VICTORIA - Minister of Labour, Citizens' Services and Open Government Margaret MacDiarmid issued the following statement today in recognition of Labour Day:
"It is with great sadness that I reflect upon the last year and note that not every worker went home safely at the end of their working day. The deaths and injuries experienced, including those in the mill explosions in Burns Lake and Prince George, were terrible tragedies and the impact on the families, friends and communities of the victims and the injured continues. No legislation, findings or penalties can ever compensate survivors or bring their loved ones back; however, we must look at and learn from every tragedy and take action where more work needs to be done.
"In respect of sawmill safety, our government acted quickly to bring together industry representatives to create a task force that encouraged regular public disclosure of updates on inspections and timely alerts to industry on possible hazards discovered through the course of WorkSafeBC's investigations. I am looking forward to seeing the final investigation reports so we can see what further actions must be taken.
"Over the last year we have also made a number of legislative and regulatory changes that improve the working environment in B.C.
"This spring, we made significant changes to the Workers Compensation Act to ensure our workers' compensation system remains responsive to both workers and employers. These changes provide compensation for mental-health disorders caused by significant workplace stressors, including bullying and harassment - a change that was supported by the Canadian Mental Health Association B.C. Division. The legislation also included changes for injured apprentices and learners so that workers' compensation better reflects their actual wage loss.
"We also passed the Emergency Intervention Disclosure Act this spring, which gives emergency workers the ability to access information about potential exposure to disease. This act is an important piece of legislation that gives peace of mind to our province's first responders.
"Not all changes were made solely by legislation. In May, British Columbia's general minimum wage was raised to $10.25 and is now among the highest minimum wages in Canada - ensuring that workers in minimum-wage positions bring in a fair salary for the hard work they do, and can continue to support their families. With the three increases implemented since May 2011, workers earning minimum wage will have up to $4,000 extra in their pockets every year.
"As well, we made another change that will see the second Monday in February become the newest statutory holiday in B.C. We received input from thousands of British Columbians on Family Day, a process that signaled a major change in how people interact with their government. In fact, people have never had so many opportunities to engage on issues that matter to them. I anticipate these opportunities will increase in the coming months and years, as we look to citizens for more input on how we can ensure our workplace legislation keeps up with the pace of change.
"Today's workforce and business environment is different from years past. Indeed, much of the work done in British Columbia today is fast-paced, technologically complex and necessarily service-oriented. Even resource-based industries like manufacturing and forestry have evolved and responded to new technologies and processes. The 21st-century workplace is quickly evolving and we need to ensure government is working to create and maintain an environment where workers and businesses alike can prosper and ultimately families can benefit.
"On this day, we honour and salute all working British Columbians for their efforts and thank them for making this a better province."
Ministry of Labour, Citizens' Services and Open Government