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B.C. Builders Code aims to change trades workplace culture, retain more women

Hazing and harassment affect entire worksites: LNG Canada CEO
B.C. Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Melanie Mark and B.C. Construction Association president Chris Atchison announce the voluntary B.C. Builders Code, aimed at reducing harassment of women in the trades workplaces as well as increasing retention of female tradespeople. Photo by Jeremy Hainsworth

A pilot program aimed at reducing discrimination against women in trades workplaces announced by B.C. Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Melanie Mark March 8 seeks retain more women in the workforce and fill trades gaps needed to build multiple high-dollar projects.

Currently, women make up just 4.7 per cent of the province’s construction trades workforce but the Builders Code aims to boost that figure to 10 per cent by 2028.

Mark said an expected 41,000 trades jobs are expected to open up in the next decade while at the same time women continue to be 50 per cent more likely to leave that workforce than men.

And, she said, it’s the culture that needs to shift.

Studies have found women face discrimination, bullying and harassment on job sites.

The B.C. Construction Association (BCCA) said such a code of conduct is needed because there is no standard for behaviour on B.C. worksites, and that many employers lack the skills, knowledge or resources needed to take action against harassment or bullying on the job.

LNG Canada CEO Andy Calitz agreed.

“Hazing and harassment of anyone on the worksite not only affects those who are being hazed or harassed,” he said. “It affects everyone on the worksite. It has to be stopped.”

To that end, the province, with industry partners, has developed the voluntary standard code of conduct for all workers on construction sites in B.C. It expands the definition of construction safety beyond physical hazards to include stress or distraction caused by discrimination, bullying, hazing or harassment.

Further, the initiative gives contractors ways to attract and retain skilled tradespeople at time when B.C. is facing a skills shortage.

The pilot program offers no-cost posters, policies and training, as well as advice on mediation and conflict resolution from human resource management experts.

“A skilled tradesperson is a valuable asset, not a gender or demographic,” BCCA president Chris Atchison said. “Jobsite behaviour is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue.”

The code is an initiative of the Construction Workforce Equity Project, funded by the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training through the Sector Labour Market Partnerships program. Premier John Horgan announced $1.8 million to support resources aimed at removing barriers to women's participation in the construction trades a year ago.