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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - January 28, 1975, Lethbridge, Alberta 14-THE LETHBRIDGE HERALD-Tuesday, January B.C. labor code prompts optimism VANCOUVER (CP) British Columbia employers shuddered and unions protested when the New Democratic Party government unveiled a new labor code late in 1973. "It gives unions too much complained businessmen in a province where 42 per cent of the work force is organized. "It doesn't go far retorted union leaders. After a year under the code, the reactions of both sides were cautiously positive, although spokesmen were quick to suggest improvements. There have been com- plaints and more are ex- pected because some of the most controversial sec- tions of the code still are to be proclaimed. But generally business and labor agree that the climate of industrial relations in B.C. has im- proved. An indicator of this is that the amount of time lost due to strikes and lockouts in the first six months of 1974 was down substantially from the record total in 1972. Despite the soaring cost of living and union demands for interim wage increases, time lost to the end of June totalled man-days. During the first half of 1972-like 1974 a heavy bargaining year in man-days were lost in work stop- pages. Current figures include a nine-week construction strike and a walkout earlier this summer in the important lumber industry. The new code replaced three Labor "WMrtSOOD SERVICE It AUTOMATIC" AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION "LTD. PtaM 327-0910 1S20 3rd S. Guaranteed Servicing Rebuilding'and Exchange Relations Act, the Media- tion Services Act and the Trade Union had angered labor under the former Social Credit government. A key change gave a re- vised labor relations board broader powers to deal with industrial disputes, including exclusive jurisdiction over regulations concerning strikes, lockouts and picketing: That change took away the courts' power to order exparte injunctions against strikes and move welcomed by unions, which for years have com- plained about court intervention. The new law prohibits strike-breaking, offers em- ployees security against technological change, gives the board powers to impose first contracts and, in theory, makes certifica- tion and organizing easier for unions. Employers worried that the law would give unions the upper hand. Labor complained that many of their proposals for change were ignored. Labor Minister Bill King, a member of two railway unions before entering politics, said the labor code generally is working out well. "It is difficult for people Semen Tanks filled with liquid nitrogen every day, Monday to Friday Private storage of Semen forget keeping your own tank filled until breeding season. Custom Collection of Semen for your own use. Semen Available from outstanding bulls of all breeds. Specialists in Superior Semen Phont 328-9671 who have so long been op- posed to the government to react in any way but nega- he said. "Some people are prepared to dig in, then they find out it isn't so bad. "It's important we address ourselves to the solution of problems rather than prohibitions in in- dustrial relations." The government has broadened its range of weapons in the settlement of industrial disputes. Both labor and business spokesmen said they fa- vored policy changes that provide for more mediation, industrial in- quiries and ministerial intervention. "The old government just stayed out until the last minute and then im- posed compulsory ar- one union spokesman said. In one case, however, the government has had to do some backtracking. The labor code gave the right to strike to firemen, police and hospital employees and provided for voluntary binding arbitration in dis- putes involving those workers. But that section "backfired in early August when firemen in four Van- couver suburbs went on strike. An emergency ses- sion of the legislature forc- ed the 289 men back to their jobs by providing for a 21-day cooling-of f period. It also forced the firemen into a council of unions, which includes the Vancouver local, for future bargaining. Me. King admitted that the dispute showed a weakness in the new code but said action had to be taken to protect the safety of the public. The strike brought criticism from both enemies and friends of the government. Critics said the right to strike should be taken away from essential ser- vices, while a spokesman for the B.C. Federation of Labor said his organization does not like to see coun- cils of trade unions impos- ed on labor. While both union and business spokesmen had their specific complaints, nearly all said industrial relations have improved under the new code. Said William Hamilton, president of the Employers' Council of B.C.: "We have a very positive view of the labor relations board. We're not happy with all their decisions but at least the board produces reasons for its decisions so we can examine the body of law that is being built up and appeal findings more intelligently. "In nearly every case the findings of the board have been unanimous." Mr. Hamilton, a former federal postmaster- general, also said there has been a good vjorking relationship between Mr. business gener- ally. He said he approves of Mr. King's method of dealing with problems on a case by -cas'e basis. The businessmen have reservations about a sec- tion, proclaimed recently, that would allow picketing of "allies" of employers. These are defined as com- panies that supply goods or provide services to struck companies. But Mr. Hamilton said he would be careful about con- demning sections of the act that have not yet been given a chance to work. "There is more that is positive than negative so far in the operation of the labor code." Chuck Connaghan, presi- the B.C. Construc- tion Labor Relations Association, said "on balance" the code is good but had strong reserva- tions about proposed tech- nological change provisions. "The government didn't recognize particular problems of the construc- tion he said. "The legislation was put in by people who know nothing about technological change." Mr. Connaghan said the definition of change is too broad and covers almost everything that goes on in the industry. He foresaw a multitude of jurisdictiona! fights between unions and difficulties as new materials and methods are introduced. "If painters are put out of work because an owner of an office building wants carpets on the walls, does that constitute a technological change? Under the definition, it could." Cy Stairs, head of the B.C. Construction Trades, said the new code does not make it easier for construction unions to organize members on work sites. "The code was almost to- tally written by specialists without much reference to the labor movement. It is not the code we had hoped for and made represen- tations for." An official of the B.C. Federation of Labor said the code has improved the industrial climate. "This year could have been one of the worst for bargaining." But the federation op- posed, among other things, exclusion from bargaining of farm workers and domestics, the imposition of trade union councils, and the right of employees to stay out of unions for religious reasons. For provincial govern- ment employees, the com- bination of the new labor code and a Public Service Labor Relations Act has given them bargaining rights for the first time. John Fryer, general secretary of the B.C. Government Employees' Union, said his members now work under the best public employee legisla- tion in North America. While pensions are not a negotiable item, and that bothers the union, Mr. Fryer said its members are committed to making the new laws work. The government and the union already have worked out a master agreement and bargaining units now are negotiating more specific contract terms. ANNOUNCEMENT CIGAS PRODUCTS LTD. ARE PLEASED TO WELCOME ROBERT (Bob) ERB Ai our MrvM tor the wWi ClgM mm yew wHh Clgas Products Ltd. 2810 5th AirmiM North, Phent 328-6667 ;