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Union boss takes pay demands to legislature

Nov 17 2011

B.C.'s labour leader took demands for a higher minimum wage, more training resources and better worker compensation to the legislature Wednesday.

B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair said he met with government ministers, Opposition members and independent MLAs to try to push forward better wages and conditions for workers.

It was the first of what he said will become an annual visit to the legislature to push a specific labour agenda.

Premier Christy Clark announced incremental increases to the minimum wage this year, ending almost a 10-year freeze by government. The wage is now $9.50 and will rise to $10.25 by next May.

Sinclair said it should increase further, to $11.25, by next November.

He also said the government should scrap a lower minimum wage for liquor servers because it is "discriminatory."

"Hopefully they've not only changed the minimum wage, they've changed their attitude," Sinclair said of the government.

Labour Minister Margaret MacDiarmid said the government will consider the rate again in 2012, but wants to balance any potential job losses that would occur if the minimum wage was increased too high.

Sinclair also called on the government to fix the province's apprenticeship program, which, he says, lets people obtain jobs without completing full certification.

He called for more resources for the Industry Training Authority, which has a lower completion rate than union trade programs.

Jobs Minister Pat Bell said there has been no drop in training standards and completion rates are twice as high as the 1990s.

"We have significantly increased investment in apprenticeship training, the results are there," said Bell.

Sinclair called on government to increase compensation for workers injured on the job to 100 per cent of their salary, up from the current 90 per cent of net income.

He also brought forward concerns that components of 2008's "Grant's Law," which requires pre-payment at gas stations along with at least two workers during overnight shifts, are being watered down by WorkSafe B.C.

WorkSafe B.C. is proposing to allow only one worker on a night shift as long as there is a security camera, said Sinclair.

MacDiarmid, whose ministry encompasses WorkSafe B.C., said she is aware of the current consultation on the changes, but no conclusions or final decisions have been made.

rshaw@timescolonist.com

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