbia, so that we can have a good, worthwhile consultation process that involves the people who are most concerned about the issue of labour-management relations in the province.
I think it would be worthwhile for the Minister of Labour to consider the suggestion made by our debate leader, in his speech closing the debate on the amendment that this bill, rather than having second reading completed, should go to a select standing committee of the Legislature which could consult with people involved in the industrial relations area throughout the province.
The second point we made in our amendment about the excessive powers of the commission . . . . It was interesting that during the debate, Mr. Speaker, the government backbench members, I guess coached by Social Credit caucus research, strongly supported the powers that were initially granted to the commissioner. Now they're turning around and saying: "Well, amendments are going to come down." At first they said that these powers were needed in the public interest; now they say that amendments are going to come down to change those powers. It's interesting to see, during the process of debate, how the back-bench members of the government caucus have changed their tune in arguing in defence of this bill. It seems to me that their arguments are more a rationalization for this bill than a defense of its individual sections. So some interesting things have happened during the period that we have been debating the bill.
The minister has stated, in response to the reasoned amendment that came down on Wednesday, that he had considered the powers of the commissioner excessive and was going to present amendments to change those powers, but he wanted to retain the intent of the bill. Well, Mr. Speaker, it's the intent of the bill that we find most repugnant. The section that we devoted the amendment to, of course, was the most repugnant of many repugnant sections. But the intent of the bill is the repugnant thing that we would like to see withdrawn, changed and submitted to a further process of public consultation.
I know that the minister is aware of this, and I know that the government is aware of it: the intent of this bill is to undermine the effectiveness and the ability of trade unions to defend their members, to negotiate on behalf of their members, and to defend their members' interests in terms of working conditions, the pay package and benefits, and occupational health and safety — all of those things that unions are formed, through the democratic process, to defend and to represent on behalf of their workers. This legislation is designed to undermine the effectiveness of trade union leaders and trade union administrations in defending the interests of their members in the workplace and at the bargaining table. The result will be divisions between trade union memberships and their executives, who, as a result of this bill, will become much less effective. As a result, I think we're going to see more and more decertifications in the province. This bill is designed to bring about that kind of division within the union membership.
It's interesting that during the debate many government members made a distinction between the leadership and the membership of trade unions, and they indicated that they were defending the interests of the ordinary members of trade unions as apart from the leadership. I want to say, Mr. Speaker, that in the vast majority of cases, trade union leadership in this province is selected by a democratic process, and those selected are, in the opinion of the members of the trade unions, those people who can best and most effectively represent their interests. That's why they're elected in the first place. I hope that's why we're elected in the first place here in the Legislature.
What this legislation is doing, and what it's designed to do, is to undermine the effectiveness of that trade union leadership in defending the interests of their members. It's the equivalent, in that democratic system of labour-management relations, of having the government pass legislation which undermines the effectiveness of members of the Legislature in defending the interests of their constituents on the floor of this House. This bill, and its intent, is as much an attack on democracy as legislation which would undermine the effectiveness of members in this House. That's why we find not only the section that we referred to in the amendment repugnant; it's why we find the whole intent and the whole bill repugnant.
Some government members have suggested, as a result of our opposing the bill, that we think the status quo is all right. That's not the case either, Mr. Speaker. We've indicated that the status quo is not satisfactory in this province, and that we do need some improvement in dispute resolution in the industrial relations sector in order to protect the interests of all of the people involved and all the citizens of British Columbia. The status quo is not okay. It's not okay from the point of view
[ Page 763 ]
of the government, the opposition, employers and employees, or people throughout the province.
I represent a constituency that was severely negatively impacted by the strike that took place in the forest industry in the latter part of last year. The trade union members in my constituency who were involved in that strike supported their leadership more strongly than I've ever seen them support their leadership in any previous strike in the history of my representing Alberni constituency over the past 15 years. They were concerned about what was happening to their members in terms of job security, and the problems relating to contracting-out, and they were concerned about what was happening to their members who were being pensioned off without adequate pensions. The strike was over good solid issues, and the leadership of that trade union was solidly supported by their members. At least, that was the case in my constituency, and the case with every local of the IWA that I discussed this issue with around the province.
However, there is no question at all that that strike impacted on the economy and the community of Port Alberni in a very negative way. People were out of work in an industry that had suffered many setbacks in the international marketplace; 3,500 jobs were lost in my constituency, which only has a population of 25,000 to start with. That's a pretty serious job loss in that region. So people were suffering in Port Alberni, and the economy was suffering in Port Alberni as a result of that strike.
There's no question that the public interest in Port Alberni and throughout the province was negatively affected by that strike. People were asking for changes in the way that industrial relations disputes are resolved in this province, but they were not asking for this kind of legislation. This came as a surprise to many of the people who are concerned about the conduct of industrial relations in British Columbia. Some members on the government side indicated that this bill is going to be supported by ordinary British Columbians, but this Legislature is not here to debate what's at the top of the most recent public opinion polls. I'm sure that every public opinion poll you read — especially those that come out of the Decima organization — will show that trade unions are not the most positively perceived organizations in British Columbia, and there's a reason for that: they always make headlines when they're involved in a dispute. The good work that trade unions do from day to day in representing their members and their communities, in putting forward the interests of their industry, are not the subject of headlines throughout the province and around the country. It's only the disputes that make the headlines, and it's for that reason that trade unions are negatively perceived.
It's for that reason that the public in general may accept this legislation on the promise of the government that it's going to reduce the number of disputes or the length and severity of disputes in the industrial relations scene in the province of British Columbia. It's not going to do that, Mr. Speaker, in the same way that similar legislation presented elsewhere in North America and Canada has not been successful in resolving disputes. Coercive legislation simply does not work in the area of industrial relations. If the government was committed to a worthwhile public involvement process, to a worthwhile process of consultation, they would have gone to the parties involved. In the same way, Mr. Speaker, if you were settling a dispute between your constituents, you wouldn't go to all of the people in the neighbourhood and say: "How can we solve this dispute?" You would go to the disputants themselves and ask them: "How can we eliminate the roadblocks to the resolution of disputes in this province? What do you perceive those roadblocks to be? What are the impediments to settling labour and management negotiations in British Columbia?" I think you would get some good ideas from the disputants involved because they know the process, they're skilled in the process, they're experienced in the process, and they do a great deal of research in the process in British Columbia and around the world. They know what the roadblocks are, they know what the impediments are, and they know what has to be done to eliminate those impediments and those roadblocks so that we can resolve disputes in this province more quickly.
Both sides have been in touch with the government. The employers' side and the trade union side have been in touch with the government in good faith, and they've presented suggestions in order to resolve these disputes more quickly and more effectively from the point of view of both parties and the point of view of the public interest. The government rejected the information that they received from the employers and the employees; instead, they went to consultants who had clearly taken the management side in the public consultation process. It's almost like a judge in court going to the Crown prosecutor and saying: "I want you to help me write the decision that I'm going to make on this case." Do you think the Crown prosecutor is going to give sufficient weight to arguments that the defence counsel made in court? Of course not. He's going to give more weight to the arguments that he made on behalf of his client, the Crown. And that's what happened in this case when the government hired management's consultants to help draft the legislation. They even admitted it: "Jordan said he did assist in drafting 'over a dozen' submissions to Hanson from employers and employer groups that he declined to name." In addition, the same consultant to management and employer groups went to the government. through the Attorney-General's office, and acted as a consultant in drafting the legislation — a direct conflict of interest. That indicates that the consultation process the government went through was completely flawed. As a result, the legislation is seen by the trade union movement and by the people of British Columbia as supporting one side rather than being neutral, which is all that employers and employees ask in this province.
Some of the government speakers indicated that we need this legislation because the number of strikes, lockouts and labour disputes in British Columbia has affected our reputation as a place to invest and our reputation as a reliable supplier of goods to the international market. That argument has been proven false over and over again. My colleague from North Island indicated that it was the same argument used to draft legislation as far back as 1968. I took a look at a paper submitted to a Social Credit caucus meeting — maybe it was a cabinet meeting — at Whistler a few years ago, which reported a survey of investors around North America. It said that 95 percent of them were concerned about investing in British Columbia because of the climate of labour-management relations in the province. The 5 percent who didn't put that as their first concern put it as their second concern.
So we do have that reputation out there — there is no doubt about that. But how did we get that reputation? I suggest to you that we got that reputation by the kind of legislation this government presents, which is provocative, divisive and confrontational, and which tends to divide the people of this province and generate confrontation, which
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then generates the kind of headlines that result in a negative impression of this province among investors and people who could be our market in the international marketplace.
The facts these investors get from consultants are quite different than the reputation of this province that's portrayed in the headlines, in terms of the number of days lost due to strikes and lockouts. Bill Bennett — and for the first time I can mention him by name — our former Premier, boasted over the last couple of years that we had the lowest number of days lost due to strikes and lockouts we'd had in 20 years. If that's the case, why the hurry on this legislation? Why are we trying to ram this legislation through now, when we've got the lowest number of strikes and lockouts, and when the only thing this legislation can do is increase the division in our community, increase the confrontation, and increase the split between employers and employees? It just doesn't make sense at this point.
Some government speakers also said that if we pass this legislation, we're going to be able to attract more investment to the province of British Columbia. Labour-management relations is not the real problem.
I'll tell you, I was surprised to read an article in the Times-Colonist in which Peter Moslinger, president of the Teamsters' Joint Council in British Columbia, indicated that his union administers some $600 million in invested pension fund assets, and that that union is now going to take economic sanctions against employers who support this legislation. Mr. Speaker, $600 million is 6 percent of the total investment in goods and repair in this province in 1985. When you consider the pension funds in the hands of trade unions in British Columbia and elsewhere in Canada, and the fact that they could take economic sanctions against this province, this bill threatens to cut back more investment than it would ever generate — and I suspect it's not going to generate any. Six hundred million dollars is a lot of money, and it's money that was won by trade unions at the bargaining table on behalf of their senior members, so that they could enjoy a decent future after they'd retired from the workforce. That's $600 million in the hands of one single trade union group. What are the other trade unions going to do. in this province, when they see this kind of anti-labour legislation coming down, designed to decrease the effectiveness of trade union leaders and trade union administrations in representing and supporting their members and in negotiating on behalf of their members? They are going to pull their money out of British Columbia.
There has been an interesting change that has taken place in labour-management relations since the 1970s, which is that labour — and I differ with my colleague from North Island on this one — no longer comes to the bargaining table with only its labour to bargain with. They now come to the bargaining tables as part owners of the industry that they are involved in. Because of the pension fund assets that they control, they are now not only labour, but they represent capital when they come to the bargaining table. That has two ramifications that we should be concerned about. One is that the trade unions don't want to see the companies they work for bankrupted, because they are part owners of those companies. They want to see productivity increased. They want to see competitiveness improved in the companies that they work for, because they are owners as well as the suppliers of labour to that company. We have seen a change in labour that not many people in management and, in fact, not many people in labour have perceived, but this is going to be one of the primary concerns that we should have in labour-management relations in the future: labour is now coming to the bargaining table not simply on behalf of labour but also on behalf of the capital that that labour wields.
I think that rather than developing anti-labour legislation, as the minister has done here, we should be going to labour as both owners and suppliers of labour and to managers as employers of labour and asking them how we can develop a framework of legislation that is best going to deliver competitiveness for our companies here, that is best going to increase productivity, and that is going to do the best in the public interest to make sure that this province grows, thrives, survives and is prosperous. This legislation does not do that, and the arguments that were made in this House by Social Credit members that this legislation is going to attract investment are completely false. The statements by Peter Moslinger, a very responsible trade union leader in this province, I think are only an indication of things to come — the tip of the iceberg.
I think this is very dangerous, provocative, divisive, extremely confrontational legislation. Mr. Speaker, we should all have an opportunity over the coming months to discuss this legislation and to find out whether it is going to do the job that labour legislation should do for the people of the province, whether they are employers, employees or the general public that we are all elected to serve.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
In the past six years, money invested in this province has declined in real terms by 50 percent. There has been a severe decline in investment. At the same time, the number of labour disputes has gone down, and days lost due to labour disputes has reached the lowest level in 20 years. So it appears that there is not a direct connection between time loss due to labour disputes and the amount of investment in the province. If you want to deal with the problem of investment — I am talking to the Social Credit members of the Legislature, most of whom aren't here to listen — you have to look no farther than that cabinet and its mismanagement of the province over the last ten years. That has been the problem.
I was listening to the radio on the way back from Vancouver last night, and I was listening to a submission made by five high-tech companies in Vancouver who have suggested that they can't find employees with a suitable training to work in those companies here in British Columbia and so they have to go back east to get suitable employees. Why? Because this government has mismanaged the post-secondary education system so that we are not developing the skills in our technical schools and our universities to supply the kind of labour that is needed in those high-tech industries. If you want to find out why we are suffering economically, it is not because of labour-management relations or our reputation in that area. The reason is your mismanagement of the education system in the province of British Columbia. Why are we not doing the kind of research and development that we need to do in order to expand those industries? That is one of the reasons why we don't have investment in British Columbia, not labour-management relations. That's not the problem; it's this government's mismanagement.
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Another aspect to this government's mismanagement is the fact that it has constantly provoked the trade union movement through gimmicky legislation such as the special enterprise zones and the package of legislation that came down with the restraint program in 1983. Their legislation has been designed to provoke confrontation, to divide people and to use that division for political reasons. I think that that has been the problem with declining investment in the province over the last six or eight or ten years.
We thought that there was going to be an new opportunity under the new Premier and the new Social Credit government. We accepted their word that they were going to do the best that they could to consult with people to develop the kind of legislation we needed in order to reduce industrial relations disputes. I think that the people of British Columbia — certainly the members of this Legislature — have been betrayed by the government of British Columbia; this legislation and Bill 20 are examples of the kind of betrayal that we're talking about.
This legislation does not protect the public interest. It is not based on consultation. It is not going to reduce labour disputes in the province of British Columbia. It's not going to attract investment. It's not going to make us more reliable suppliers.
I urge the Minister of Labour to take cognizance of the arguments that were presented by our debate leader in the Legislature while speaking on the amendments a few seconds ago. I urge him to trust in the good faith of the opposition. We are willing to put together with the government the kind of legislation we need in order to bring people together, in order to resolve the problems we have in our economy, in order to make this province the best we can possibly make it. I hope that the minister will take our offer in good faith and will continue the consultation process.
HON. L. HANSON: Mr. Speaker, I take great pleasure in rising to conclude debate on the second reading of Bill 19. When this debate commenced, I stated that the government's objective for this legislation was to produce a better system for industrial relations, a system that would form the foundation of the future with improved labour-management stability in the province. The benefits to all British Columbians are clear: a creative and stable labour climate within which to improve our economic conditions.
This legislation was the result of open government, dialogue with organized groups of labour and management, and certainly many conversations with private citizens. The debate on this bill in this Legislature has been, in my opinion, of a very high calibre. Such debate forms an important part of the government's policy of openness, a policy which encourages constructive and meaningful input into the development of new government policies intended to bring a new level of prosperity to British Columbia. I acknowledge the significance of the contribution of the official opposition. The debate that they have brought before the House has certainly been valuable to me. Consideration has been given to the principles of the legislation, and certainly valuable advice has been given with respect to the specific clauses.
The government will respond to that debate as well as to the ongoing process of consultation. Labour and management groups have continued, throughout the second-reading process, to keep in communication with me and with members of my staff, and we certainly have taken their comments and observations into consideration.
I would like to stress the unwavering commitment of this government to the primary objectives of this legislation. We have three objectives in this bill.
First, our objective is to improve the collective bargaining process by recognizing and responding to the needs of an often neglected party in many labour disputes; that party, of course, is the general public. Quite often the public is held at ransom due to disputes that get out of hand.
Second, the legislation enhances the democratic rights of the individual — both union members and other members of the labour force. It adds a new dimension of fairness to industrial relations in British Columbia. It accomplishes this desirable effect without undermining the collective rights of unionized workers.
Third, the bill promotes cooperation and meaningful collective bargaining. Both employers and trade unions will be assisted in working together to settle disputes on their own. It is crucial to our economic well-being that our potential investors, both from an investment and establishment of new business point of view and from a customer point of view, be assured that the labour relations climate in British Columbia is improving, and that when negotiations need assistance we have a mechanism to help keep our economy moving. The intention is not to force the heavy hand of government or a new bureaucracy on labour relations. It's rather to monitor and assist the collective bargaining process, allowing us to take whatever action may be necessary in specific instances where the public interest is threatened. The main philosophy of the bill is to reduce frustration in labour relations, to encourage new business activity and to reduce the conflict and perception of conflict that stifles economic growth. These objectives guide this new labour legislation to meet the needs of a new future.
As I noted at the introduction of the bill, it is the government's blueprint for reducing public frustration with labour relations. It encourages and stimulates business activity and will produce opportunities to reduce or resolve the conflicts that we have noticed so many times in the past. These goals will contribute to the steady growth of the economy, to an improved rate of growth in business activity and, most importantly, to stable job growth for all British Columbia citizens. I think even the members of the opposition would agree that stable job growth is very important to this province.
The Industrial Relations Council constituted by this act merges the legal and adjudicative roles of the Labour Relations Board with improved dispute resolution services. The current mediation services of my ministry will be transferred to the responsibility of the new Industrial Relations Council. The dispute resolution division, supported by skilled industrial relations practitioners, will provide a new and more effective mechanism to assist in collective bargaining. We will provide mediation services, and we will assist in every way possible in the resolution of disputes through the collective bargaining process.
The new council, under the commissioner, Mr. Peck, will have a wide arsenal of remedies with which to build a new and more stable industrial relations climate and assist in the resolution of individual disputes. Much debate has been focused on the extraordinary responsibilities conferred on the commissioner. Specific attention has been drawn to his powers with respect to major disputes of significant consequence. Advice that we have received through the debate by members of this Legislature, as well as views received through our ongoing process of consultation, have suggested
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that the public interest may be best represented by those who are elected by the public and have ultimate responsibility to safeguard their interest. I will be considering those suggestions as the bill moves to third reading.
I'm pleased that the bill has also achieved the repeal of labour legislation which, if continued, would not promote harmonious relationships between labour, management and government in the province. I have indicated before this House that the Compensation Stabilization Act will be phased out and that the Public Sector Restraint Act will be repealed. Similarly, the Essential Service Disputes Act will be repealed as a consequence of our new labour legislation.
I alluded in my introductory remarks to the challenge to Ministers of Labour in producing new law to regulate and improve industrial relations. There is always the need of ensuring progress in terms of improving our industrial relations while maintaining balance and fairness. The final result of this legislation is fairness for labour, for management and, most importantly, for all workers and citizens of the province of British Columbia. That stems not only from the proposed Industrial Relations Act but from the continuation of many of the provisions of the existing Labour Code. Labour legislation is dynamic; it must change to foster positive change. It must lead to establish the kind of future which we all seek, a future in which the democratic rights of individuals are balanced against the collective rights associated with bargaining, a future in which stability in labour relations will contribute to economic expansion, investment and job creation.
Mr. Speaker, this legislation is the product of open government. Through tours of British Columbia we have received over 700 submissions relating to industrial relations reform for British Columbia. Those 700 submissions took the form of written submissions and verbal submissions, and I might add that they were supplemented by personal submissions given to me either directly or over the telephone. During the conduct of second reading we have continued to receive further reviews, advice and guidance from labour and management, as well as from the general public.
What is clear is that Bill 19 is good legislation. It is good for the times and it is good for the future of British Columbia. However, a number of specific concerns have been expressed and positive suggestions made that would allow government to improve some specific sections of the statute. The government is unwavering in its commitment to the basic principles of this bill. It is also dedicated to the structures and processes it creates. We intend, however, to review and respond to the debate in this Legislature and the public input with respect to clarifying intent. We will be looking at improving some provisions of the bill. Reasonable change will be made where a reasonable argument has been advanced.
Mr. Speaker, the government has created an environment which encourages involvement. We will respond by clarifying certain aspects of this legislation. I have directed my deputy minister and other senior ministry officials to continue that process of dialogue, consultation and review. We will continue that consultation process with any group wishing to make specific input. That input must be directed to assist us in the development of this improved labour legislation. That process will take place over the next several weeks. The product of that, I am sure, will be an improvement on the legislation that has been brought to the House. I reiterate: this government is dedicated to the intent of the legislation and the philosophy behind it. But we are still consulting and would invite good, practical input.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, the principles in the legislation provide the solid base upon which government, labour and management, as well as the general public, can build an improved industrial relations climate. I urge the positive involvement of all parties in this legislation. I believe it should be our mutual goal, as elected representatives of the people of British Columbia, to ensure that this new industrial relations bill achieves its objectives. We can do that through the process of open government, through the process of cooperation, and through the commitment to the potential of our future.
Mr. Speaker, I would now like to move second reading of Bill 19.
Motion approved on the following division:
YEAS - 36
|Vander Zalm||B.R. Smith||Johnston|
NAYS - 14
Bill 19, Industrial Relations Reform Act, 1987, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Second reading of Bill 20, Mr. Speaker.
TEACHING PROFESSION ACT
HON. MR. BRUMMET: Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to introduce for second reading the Teaching Profession Act, which was first introduced into the Legislative Assembly on April 2 this year.
The government welcomes the input of various groups from the education community and from the community at large on this important new piece of legislation. For that reason the bill is proceeding to second reading at this time to ensure opportunity for full public debate. Consultation regarding the teaching profession has been going on for years. Since assuming the portfolio in August, I have been directly involved in many meetings with the BCTF executive, the
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BCSTA executive, parents, individual school boards, administrators and teachers, both in groups and individually. From these meetings and discussions, the consensus of opinions, concerns and suggested remedies emerged. I found much divided opinion about the professional role and the bargaining tactics of the B.C. Teachers' Federation. I also learned that a great deal of concern existed over the negative effects all this was having on the students.
Bill 20 reflects the solutions we think will put the best interests of students back in the forefront of our education system.
The formal process of consultation on the Teaching Profession Act began last fall when the Minister of Labour (Hon. L. Hanson) called on union and business representatives and individuals across the province to submit their ideas and recommendations for labour reform. On January 5, 1987, the B.C. Teachers' Federation submitted a brief entitled "Improving the Labour Relations Climate in Public Education." Most of the major recommendations in that submission have been incorporated in this new legislation. Three main requests have been granted: the right of teachers to bargain on all issues; the right to mediation options and the right to strike; and the right to bargain with the assistance of independent and neutral agencies such as special mediators, fact finders, etc.
To achieve those rights the federation recommended that the exclusion of teachers from the Labour Code, which is now the Industrial Relations Act, be repealed, and this has been done. Both teachers and school boards have argued that bargaining should remain at the local level. The new legislation provides this by requiring that teachers organize either a union or a non-certified teachers' association to bargain for them, school district by school district.
In its submission to the Minister of Labour, the federation recommended a systematic process of preventive mediation as the most likely method of accomplishing the common goal of avoiding impasse. Such a system of mediation options has been incorporated in the new Industrial Relations Act. The federation also recommended that binding arbitration be provided as an alternative to strike threat. Under the new legislation, a union and school board may mutually agree to refer a dispute to binding arbitration. An association and school board can also mutually agree to refer disputes to binding arbitration.
Greater professional freedom and autonomy, and control over professional development and discipline, have been sought by the province's teachers for a long time. This has been provided through the new College of Teachers.
On April 211 met with representatives of the B.C. Teachers' Federation and the B.C. School Trustees' Association to hear their views on Bill 20. At that meeting we agreed that an agenda for future discussion of specific provisions of the bill would be drawn. Meetings to achieve this began today and, to my knowledge, are going on now. I welcome this input from the Teachers' Federation and the School Trustees' Association, and I look forward to productive discussion and consultation with them in the future.
I am determined to make the new legislation as clear and as fair as possible, and I welcome any specific suggestions to that end. The government has responded to the requests and the recommendations of teachers and school officials across the province, and is committed to the fundamental principles encoded in the Teaching Profession Act: that teachers are given the same rights as all other employees in the province, to have full scope of collective bargaining and the right to strike, if they choose, that there be adequate separation of the organizations that collectively bargain and represent the economic interests of teachers from the organization that governs their professional conduct and qualifications; and that principals, vice-principals and administrative officers be recognized as managers, equivalent to excluded management personnel in other employee groups. These fundamental principles are well thought out and have been developed over a long period of time, with input from the education community and the public.
The government has tried to respond in a positive way to the concerns and recommendations of teachers and others in the school system, while at the same time protecting the rights of individual teachers. Teachers, whether they choose to belong to a union or to a non-certified association, will have a variety of options for solving labour disputes under the new Industrial Relations Act and Bill 20. Those who choose to organize as a union will have the right to bargain a wide range of terms and conditions of employment, as well as salaries and benefits.
If an impasse is reached, the union can ask the Industrial Relations Council for mediation and fact-finding assistance, or the union and the school board may agree to refer the dispute to binding arbitration. All the provisions of the new Industrial Relations Act will apply to collective bargaining between the teachers' union and a school board, including the right to strike and the right to lock out.
Where teachers decide not to organize as a trade union, the new legislation intends that they authorize the local association to bargain with the school board on behalf of all teachers in the school district. These associations will not be subject to the Industrial Relations Act, but will come under the jurisdiction of the School Act.
Associations will be entitled to negotiate terms and conditions of employment extending beyond salaries and benefits, the same as a union, but they will not have the right to strike, nor will their school boards have the right to lock them out.
An association and school board will also be able to seek private mediation and fact-finding assistance, but the Industrial Relations Council will not be involved. Under the School Act, associations and school boards may agree to refer compensation disputes to an arbitration board that will deal only with salaries and bonuses. Private arbitration can be used to settle non-compensation disputes if both parties agree.
The School Act will also provide members of a non-union association with recourse to a statutory board of appeal to review suspension or terminations for alleged just cause. A teachers' union will negotiate such grievance procedures in its collective agreement. The non-union teachers' association may also choose to negotiate a grievance procedure in an agreement with a school board, if it so wishes.
Teachers, whether they choose to belong to a union or to a non-certified association, will have bargaining and professional options never before available to educators in the province.
The government believes that the various interest groups in education have much to offer in making this bill more understandable and providing concrete suggestions for implementation. We welcome those suggestions, and we are prepared to discuss and will attempt to clarify any and all aspects of the bill during the coming debate and afterwards.
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At the same time, we believe that Bill 20 is fundamentally correct. We will not be persuaded or threatened into wavering from principles that we believe to be sound and in the best interests of all British Columbians. The purpose of our education system is to serve the best interests of the students, to provide to them the best education possible. That is why boards exist; that is why the ministry exists; that is, in fact, why teachers exist. Society supports the education system because providing the best possible education serves the best interests of that society. Our society, represented by the total public, is resentful of any action which deprives students of their rights or of their expectations which have arisen through standard practice.
As many of you I think are aware, I spent 26 years in the public school system as a teacher, supervisor, vice-principal and principal. I was, through that time, a member of the B.C. Teachers' Federation. I was pleased with many of the services that that federation provided to me as a member; I was displeased with some of the things they imposed on me, or tried to impose on me. However, through all those years I operated with the philosophy that the best interests of the students was my reason for being there as an educator. I hold that same view now; I still consider myself a professional educator. I also believed then, and I do now, that we teach pupils by example as well as by any other methods or techniques.
I do sincerely believe that the concepts in this legislation will serve the best interests of the students and of our society. As I have said before, I'm optimistic that with goodwill and the many options made available through this new bill, by choice offered to the teachers, the education system can enter a new era of stable collective bargaining and continued professionalism among teachers and school administrators in this province.
Hon. Mr. Brummet moved adjournment of the debate.
Mr. Strachan moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 5:40 p.m.
WRITTEN ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
8 Mr. Stupich asked the Hon. the Minister of Transportation and Highways the following questions:
With respect to a possible new major ferry terminal on or near Gabriola Island-
1. Is this proposal under review by the Minister's Ministry and/or British Columbia Ferry Corporation?
2. If the answer to No. 1 is "yes", at what stage is preliminary or basic design for the facility and where is it to be located?
3. If the answer to No. 1 is "yes", will the Minister make public such basic design before detailed working plans are authorized?
The Hon. C. C. Michael replied as follows:
"The Ministry is not actively considering any proposal at present for a new ferry terminal. Nor is the British Columbia Ferry Corporation considering or reviewing any such proposals for a major terminal on or near Gabriola Island."