Nov. 25, 2022
VICTORIA, B.C. – Members of the BC workers advocacy group, the Worker Solidarity Network and a person dressed as Santa Claus will assemble in front of the BC Employment Standards Branch (ESB) office on 880 Douglas Street on Friday morning at 11 AM, offering mock cheques to passers-by to call attention to the lack of funding given to the Branch by the BC government.
This demonstration follows the group’s Justice Denied campaign and joint report with the BC Employment Standards Coalition, which reported that over 80% of workers in the private sector had no employment rights relating to wages, benefits, and other basic working conditions. As well, the excessive wait times ranging from six months up to three years in some cases for workers to obtain justice for workplace violations via the Branch have resulted in some workers losing housing, fired without just cause, or waiting to be paid thousands of dollars in missing wages.
The misclassification of workers to skirt the ESA also exacerbates the long wait times. “When B.C. workers face an issue like wage theft or being misclassified as an ‘independent contractor,’ they might have to wait a year just to hear back from the BC Employment Standards Branch,” says Anelyse Weiler, Assistant Professor at University of Victoria. “Low-wage workers are hit the hardest. This is especially tough amid inflation and a looming recession.”
In August 2022, the provincial government recognized these failures. In its Report on the Budget 2023 Consultation, the province’s Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services made a call for additional funding for the ESB for the hiring and training of staff to shorten wait times and increase proactive investigation. In addition, to prevent employers from misclassifying workers to skirt the ESA, the same report called for amending legislation to ensure workers in the gig economy are properly classified as employees rather than independent contractors and covered by the ESA, with targeted funding provided to the ESB for compliance.
The Worker Solidarity Network calls on the provincial government to follow up on these recommendations: increase the annual funding for the Employment Standards Branch by at least $14 million, along with adequate training for Branch staff to address the ESB’s failures.
WSN Interim Executive Director
Phone: (705) 698-6380 – Available for Comment
WSN Communications Coordinator