By Mike Leonard
They are the waterfront workers who unload ocean carriers, operate cranes and drive heavy lift-trucks – critical jobs that keep Canadians well stocked with the supplies they rely upon. It can be tough, physically demanding work and over generations, this workforce forged a reputation for its efficiency, but also its rough and tumble environment.
While the focus has always been on getting the job done safely and quickly, there hasn’t traditionally been as much focus on the way we treated one another, which sometimes allowed inappropriate conduct like bullying and harassment to creep in.
Fortunately, our society has made huge strides to create a more welcoming work environment and diverse culture. The Port of Prince Rupert now has more women and more Indigenous peoples employed on the waterfront than at any port in Canada.
But much more can be done to ensure everyone feels welcomed and valued in our workplaces.
This fall, waterfront workers in Prince Rupert have taken a major step toward eliminating bullying, harassment and violence in the workplace. The B.C. Maritime Employers Association is working in partnership with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada and Ending Violence Association of B.C. to deliver training that will create safer and inclusive workplaces.
This ground-breaking program 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.
Guided by the incredible leaders at the Ending Violence Association of B.C., and based on their award-winning Be More Than a Bystander program, the education and training program will focus on preventing violence, harassment, bullying, racism and discrimination. Training will have an emphasis on people at highest risk including women, LGBTQ2+ and Indigenous communities.
While it has just started in Prince Rupert, the goal is to educate and train all waterfront workers and managers from across B.C. to respond and support those who suffer from violence or harassment. This is backed up by robust compliance-based policies outlined in new amendments to the Canada Labour Code.
All workplaces will benefit when we set high standards, examine the way we treat one another and consider the language that we use. No longer can we be a bystander to inappropriate conduct in the workplace. It’s about doing the right thing, speaking up and breaking the silence.
Working together, we are making a positive influence on workplace culture which is good for workers, unions, employers and the strength of Canada’s economy.
Mike Leonard is the President and CEO of the B.C. Maritime Employers Association that provides
services in human resources to 49 waterfront employers across the province.