Minister Tightens Employment Standards Enforcement for B.C. Silviculture Sector

The Employment Standards Branch will conduct targeted payroll audits and field visits this year across the province to ensure silviculture contractors are compliant with the Employment Standards Act.

In a recent letter to the WSCA Minister of Skills Development and Labour Graham Bruce made it clear he would not tolerate continued shirking of the Employment Standards Act’s requirements by some contractors.

At the same time the minister recognized the industry for its recent commitment to health and safety through the BC Safe Silviculture Project. He also applauded the association’s earlier cooperation with government to make the silviculture employment standards regulations more practical and aligned with the sector’s practices.

Concurrent with the minister’s letter Employment Standards Branch Director Pat Cullinane addressed the WSCA conference in January stating that a reallocation of agency resources and the reduction of case backlogs would allow his department to take a more pro-active approach to violations. “Just responding to complaints does not get compliance,” said Cullinane outlining how his staff will audit payrolls and visit worksites as part of a campaign to bring silviculture contractors operating outside the law into compliance.

Among the typical complaints received by the Employment Standards Branch are non-payment of workers, illegal wage offsets for overclaimed trees and quality fines, illegal “bonus” payment systems, failure to meet payroll in full every two weeks, failure to pay minimum wage, failure to adhere to proper shift schedules and overtime payments and failure to pay holiday pay properly.

Tanner Elton CEO of the BC Forest Safety Council said at the conference that, in the future under the Council’s prequalfication process for forestry contracting, firms that do not comply with the Workers Compensation Act and Employment Standards Act will not be eligible to work in the sector for BC Timber Sales and the majority of licensees and forest company agreement holders.

In his letter to the WSCA Minister Bruce included, along with the site visits and audits, increased sharing of work commencement information between government agencies, BC Timber Sales and forest companies. He also called upon the BC Forest Safety Council to conduct a safety review to see if regulatory non-compliance is contributing to unsafe and unhealthy work sites in the industry. Minister Bruce stressed the importance of continuning education regarding employees’ rights and employers’ obligations.

For more information on the Employment Stanards Act’s silviculture regulations brought into effect in 2000 visit: http://www.labour.gov.bc.ca/esb/facshts/silviculture_workers.htm

To read the minister’s letter visit the WSCA website at www.wfca.ca

For more information on the BC Forest Safety Council visit www.bcforestsafe.org