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Strength in Diversity
The position that workplace discrimination and harassment constitute potent health and safety concerns has gained ground, according to IU Canadian Affairs Representative Graeme Aitken. Last year, the government of Saskatchewan introduced legislation to address harassment, abuse of power and bullying in the workplace. The Occupational Health and Safety (Harassment Prevention) Amendment Act, 2007, which came into force on October 1, 2007, is similar to a measure introduced in Quebec in 2005 that expanded the definition of harassment beyond the grounds prohibited by human rights legislation.
As a result, employers in Saskatchewan are under a new statutory duty to ensure that workers are not exposed to harassment; a duty that has existed for employers in Quebec, Ontario, and other provinces for some time, said Aitken.
As Union members and as law abiding citizens, BAC members have a moral and legal obligation to help eliminate all forms of discrimination and harassment that might make it difficult for minorities and women to either join BAC or remain as members.
As BAC Members
BAC has a long history of supporting the right of workers to be treated with respect and dignity on the job. The International Union Constitution states:
“No applicant shall be denied membership on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, age, or national origin.” IU Constitution, Article IV, Section (B)(1)
“No member shall discriminate or advocate discrimination against any other member on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, age, or national origin.” IU Constitution, Article VI, Section (B)
The recent adoption of the BAC Code of Conduct, which outlines best practices of members, contractors, and Local Union representatives, further underscores the importance of treating others as we would want to be treated, as illustrated in this excerpt from Statement 2 of the Code for members:
“Always behave appropriately toward other members and workers, and the public, and be respectful of others’ race, national origin, age, religion, sexual orientation and/or gender.”
As Union Members
BAC members belong to a union out of a commitment to solidarity, collective action, mutual support, and the attainment of social and economic justice for all working people. These are the reasons unions were formed, and it’s the commitment to achieving fair treatment for all workers that keeps the union movement alive. Discriminating against or harassing others is against everything for which our proud organization was created and stands.
Obeying the Law
Every province has a human rights statute that lists the grounds on which discrimination is prohibited, including: race; national or ethnic origin; colour; religion; gender; age; mental or physical disability; and sexual orientation. As used in human rights laws, discrimination means making a distinction between certain individuals or groups based on a prohibited ground(s) of discrimination. Harassment is a type of discrimination. It can take many forms, such as threats, intimidation, or verbal abuse; unwelcome remarks or jokes; displaying sexist, racist or other offensive materials; or inappropriate physical contact. Harassment can occur once, or on several occasions over time, creating a hostile work environment that can interfere with a worker’s performance. So, even single incidents of discrimination, in addition to being immoral, are illegal.
Path to Growth
Apart from the moral and legal consequences of failing to combat discrimination is the failure to grow. Demographic trends in the labour market have made it undeniable that BAC’s ability to maintain current membership levels and grow in the future requires the Union to recruit and retain minorities and women in greater numbers than ever before. It requires us to speak up when we are aware of discrimination or harassment. It requires us to challenge damaging stereotypes about different groups and offer support and respect for all members as individuals. And, it requires us to embrace all of our members as equals.
If you are concerned that you or a fellow member has been treated unfairly, please contact your job steward or Local Union officer immediately. For more information about human rights in your province, visit www.chrc-ccdp.ca/links/default-en.asp and select “Links.”