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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.

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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A Snapshot of Incomes in British Columbia

Policy Perspectives       v18 n5
While economists often seem preoccupied with somewhat abstract indicators like gross domestic product, productivity and current account balances, arguably the economic variable of most interest to people is income. As defined by Statistics Canada (and similar agencies in other countries), income has two key components: 1) the “market incomes” received by individuals and households from employment, savings, investments, occupational pensions, rents, and entrepreneurial activity; and 2) “government transfers” such as social assistance, pensions, unemployment insurance, and the GST tax credit, which are remitted directly to households by the state.

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EI Rate Consultation - Are Employers Paying True Insurance Premiums?

Human Capital Law and Policy       v1 n3
On August 18, 2011 the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board (CEIFB) put out a call for consultation as to how the EI rate-setting mechanism could be improved, with submissions due by November 30, 2011. The technical aspects of EI rate-setting may not be top-of-mind for most BC businesses. However, there are aspects of the Employment Insurance program, including rate-setting, that raise significant cost issues for business that should not be ignored.

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Immigration Consultation - Employers Need to Respond

Human Capital Law and Policy       v1 n2
On August 29, 2011, the Federal Government, under Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney, launched an online public consultation process seeking stakeholder input related to Canada’s immigration program. The consultation process provides an interesting starting point for a discussion of the policy considerations that underlie immigration to Canada and the nature of our current system. It also provides an impetus for employers and business leaders to take an active role in shaping not only immigration policy, but the successful implementation of the policy.

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B.C. Human Rights Tribunal Changes - Will They Be Enough?

Human Capital Law and Policy       v1 n1
On August 26, 2011, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal reached out to its stakeholders for feedback and recommendations with respect to any issues or concerns. A broad invitation indeed. However, the invitations is in the context of a request – it is not clear from whom – that the Tribunal "undertake a broad review of its policies, procedures and practices with a view to assessing and improving its process from a variety of perspectives". While any review designed to improve the Tribunal’s processes is welcomed, the employer community might well be concerned, given what has occurred over the last year, that hoped-for amendments to the Human Rights Code may end here, with a review of Tribunal processes.

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Temporary Foreign Workers in British Columbia

Policy Perspectives       v18 n3
Canada has a long tradition of attracting immigrants to become permanent residents. Immigration built the country and is the foundation for much of the growth in the post WWII era. The context for international migration, however, is changing and being reshaped. The globalization of labour markets, instant access to information from around the world, greater connectivity and reduced transportation costs, and the expansion of trade have all made international migration a possibility for a larger share of the world’s population than in the past. The result is a significant increase in the volume and types of movement between many jurisdictions. While permanent population movements still dominate migration patterns to advanced countries, there are now greater numbers of temporary movements for work and education-related reasons. While Canadian international migration policy remains focused on permanent settlement, the shifting global landscape, an aging domestic workforce, a large number of major projects in the pipeline, the growing need for highly specialized skills, and regional labour disparities all point to a greater role for temporary workers in B.C. in many sectors.

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How are Unions Faring in Today's Economy?

The month of September heralds Labour Day, making it an opportune time to review the place of trade unions in today’s increasingly complex economy. Trade unions remain an important factor in British Columbia. But their influence is waning, particularly in the private sector. This is starkly evident in the data on “union density” – the share of all workers who belong to a trade union. Falling union density is a well-established trend in British Columbia and other provinces, as well as in the United States. In 2006, 30.2 per cent of paid employees in BC were unionized. By 2009, the share had fallen to 29.1 per cent.

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