April 11, 2022

B.C. Government Re-Introduces Automatic Union Certification

On April 6, 2022, the Government of British Columbia introduced Bill 10 to amend the Labour Relations Code (the “Code”). The proposed changes to the Code will re-introduce a single-step certification process which enables unions to be certified, without a vote, where 55% or more employees in the proposed bargaining unit have signed union cards. If 45% to 55% of employees sign union cards prior to the union making an application for certification, the Labour Relations Board (the “Board”) must still hold a secret ballot representation vote to determine whether the employees wish to unionize.

B.C. has alternated between card based and vote based certification models since 1973. During the period of 1973 to 1984, and again between 1993 and 2001, unions could be automatically certified without the requirement for a vote by demonstrating 55% support of the employees in the proposed bargaining unit. The current two-step system that has been in place since 2001 requires a secret ballot vote of the employees in the proposed bargaining unit prior to certification.  This two-step system was also in place between 1984 and 1993.

Additionally, the proposed amendments will permit employees in the construction industry to switch their choice of union to represent them during the period of July and August of each year. Existing provisions of the Code prevent construction employees from changing unions for a period of three years from the date of the initial certification. The proposed amendments to the Code will make it easier for unions to organize employees at a workplace.  However, these changes may also lead to many employees not having the opportunity to participate in the decision to become unionized.

Bill 10 passed first reading on April 6, 2022 and is likely to pass third reading and be proclaimed into law. Consequently, the changes to the Code will likely lead to an increase in union organizing activity and potentially impact construction industry employers this summer.

Please contact one of the lawyers in our Vancouver or Victoria offices if you have any questions regarding the potential impact of these amendments on your business.


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