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Employer Files Human Rights Complaint Against B.C. Port Union

Image Preview An employer’s association representing employers in Vancouver’s ports has filed a human rights complaint against the International Longshore & Warehouse Union Local 500 alleging discrimination and harassment of female union members.  This complaint follows an explosive report by leading labour neutral Vince Ready last summer, in which he described some shocking treatment of women workers.

In his report, Ready, a veteran mediator who has led dozens of inquiries and is not known for hyperbole, cites cases of groping and fondling, assaults, exposure to male genitalia and offensive graffiti — including depictions of extreme violence directed at women — and one instance of a woman being urinated on. Female longshore workers are routinely propositioned, asked by foremen for sexual favours in exchange for desirable work assignments, offered money for sex by co-workers and told by union bosses they should be at home — on their backs.

The employers’ association asserts that the union’s failure to fix the problems after the Ready report was the reason for the human rights complaint.

This is a situation in which the union acts as a hiring agent, deciding which members get assigned work.  The allegations appear to include discrimination in the selection of work assignments, and also discrimination and harassment of women on the job sites.  The Canadian Human Rights Act (which applies to dock workers) includes several sections that potentially apply to this scenario:

9. (1) It is a discriminatory practice for an employee organization on a prohibited ground of discrimination

(a) to exclude an individual from full membership in the organization;

(b) to expel or suspend a member of the organization; or

(c) to limit, segregate, classify or otherwise act in relation to an individual in a way that would deprive the individual of employment opportunities, or limit employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect the status of the individual, where the individual is a member of the organization or where any of the obligations of the organization pursuant to a collective agreement relate to the individual.

10. It is a discriminatory practice for an employer, employee organization or employer organization

(a) to establish or pursue a policy or practice, or

(b) to enter into an agreement affecting recruitment, referral, hiring, promotion, training, apprenticeship, transfer or any other matter relating to employment or prospective employment,

that deprives or tends to deprive an individual or class of individuals of any employment opportunities on a prohibited ground of discrimination.

14. (1) It is a discriminatory practice …

(c) in matters related to employment, to harass an individual on a prohibited ground of discrimination.

(2) Without limiting the generality of subsection (1), sexual harassment shall, for the purposes of that subsection, be deemed to be harassment on a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Would these sections capture the sorts of behaviour alleged to have taken place here?

Now take a look at the sweeping remedial powers of the Tribunal:

Complaint substantiated

53(2) If at the conclusion of the inquiry the member or panel finds that the complaint is substantiated, the member or panel may, subject to section 54, make an order against the person found to be engaging or to have engaged in the discriminatory practice and include in the order any of the following terms that the member or panel considers appropriate:

(a) that the person cease the discriminatory practice and take measures, in consultation with the Commission on the general purposes of the measures, to redress the practice or to prevent the same or a similar practice from occurring in future, including

(i) the adoption of a special program, plan or arrangement referred to in subsection 16(1), or

(ii) making an application for approval and implementing a plan under section 17;

(b) that the person make available to the victim of the discriminatory practice, on the first reasonable occasion, the rights, opportunities or privileges that are being or were denied the victim as a result of the practice;

(c) that the person compensate the victim for any or all of the wages that the victim was deprived of and for any expenses incurred by the victim as a result of the discriminatory practice;

(d) that the person compensate the victim for any or all additional costs of obtaining alternative goods, services, facilities or accommodation and for any expenses incurred by the victim as a result of the discriminatory practice; and

(e) that the person compensate the victim, by an amount not exceeding twenty thousand dollars, for any pain and suffering that the victim experienced as a result of the discriminatory practice.

Special compensation

(3) In addition to any order under subsection (2), the member or panel may order the person to pay such compensation not exceeding twenty thousand dollars to the victim as the member or panel may determine if the member or panel finds that the person is engaging or has engaged in the discriminatory practice wilfully or recklessly.

If  the claims are proven, what sorts of remedies do you think the Tribunal should order?

Thanks to Vicki Skelton at Perry’s Work Report for pointing out this story.

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