We have to make our halls more diverse

Monday, February 26, 2018

We don’t act like jerks on steroids at church, in the parent-teacher interview, or in many other situations, so why would it be OK at work? 

By Bob Blakely - Chief executive officer for Canada’s Building Trades Unions

Every year, I reflect on the previous year and where we are going in the near future. We certainly had some high points last year and there were events that qualify as much lower.

We unveiled our national monument to unionized construction workers. Some governments recognize the value that comes from union construction.

Our industry has grown by nearly 100 per cent over the past 20 years but it looks like growth will plateau at least in the mid-term. Even so, we are going to have to replace 248,000 craftspeople as the Baby Boom generation goes into retirement. We don’t lack for challenges!

What else does 2018 hold for us? It is a mug’s game to try and predict the future but it is very smart to prepare for eventualities.

I think we can look forward to working on a substantial amount of the infrastructure work that the federal program will create. This will kick-start provincial, territorial, and municipal government initiatives. Many local unions have not engaged in these kinds of projects for a long time. Whether this is because of a market shift to industrial work or unionized contractors concentrating on smaller and smaller bases does not matter. In many jurisdictions this will be the only game in town and we need to be ready.

That may mean doing things we would rather not do, like meeting wages that are below our jealously guarded industrial rate. The time for courage is now. We need to get back into the market. Wages will recover there. If we stay frozen to an unrealistic reality, our members will vote with their feet!

Liberalized labour laws mean a return to card-check certifications in many provinces and federally. The political climate supports organizing. That means getting out and doing what we once did best, organizing the unorganized!

Finally, we need to keep a weather eye on retirements and people leaving the trade for other reasons. No matter what we do, what the market is doing, what projects fail to go ahead, our Baby Boom members are going to leave and we have to replace them.

If you look at the pool of people we will have to choose from (and we will be in the same boat as nearly every other institution and industry in Canada), we will have a much more diverse workforce than the one you and I joined so many years ago. We are fools if we don’t make a virtue out of necessity. Diversity brings strength and diverse workers bring many gifts to our workplaces.

There is more to accommodating diversity than just making a place for a woman, Indigenous person, a youth, or new Canadian. It means being serious about respect. We don’t act like jerks on steroids at church, in the parent-teacher interview, or in many other situations, so why would it be OK at work? Our workplaces and union halls will be diverse when our best guys (and gals) and our leadership no longer tolerate bad behaviour and no longer stand aside when bad behaviour occurs. I am not asking for political correctness, just common decency. We need to step up and do the right thing when a person is being bullied or treated badly. It is the least we can do.

For More Information: 

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(778) 397-2220

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