By Harry Bains, Minister of Labour
The past year has been an exciting time for our province, our community and our workforce.
I am proud of what has been accomplished in our government’s first year in office and one year into having a standalone Ministry of Labour. We’re working for you – to make life more affordable, improve services we all count on, and create good jobs and a strong, sustainable economy that benefits all of us.
As Minister of Labour, my priorities are to support worker health and safety, and ensure employment standards are fair, respectful and reflect our society’s needs.
One of my first tasks was to create the Fair Wages Commission. Through its work, we now have a reasonable and predictable path to a minimum wage of more than $15 an hour, by 2021. Over the six months ahead, there is an agricultural economist looking at the piece rates for farm workers who harvest by hand – an overly complicated system. The commission is also looking at the difference between minimum wages and liveable wages, and how we can close that gap.
I am committed to making B.C.’s workplaces the safest in Canada, because all workers deserve to go home safe and healthy at the end of the day. But when injuries or deaths do occur, workers and their families must be treated with fairness, compassion, respect and dignity. That’s why we have made a number of changes at WorkSafeBC, to bring a fresh perspective and a worker-centric focus to the organization and the services they provide to workers.
We have taken action to modernize important labour legislation to support all workers in our province. There are currently independent reviews underway of the Labour Relations Code and the Employment Standards Act, to identify updates that are needed to modernize our laws and address the changing nature of today’s workplaces.
One of my first priorities in the year ahead will be to establish a temporary foreign workers registry, to help prevent exploitation of vulnerable workers by abusive employers and recruiters. Our workforce is bolstered by international workers and they often become new Canadians who, like many in our own community, contribute to B.C.’s economy, diversity and strength.
We are making important investments in the future of our province. We are building new schools, hospitals, roads and homes, creating affordable child care spaces, and improving health care and community services. Some of these projects will be built through community benefits agreements that focus on employment and training opportunities for local workers, right where they live.
Our government has taken its first steps to make life better for the people of British Columbia. There’s more work to be done, but I am proud of what we’ve accomplished in our first year, and I thank everyone who is contributing to this journey.