Fri. Feb 26th, 2021

B.C.’s waterfront workers break silence on harassment and …

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B.C.’s waterfront workers break silence on harassment and …

Opinion: In the coming months, waterfront workers and managers from Vancouver Island to the Alaska border will be educated and trained to prevent, respond and support those who suffer from violence or harassment.

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If you’re going to work on the waterfront, you better have thick skin.

For generations, that was the regular refrain for any newcomer. Over many decades, we forged a reputation as a rough and tumble workplace where bullying and harassment could take place.

By any standard, that is completely inappropriate.

Fortunately, times have changed. Our society has made enormous strides exposing and removing inappropriate conduct in the workplace. Here in B.C., we have strived to create a more welcoming environment and diverse culture for our waterfront workforce.

The 10,000 women and men who make up B.C.’s waterfront workforce are the ones who keep Canadians supplied with the goods they rely on, from medical necessities and food to construction equipment and even our smartphones. In return, those same people support the nation’s economy by ensuring Canadian grain, wood, extracted materials, manufactured goods and so much more reaches world markets. They unload ocean carriers, operate cranes, drive heavy lift-trucks and work in administration offices. Employees and employers, union and management.

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Our focus has always been on getting the job done safely and quickly. While it is hard to admit, we haven’t always been as focused on how people treat each other along the way.

Yes, it’s true we have made significant gains in recent years when it comes to physical safety, but much more can be done, and we need to focus on the behaviour that has created the culture we are seeking to change. We know our workplaces can reach their full potential when everyone feels welcome and valued.

Last week, we took a giant leap forward in that effort as we joined the federal government in launching a $7-million training initiative aimed at preventing workplace violence and harassment. The B.C. Maritime Employers Association is working in partnership with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada Longshore Division with training support from the Ending Violence Association of B.C. to create a safer, more respectful and inclusive workplace.

This ground-breaking program is the first of its kind on the B.C. waterfront and is one of the most comprehensive workplace violence and harassment programs ever undertaken in the federal sector. It is part of a Government of Canada initiative to shift workplace culture, ensuring everyone can work in a healthy, safe and respectful environment.

Bullying, harassment and violence hide in the shadows of many Canadian workplaces. We, in the maritime sector, are choosing to shine a light on those injustices. Guided by the incredible leaders at the Ending Violence Association of B.C., based on their award-winning Be More Than a Bystander program, the education and training program will focus on preventing violence and harassment as well as bullying, racism and discrimination, with an emphasis on people at highest risk, including women, LGBTQ2+ and Indigenous communities.

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In the coming months, waterfront workers and managers from Vancouver Island to the Alaska border will be educated and trained to prevent, respond and support those who suffer from violence or harassment. This is backed up by robust compliance-based policies and procedures outlined in new amendments to the Canada Labour Code, which came into effect on Jan. 1.

The goal is prevention, but if you experience inappropriate conduct — or witness it — you have an obligation to act. We’re not asking waterfront workers to be superheroes, we’re asking that they “be more than a bystander” and become agents of change. All waterfront employers now have robust confidential procedures in place to receive, investigate and resolve complaints while protecting the privacy of the complainant.

Throughout the development of this training, one of EVA-BC’s lead trainers, former B.C. Lion and Grey Cup champion J.R. Larose has truly inspired me. His energy and passion for this cause is infectious. His favourite quote from Martin Luther King Jr. has become our mantra: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

We are breaking the silence. We are speaking up. No longer can we be a bystander to inappropriate conduct in the workplace.

Together, we can and must effect positive change in workplaces across coastal British Columbia. It is good for workers, unions, employers and Canada’s economy.

Waterfront workers deserve it. Canadians expect it.

Mike Leonard is the president and CEO of the B.C. Maritime Employers Association, providing advisory services in human resources to 53 waterfront employers across the province.

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Published at Thu, 18 Feb 2021 18:05:00 +0000

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