British Columbia, the most heavily unionized province in Canada, has suffered decades of public and private sector labor strife. In April 1987, the Social Credit government of B.C. Premier Bill Vander Zalm enacted legislation amending its current labor laws in order to stabilize labor relations and renew investor confidence in the region. The breadth of labor reform in many ways resembles that exercised by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on a national level.
The primary vehicle for reform was Bill 19, which: empowered the government to order an end to strikes detrimental to the public interest, outlawed secondary boycotts, permits employers to set up nonunion shops, expanded government's role in the collective bargaining process and limited public employee wage increases. A second measure, Bill 20, included further protection for workers who choose not to participate in future general strikes.
In British Columbia Labour Legislation: Getting a Grip on Unions, Canadian journalist George Dobie examines the reformed labor code, the unions' reaction to it and offers a prognosis for future provincial labor relations. He places this reform in historical perspective by prefacing it with a retrospective on the decades of labor legislation that preceded it.