British Columbia, Canada: Bill 10, the Labour Relations Code Amendment Act, 2022 Proposes Automatic Card-check Certification System

UPDATE: On June 2, 2022, Bill 10 – 2022: Labour Relations Code Amendment Act, 2022 received Royal Assent and it became law.

Bill 10, the Labour Relations Code Amendment Act, 2022, introduced on April 6, 2022, would make significant amendments to British Columbia’s Labour Relations Code (LRC).

Two Possible Paths to Union Certification

If Bill 10 is passed in its current form, there will be two possible paths to union certification, one that involves only one step and another that involves two.  The availability of each path will depend on how much support exists within the bargaining unit.  Under the first path, a union will be certified in a single step without a vote by automatic or “card-check” certification where 55% or more of the employees in the proposed bargaining unit sign union membership cards.  Under the second path, if union membership cards are signed by at least 45% and up to 55% of the employees, a secret ballot vote must be held by the Labour Relations Board (LRB) to determine employees’ wishes.  In addition, in its current form, Bill 10 provides that after applying to certify a bargaining unit, a union may request that a secret ballot representation vote be taken before the LRB determines whether the bargaining unit is appropriate.  The ballots will be sealed and not counted while the LRB makes this determination. 

Currently, the process to certify a union under the LRC involves two steps.  First, at least 45% of the employees in the proposed bargaining unit must sign union membership cards.  Once this has occurred, the union must file a certification application with the LRB.  When the LRB confirms the union has obtained the necessary threshold, it must order a secret ballot representation vote.  The LRB must certify the union if a majority of employees in the proposed unit votes in favour of the union, and if it is satisfied that the proposed unit is appropriate.  The current two-step system has been in place in British Columbia since 2001. 

Amendments Impacting the Construction Sector

If Bill 10 is passed in its current form, employees in the construction sector will have the right to switch unions annually.  Currently, construction employees may not change unions for a period of three years. 

Bottom Line for Employers

An automatic card-check certification process is currently available in only a few Canadian jurisdictions (Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Quebec), and to employers that are federally regulated.  If Bill 10 is passed in its current form, British Columbia will join this relatively small group and its unions will have a path to certification that is faster and simpler than the current two-step process.  By removing the secret ballot representation vote, British Columbia may, however, be exposing employees to being coerced into signing union membership cards so that the threshold of 55% of employees in the bargaining unit can be met, leaving them without the freedom to vote by secret ballot as they truly wish.  Furthermore, by allowing construction employees to switch unions annually rather than every three years, Bill 10 may expose construction projects to disruption caused by annual “raids” by other unions, i.e., the replacement of one union by another.

Bill 10 passed first reading on April 6, 2022.1  We will monitor Bill 10 as it makes its way through the legislative process, report on whether any significant amendments are made, and advise when it becomes law.

See Footnotes

1 Next, Bill 10 will be debated at second reading, and a vote will be taken to decide if it will proceed to the committee stage, where the Bill will be debated and amendments will possibly be proposed.  The Committee will then report the bill as complete, with or without amendments.  At third reading, the Legislature will pass the bill as it has been reported by the committee. Upon Royal Assent being received, Bill 10 will become law. 

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.