A coalition of British Columbia construction associations, labour groups and private industry are coming together to shift worksite culture into the 21st century.
The Province of British Columbia, the British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA), the Industry Training Authority of BC (ITA), LNG Canada and other stakeholders marked International Women’s Day on March 8 with the rollout of a new code of conduct for the industry intended to reduce harassment, hazing and bullying on construction worksites.
The Builders Code defines an acceptable worksite in terms of conduct and will supply employers with tools, training and resources to promote a more safe, inclusive and productive worksite, along with an “acceptable workplace pledge” document for companies to sign and display.
A stated goal of the code is to improve retention to the point where 10 per cent of B.C.’s skilled labour force is comprised of women by 2028. Companies can also be recognized via a scorecard and awards program developed specifically for the construction industry by the Minerva Foundation of B.C., an organization dedicated to developing leadership programs for women.
The code, BCCA president Chris Atchison said, expands the definition of construction safety past physical hazards to include stress and distraction caused by discrimination, harassment, bullying or hazing. Sites that have signed onto the Builders Code pledge will “seek to be free from behaviour that threatens the stability of work conditions including job performance, health, well-being, safety, productivity and the efficiency of workers.”
“The code is offering a suite of services, the policies, training, HR support and everything that is needed for employers in construction to maximize retention of underrepresented groups in construction,” Atchison said. “We’re going to be offering training to foremen and site supervisors, and game-ified training to crews as well.
“Any employer or worker on a site at any moment can contact one of our equity advisers, which are HR specialists, and we can dispatch those individuals to remedy a situation. Sometimes that will remind them of the policies we have available in the Builders Code that we are providing to augment existing policy,” he added.
The Builders Code is an initiative of the Construction Workforce Equity Project, which is funded by the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training through the Sector Labour Market Partnerships program.
It’s a fantastic initiative to drive a different culture from within construction
— Shelley Gray
Industry Training Authority of BC
“Really it’s an invitation to be an agent for change. We know that in the construction industry there’s only about five per cent women, and that frankly is just not good enough,” said B.C. Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Melanie Mark.
“We have trades running out of post-secondary institutions, but the Industry Training Authority has a board of governors who received a mandate letter from me in the last week, because we need to move the dial for underrepresented groups. One of the key parts of my mandate from Premier (John) Horgan is apprenticeship ratios, and if we’re going to build the best B.C., people should benefit from that and get those opportunities and the only way to do that is on the jobsite.”
The pilot project includes access to no-cost posters, policies and training, as well as advice from human resource management, mediation and conflict resolution experts.
ITA CEO Shelley Gray said the organization had been a partner in the Builders Code since “the very beginning.”
“It’s a fantastic initiative to drive a different culture from within construction moving forward that’s more inclusive, welcoming, and diverse for all,” she said.
Gray said the code creates awareness though a human resource set of practices and allows companies to not only say they stand for diversity but also have access to the tools to implement policy.
“In terms of collateral material, posters, programs and policies, it has all those pieces as well. So, it’s more than just saying it, it gives them the tools to actually do it,” she said.
Atchison stressed a change in culture is necessary for those industries to adapt to new realities.
“Groups like the ITA have done a pretty good job of funneling people to the skilled trades, but sometimes the culture within those skilled trades isn’t receptive to the groups seeking those opportunities. There are many programs out there meant to support better retention, and our program is geared at providing those tools, the lens of safety and productivity, as to why a diverse worksite is the worksite of the future,” he said.
The announcement took place at LNG Canada’s Vancouver office, where CEO Andy Calitz voiced his support for the Builders Code initiative.
“As Canada’s largest construction project, we have already helped provide training for more than 1,000 apprentices in B.C. We are committed to creating a workplace that supports equity and diversity. Our support of the Builders Code will help the province grow and retain its skilled labour pool. We look forward to working with contractors and suppliers whose commitment to safety and diversity matches our own,” Calitz said.
WestCom Plumbing owner and skilled tradesperson Mary-Anne Bowcott also spoke at the launch event to the necessity of change.
“For too long, behaviour that isn’t tolerated elsewhere has been tolerated on construction worksites. Thankfully, employers will now have the tools they need to address such issues and will see from the top employers who sign the pledge that operating by the Builders Code isn’t just the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense,” Bowcott said.