Ministry 2002/03 Annual Service Plan Report -- Government of British Columbia.
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2002/03 Annual Service Plan Report
Ministry of Skills Development and Labour

Ministry Role and Services

Ministry Vision, Mission and Values


A modern work environment for British Columbians that encourages innovation, rewards creative thinking and increases productivity. Employees and employers are treated fairly and equitably. A prosperous British Columbia where employers and employees have confidence in the future.


Our mission is to create an employment environment with dynamic workplaces that meet the needs of workers, employers and unions. Vulnerable workers will be protected. We will ensure that British Columbians have the tools they need to foster working relationships in safe and healthy workplaces. We will develop programs and legislation that contribute to provincial competitiveness and prosperity.


The following values will be integral to achieving the goals of the Ministry of Skills Development and Labour:

  • We seek fair and balanced workplaces in all sectors and will ensure that all related ministry decisions are made in a consistent, professional, fair and balanced manner.
  • We support a competitive business environment that attracts investment to British Columbia and retains our skilled employees.
  • We will protect the most vulnerable workers in the province and ensure they are treated equitably, compassionately and respectfully.
  • We will encourage small business to prosper through simple and streamlined processes.
  • We adhere to sound fiscal responsibility and management and the implementation of affordable public policies.
  • We value the hard work and expertise of all ministry employees.

Ministry Operating Context

Approximately two million people were employed in B.C. in 2002. Almost 354,000 worked in the broader public sector, more than 1.2 million worked in the private sector and approximately 370,000 were self-employed. In the same year, about 600,000 B.C. employees were members of trade unions. Small business in B.C. grew by 48 per cent between 1991 and 2001. Currently, 47 per cent of employed British Columbians work in small businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

Within this context, the ministry continued in 2002/03 to build on initiatives set forth in the 2002/03 service plan. There were no fundamental changes in direction from the goals and courses of action detailed in last year's annual report.

Update on New Era Commitments

Many of the New Era commitments for which the ministry is responsible were completed in 2001/02. As fully detailed in the Year-at-a-Glance Highlights section and in the description of core business areas below, substantial work was done during 2002/03 towards achieving the following remaining commitments:

  • Give workers and employers greater flexibility in employment standards to negotiate mutually beneficial relationships that help them compete and prosper;
  • Make the Workers' Compensation Board more responsive to the needs of workers and employers alike.

Ministry Structure (March 2003)

Link to Ministry Structure (March 2003). Link to Ministry Structure (March 2003).


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Core Business Areas

Industrial Relations

The ministry's industrial relations activities aim to provide fairly administered industrial relations models. The ministry oversees the Labour Relations Code (LRC), which sets a framework for the rights of employees to choose trade union representation, collective bargaining between employers and trade unions in unionized workplaces, and mechanisms to address changes in the employment structure of the workplace.

The LRC establishes the Labour Relations Board (LRB) as an independent tribunal to establish and regulate relationships between employers, trade unions and employees, and to resolve disputes arising in those relationships through mediation and adjudication. As a quasi-judicial tribunal, the LRB's ability to deal with industrial relations disputes is faster and more efficient than the courts. The LRB also provides alternate dispute resolution services which focus on assisting parties in resolving collective bargaining disputes. It also assists parties in improving labour relations, conflict prevention and resolving contractual disputes during the term of a collective agreement. Votes ordered under the provisions of the LRC are supervised by staff from the Employment Standards Branch (ESB).

The ministry actively monitors the industrial relations environment in B.C. Self-reliance in resolving disputes through free collective bargaining is encouraged, but occasionally the ministry plays a direct role in helping parties to settle difficult disputes. This helps maintain industrial relations stability — particularly when the public may be adversely affected by a dispute. For example, the Minister may appoint a mediator or special mediator to work with the parties, appoint a commission to report on the issues involved in a dispute, or direct the LRB to designate essential services.

Additionally, the Minister and ministry staff provide assistance to other ministries responsible for addressing health, education and social services concerns in the development of labour relations legislation.

Workplace Programs (Employment Standards)

The employment standards activities aim to increase compliance with the Employment Standards Act and to foster fair, productive and harmonious workplaces that promote prosperous businesses, quality working lives and a strong, growing economy.

The ESB administers the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and regulation, which set minimum standards of wage payments, overtime, vacation, statutory holidays, leaves, compensation for length of service, hours of work, employment of children and licensing of certain employment services.

In addition to enforcing the legislation, the branch provides education, training and early intervention to ensure all parties in the workplace are aware of their rights and responsibilities and the enforcement of legislation.

Branch staff answer employee and employer inquiries, receive and address complaints of contraventions, and deliver professional, neutral mediation services to assist parties to come to a mutually satisfactory resolution to workplace disputes. Where resolution is not possible, the branch adjudicates disputes under the act and issues a decision (Determination).

The branch carries out sector-specific enforcement in areas identified as having greater difficulties with compliance.

The ministry also addresses sector-specific issues to promote a more prosperous economy while protecting vulnerable workers. These include the development of sector-focused regulations such as oil and gas, agriculture, mining, forestry, silviculture and the film industry.

The Employment Standards Tribunal (EST) aims to provide timely, efficient and neutral resolution of appeals of ESB Determinations. The EST is an independent quasi-judicial tribunal. Its decisions are final and conclusive.


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Workers' Compensation

The ministry oversees the Workers Compensation Act (WCA), which sets out the workers' compensation system for B.C., provides a framework to protect workers by promoting safe and healthy workplaces, and establishes the Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) as an independent statutory agency to administer the WCA. The ministry's role is to ensure that the workers' compensation system is responsive to the needs of employees and employers alike. This includes setting standards for the Workers' Advisers Office and the Employers' Advisers Office.

The WCA was amended in spring 2002 to establish a new governing structure to oversee the operation of the WCB. The first appointments to the new board were made in the fall of 2002. The directors will be responsible for WCB's performance measures and standards and implementing service delivery improvements recommended by Allan Hunt.

As an independent statutory agency, the WCB provides compensation services including wage-loss benefits and vocational rehabilitation to workers suffering injury or disease.

It creates and enforces provincial workplace health and safety regulations. The board is wholly funded by employer payroll assessments.

An appeal system is available to workers and employers involved in the workers' compensation system. In spring 2002, following review of the workers' compensation system and administrative justice tribunals, legislation was introduced to make the appeal system more responsive to the needs of employees and employers. The legislation, modified slightly and passed in the fall 2002 sitting of the legislature, provides for a two-level appeal system consisting of an internal review by a new WCB department and an independent external appeal to a new Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal.

The Workers' Advisers and Employers' Advisers offices are administered by the ministry and provide support and advisory services to workers and employers involved in the workers' compensation system. The Workers' Advisers and Employers' Advisers offices are funded by employers through the accident fund.

A review of WCB policies and operations took place in fall 2001, with a report and recommendations made to the Minister in February 2002. Legislative amendments in spring 2002 introduced a number of changes in the compensation paid to injured workers. Further potential changes relating to occupational health and safety, benefits for the surviving family members of deceased workers, and rights of an estate are expected in a future session.

Skills Development/Industry Adjustment

The ministry has two areas of business related to skills development. The first is the development of a provincial human resource strategy that focuses on potential skill shortages that would undermine economic growth and the second is participating in the development of a youth employment strategy.

In June 2001, the ministry was tasked with developing a provincial human resource strategy in partnership with the Ministry of Competition, Science and Enterprise. The focus of the strategy is to ensure that labour market planning issues are clearly linked to economic priorities, and that there are mechanisms in place to anticipate future skill shortage situations. The ministry has worked with the following agencies in the development of the strategy: Ministry of Competition, Science and Enterprise; Ministry of Advanced Education; Ministry of Education; Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Women's Services; Ministry of Human Resources; Ministry of Health Services; the Intergovernmental Relations Secretariat; and the Public Sector Employers' Council.

In the fall and winter of 2002, ministry staff held discussions with eight key sectoral groups around the province. The goal was to canvass employers for their views on the labour market balance today, the upcoming skills shortage and the impact it would have on their business, if any. Ministry staff have also engaged in similar discussions with labour market experts in academic institutions to gather the most recent research and expert opinions on skills shortages within B.C.

To date, a framework of business strategies that could be adopted to address both cyclic and structural skills shortages has been developed. These business practices range from recruitment and compensation practices, which could help ease labour shortages in the short-term, to investment in training and succession planning, which will have longer-term benefits.

The ministry is participating as a member of the 2010 Winter Games Human Resources Planning Committee. This committee has been charged with developing a Human Resources Strategy for the Games, should B.C. win the bid. Ministry analysis and expertise on labour market issues is one of the key inputs for the development of the strategy.

The ministry has also assisted the Public Sector Employers' Council in the development of a labour market planning template that could help public service employers anticipate and avert specific skill shortages.

The ministry does not have new funding for any programs related to this area. Future work on implementation of this strategy will require cabinet decision.

The ministry is continuing to work jointly with the Ministry of Competition, Science and Enterprise on a youth employment strategy for British Columbia, and to monitor the state of youth unemployment.

In January, 2002, the ministry announced that administration and funding of Industrial Adjustment Services was no longer a core service for the ministry. These services have been phased out, and related funding and staffing allocations were completed by September 30, 2002.


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