History of the BC Employment Standards for the Next Decade Coalition

In November 2010 the Trade Union Research Bureau and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives BC Office hosted a meeting of interested individuals and organizations to launch an Employment Standards Act modernization project. This meeting sought to bring together individuals and organizations willing to contribute to the development of model employment standards legislation, the formation of a steering committee, the formation of subject matter working groups, and the scheduling of a series of workshops or roundtables for the purpose of developing policy papers and/or draft legislation.

In the initial meeting invitation the hosts noted that it was over eight years since the BC Liberal government made sweeping changes to the Employment Standards Act and program of enforcement, that it was nine years since the last increase in the BC minimum wage, and that it was 16 years since the Thompson Commission engaged in a public consultation process to develop proposals for modernized employment standards legislation in BC.

It was also noted that over the period 2003 to 2008 a number of important studies were conducted and reports and submissions published by the CCPA, BC Teachers Federation, BC Federation of Labour, BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, and other researchers, on the content and broad negative impacts of the provincial government’s changes to BC employment standards law and enforcement on vulnerable workers in the period 2001 to 2003. And that most of these studies made recommendations for changes to the government’s policies on employment standards, which taken together could form the basis of a comprehensive progressive worker friendly redrafting of the ESA.

The coalition initiators suggested that over the next two years there was an opportunity to develop model legislation to modernize the ESA in the interests of the vulnerable workers employment standards are intended to protect. And that there was an opportunity to build a broad based coalition and public campaign in support of implementation of a modernized progressive ESA well in advance of the next provincial election so that employment standards can be a well articulated campaign issue.

This initiative received widespread interest and support, and over the next 6 months led to the formation of the BC Employment Standards for the Next Decade Coalition and the adoption in May 2011 of Coalition Terms of Reference.