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Labour & Employment Policy

BC’s changing demographics and shifting employment opportunities present key challenges for employers, such as how to find enough skilled workers, how to adjust to a more diverse and aging workforce and how to comply with workplace regulations. The Council encourages rigorous analysis and proactive policies to address labour issues in advance of marketplace challenges.  The Council also promotes effective relationships between employers and employees by providing information to its members on important labour issues and advising government on policies that affect the workplace.

Working Age People Drive Inter-provincial Migration

After many years of a net inflow of people from other parts of Canada, BC is now in a period of net interprovincial outmigration. As the graph below depicts, net migration tends to cycle up and down, largely reflecting relative economic strength and job opportunities. This is the fourth period of negative interprovincial migration BC has experienced since 1970.

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New Census and National Household Survey Highlight Key Demographic Trends in BC

Statistics Canada has started to release data drawn from its 2011 census and a major National Household Survey which the agency undertook at the same time. The results confirm what most people already know: the population is aging, with the front-end of the baby boom generation having reached 65 in 2011; Canada’s society is urbanizing, as more of us are living in large and mid-sized cities; there are more one-person households, reflecting the high incidence of divorce as well as longer life spans; and the workforce and population are becoming more multi-ethnic, as immigration continues to shape the nation’s demographic profile.

All of these national-level trends are certainly evident in British Columbia.

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Exports, Skills and Incomes

Small open economies depend heavily on trade to stimulate growth, provide employment and sustain incomes. The development of competitive export-oriented industries is particularly important for small regional economies that, by definition, aren’t able to reap the economic advantages associated with having large internal/domestic markets. British Columbia is a good case in point.

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BCBC Publication:
Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada: Separating Fact from Fiction

Human Capital Policy and Law Volume 3, Issue 3

The increase in the number of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in Canada has sparked controversy and prompted a fair amount of unfavourable commentary over the past year or so. Some union leaders have suggested that foreign workers here on a temporary basis are displacing Canadians from jobs and distorting local labour markets. A few academic commentators have probed and raises questions about the legal rights and status of TFWs. In contrast, many business leaders point to the challenges companies face in finding people to fill jobs, notably in some regions, and argue that TFWs are often essential to their operations. Temporary foreign workers are also frequently sought for specific skills which may not be sufficiently available in the Canadian market.

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Finlayson Op-Ed: Temporary Foreign Workers: Facts and Fiction (Vancouver Sun)

Canada has a long tradition of attracting immigrants to become permanent residents.  Immigration in many ways built the country and did much to stimulate economic growth in the post-war era.  The context for international migration, however, is changing.  Greater international mobility, instant access to information from around the world, and growing cross-border flows of goods, services and knowledge have all made international migration a possibility for a rising share of the world’s population.  The result is an increase in the volume and types of movement of people between jurisdictions.  Today, this includes substantial numbers of “temporary” migrants who come to relatively affluent countries like Canada for work or education.

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A Review of Trends in Union Density

An examination of the evolution of the position of trade unions in the overall labour market underscores the challenges facing the union movement in British Columbia and Canada as a whole. The term “union density” is used to track the proportion of paid workers who are covered by a collective agreement. It can be thought of as a proxy for the “market share” of unions within the employed workforce, excluding people who are classified as self-employed.

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Examining Youth Unemployment Levels

As Canada and other industrialized countries struggle to return to a sustainable economic growth trajectory following the steep downturn of 2008-09, the difficulties being felt in the job market are proving particularly painful for young adults.

Youth unemployment rates have surged in many countries since 2008 – and have reached truly frightening levels in parts of Europe.  Across the 17 countries that comprise the common currency Eurozone, unemployment among those aged 15 to 24 stands at 25%.  In Greece and Spain, the figure exceeds 50%, while Italy and Portugal are grappling with youth unemployment rates in the vicinity of 35%.  

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Finlayson: Canada's job machine is robust (Vancouver Sun)

Canada’s jobs machine is chugging along nicely even as the nation’s economy appears to be losing a step. Statistics Canada’s latest labour force survey reports that 51,000 jobs were created in February, far more than economic forecasters were anticipating.

On a six-month moving average basis, employment gains have been averaging 30,000 per month. The unemployment rate remained steady at seven per cent in February, as the number of labour force entrants offset the new positions created.

Drilling down into the data, private sector employment rose by 30,000 last month; since September 2012, Canadian businesses have been expanding their payrolls by 20,000 a month. By industry, job gains were concentrated in service-producing sectors, with professional, scientific and technical services and accommodation and foodservices emerging as notable hot spots. Manufacturing employment sagged and continues to trail the economy-wide job growth rate.

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Mental Disorder Claims Under the Workers' Compensation Act
- A Human Resources/Labour Relations Perspective

Section 5.1 of the Workers’ Compensation Act (the WCA) was enacted effective July 1, 2012. The intent of the revision was to expand the scope of mental disorder claims arising out of and in the course of employment which would be accepted as compensable under the WCA. One aspect of this expanded coverage involves a mental disorder claim by a worker that “is predominantly caused by a significant work-related stressor, including bullying or harassment, or a cumulative series of significant work-related stressors, arising out of and in the course of the worker’s employment.”

An immediate concern for employers from the implementation of Section 5.1 was an anticipated significant increase in mental disorder claims that would be filed by workers with WorkSafe BC. For those employer representatives responsible for administering compensation claims, it is expected that dealing with mental disorder claims may well evolve into a significant component of their work responsibilities.

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Canada's Economic Immigration Program to be Transformed

The Conservative government is embarking on a major overhaul of Canada’s economic immigration program. The new approach will give employers a greatly elevated role in the immigration process and hopefully reduce lengthy delays that have long plagued the immigration system. If it runs as anticipated, the revamped program should help deliver skilled immigrants to sectors and regions of the country where they are needed – and do so faster.

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Post-Secondary Education A Key Determinant of Economic Success

Human Capital Law and Policy       v2 n4
Reports from the BC Progress Board and the recent Commission on Reform of Ontario’s Public Services underscore some important facts about globalization and the acceleration of the knowledge economy: people are our most important economic asset – more important than resources, more important than financial capital.

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Jock Finlayson: The future of Canadian unions is bleak

Recent news that two of Canada’s biggest unions are contemplating joining forces points to the challenges confronting trade unions in today’s hyper-competitive economy.

The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) are looking at merging to enhance their bargaining power and their ability to advance the interests of their members. In late August, the CAW formally voted to combine with the CEP, which itself will take up the matter in the fall.

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BC More Than Holding Its Own Amid Global Economic Turbulence

At a time of pronounced global uncertainty, BC's economy continues to grow at a decent pace and to outperform many other North American provinces and states. Although there are significant downside risks, BC's economy remains quite resilient with a rapidly shrinking deficit, an increasingly diversified export sector and steady population growth.

Over the 2010-2011 period, BC’s real economic growth averaged 3% - the fourth strongest in Canada and among the top jurisdictions in North America. Although growth will ease over the coming 18 months, this resilience will help to sustain provincial economic activity and keep BC in a relatively strong position even in the face of weaker international conditions.

The Business Council's mid year economic review and outlook anticipates that BC’s economy will grow by 2.0% for 2012 and 2.2% for 2013. Relative to our January outlook there is no change in the forecast for this year, but we have trimmed our growth projection for 2013 due to global turbulence and a slower local housing market.

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Industrial Relations Bulletin

This publication is available to members only.
For more information please contact info@bcbc.com.

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Public Sector pensions are sure to be reviewed

By Jock Finlayson, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer, Business Council of British Columbia
With governments across the country addressing budget deficits pushed higher by the 2008-09 recession, attention is turning to the pay levels of employees in the public sec-tor and how these compare with private-sector practices.

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Class Action Litigation - A New Tool for Union Organizing?

Human Capital Law and Policy       v2 n3
On March 5, 2012, the BC Supreme Court certified a class action, brought on behalf of temporary foreign workers recruited to work in a Denny’s Restaurant franchise in Vancouver: Dominguez v. Northland Properties Corp (COB Denny’s Restaurants). The lawsuit alleged that recruiting companies engaged by the Denny’s franchisee charged agency fees contrary to the Employment Standards Act, and claimed damages, aggravated damages and punitive damages against the franchisee for breach of contract in failing to pay overtime and provide 40 hours of work per week as promised, as well as breach of fiduciary duty, a duty of good faith and fair dealing, and unjust enrichment.

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2012 Federal Budget: Some Key Issues for Employers

Human Capital Law and Policy      v2 n2
The 2012 federal budget tabled by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on March 29 included a number of measures of interest to Canadian employers. In this issue of Human Capital Law and Policy, we note the key features of the budget from an employer perspective and comment briefly on the implications of the policy directions signaled by the government.

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Manufacturing: An Overlooked but Important Industry in the Lower Mainland

Policy Perspectives       v19 n1
Manufacturing is a significant but underemphasized part of the Lower Mainland’s diverse economy. Because the region does not have a single high-profile manufacturing company (such as Boeing in the Seattle area) or a dominant industry cluster, manufacturing is often overlooked. However, the sector deserves attention because it occupies a sizable place in the region’s economy and is a key source of exports to other markets.

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So You Think You're Not The Employer...

Human Capital Law and Policy       v2 n1
Many organizations arrange their corporate affairs and relationships to minimize the extent to which they will be viewed as an “employer” of the individuals with whom they have a working relationship. The success of such attempts, however, will depend not only on the details of the arrangement, but also on the forum in which the relationship is being examined. A relationship that might be viewed as employer-employee in one setting might not be seen the same way in another.

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How Big (and What Is) the 'Green Economy'?
The Challenge of Counting 'Green Jobs' in BC

Environment and Energy Bulletin       v4 n1
“Having announced the imminent arrival of the green economy, we’re scrambling to define exactly what that means…”
The above quote neatly sums up the current conundrum about what many people now refer to as the “green” or “clean” economy: although the idea is much celebrated, it is hard to pin down in a satisfactory way. Politicians, media commentators, and non-governmental organizations routinely laud the potential to create thousands of new “green jobs.” Shortly after taking office, US President Barak Obama proclaimed, “As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of jobs - but only if we accelerate that transition.” Closer to home, former Premier Gordon Campbell championed the idea of BC as a North American leader in developing and selling clean (carbon-free) energy. British Columbia’s pioneering economy-wide carbon tax, the first of its kind in North America, was linked to an expectation of robust growth in “green” industries and related gains in employment. At the municipal level, political leaders in the City of Vancouver are convinced that the green sector is destined to drive the region’s economy and foster the development of tens of thousands of new, high-paying jobs.

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