In 2007, two high school students in a small Nova Scotian town saw a younger student being bullied for wearing a pink shirt on the first day of school. They knew they had to do something to show bullying wasn’t okay, so they bought 50 pink tank tops and handed them out to other students. By the end of the week, most students were wearing pink shirts to support the one who’d been bullied.
That sparked the beginning of Pink Shirt Day (also known as Anti-Bullying Day), which became a movement around the world. On February 26, British Columbians come together by wearing pink shirts to school or work to show that bullying isn’t acceptable.
Bullying has harmful psychological impacts and is still a major problem in our schools, workplaces, homes, and online. Many women and Indigenous peoples in the skilled trades face harassment and bullying in their workplaces, which discourages women and Indigenous peoples from entering or staying in the trades. Industry Training Authority (ITA) stands with other organizations against bullying and actively supports efforts to change the culture in trades.
Don’t be a tool
In a research project, the BC Construction Association (BCCA) found bullying, hazing, and sexual harassment to be a problem in the construction industry and launched an anti-bullying campaign. ITA is one of the partners of the campaign, which includes the Builders Code initiative to change codes of conduct in construction and improve workplace behaviour.
The Builders Code provides a standard code of conduct for workers on construction sites in B.C. and provides employers with a range of resources, such as policies, posters, training, advisors, and a funny video series
that tells worksite offenders: “Don’t be a tool.”
“As an industry facing a serious labour shortage, the retention of tradespeople, and especially tradeswomen, in our sector is critical,” says Chris Atchison, President, BCCA. “We now have a resource to specifically help everyone in the construction sector set a baseline code of conduct for B.C. construction worksites. That includes everyone from the company owners, executives, HR managers, and union business managers in the office to the supervisors, forepersons, tradespeople, and apprentices on the worksite.”
Since the Builders Code was launched last year, there have been 140 participants in 14 training sessions across the province and 120 employers representing thousands of employees who have signed the Builders Code pledge. Employers are using Builders Code materials during hiring and orientation processes, on worksites, on their websites, in job postings, and at job fairs.
“Based on the excellent response we’ve had to the Builders Code policies, training, and other tools, it’s clear that the construction sector is ready for a culture shift and that people within the sector understand how improving the worksite culture will help us attract more people to great careers in construction,” says Chris.
Breaking the silence
Another important initiative to battle bullying is Be More Than A Bystander. Through this program, which was developed by the Ending Violence Association of BC (EVA BC) and the BC Lions Football Club, more than 100,000 people in B.C. have been trained on how to speak up and break the silence on violence against women. The BC Centre for Women in the Trades partnered with EVA BC and the BC Lions to adapt the successful program to break the silence on bullying, harassment, and gender-based violence in the skilled trades industry.
Male leaders in construction go through an intensive three-day train-the-trainer program that is led by BC Lions players. Those leaders are then able to give a 90-minute workshop to educate other men about gender-based bullying, harassment, and violence and how to break the silence and begin to shift this culture in the skilled trades industry.
As a supporter of apprentices and tradespeople across the province, ITA has to be a leader of the cultural change to create inclusive, welcoming workplaces. All male senior leaders, apprenticeship advisors, and industry advisors at ITA are taking the intensive three-day training.
“Being part of Be More Than A Bystander has changed my worldview both professionally and personally,” says Rod Bianchini, Chief Operating Officer, ITA. “It’s a journey that’s given me the ability to face the feelings I’ve carried from not taking an active role against inappropriate behaviour in the past and empowered me to have the tools to prevent others from going through that behaviour.”
Working in and visiting various regions across B.C., ITA staff who have been trained will bring the values of the workshop to life. They’ll be able to hold the workshop for our community partners and support them in making positive changes in their workplace culture.
“I like to think of our championship of Be More Than A Bystander as adopting the ethos of ‘think globally, act locally,’” says Rod. “It will help us to make real change around power imbalance and violence against women in the system.”
Please stand with us and wear your pink shirts proudly.
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