|2002/03 Annual Service
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
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
- 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)
Core Business Areas
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 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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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,