NRCA takes site bullying head on through education

Journal of Commerce | Grant Cameron | September 30, 2019

The Northern Regional Construction Association (NRCA) in Prince George, B.C., is taking aim at bullying and harassment in the workplace.

Five free workshops are being held in various regions across the northern part off the province in October to educate company owners, executives and human resources (HR) personnel as well as site supervisors, forepersons and union business managers on how to deal with perpetrators and targets of bullying.

A pilot project training session was held in Prince George earlier this year for company owners and executives.

The upcoming training will explore such issues as the impact of unacceptable worksite conduct, the role of worksite leaders, and how to build and maintain an acceptable worksite culture and deal with complaints.

As part of the effort, Diane Bourret, who has 20 years experience as an HR professional, has been brought on board to help northern B.C. construction employers and unions deal with issues. She will provide a range of free advisory services, including dispute resolution and mitigation.

“On behalf of the Northern Regional Construction Association, we’re pleased to welcome Diane, whose experience, HR expertise and connections to the northern business and construction community are well known,” says NRCA chief executive officer Scott Bone. “Our NRCA members benefitted greatly from the workshops for company owners, executives and HR managers, which is ongoing, so we’re very pleased that Diane will deliver the specialized training for leaders on the worksite as well.”

The upcoming workshops are part of the Builders Code, a voluntary standard code of conduct for construction sites in B.C., announced earlier this year. The Code and an accompanying acceptable worksite pledge were developed under the guidance of the B.C. Construction Association (BCCA) and other stakeholders to improve the safety, productivity and retention of skilled trades on sites.

Bone says the training workshops will support construction personnel that work most closely with the skilled trades on worksites and will also make the industry more competitive by taking aim at the skills shortage.

“A culture shift on construction worksites will help us attract and retain the tradespeople we need, particularly women,” he explains. “In the North, we’ve already had more than 30 employers sign the Builders Code Acceptable Worksite Pledge. Employers are recognizing the value of eliminating harassment, hazing or bullying and that these Builders Code tools are indispensable to achieve that.”

Lisa Stevens, chief strategy officer at the BCCA and architect of the Builders Code, says about 60 per cent of employers don’t have a harassment policy in place so the training sessions can help kick-start the process.

“We’re really trying to get across a standard code of conduct for all workers on construction sites. Safety extends beyond physical hazards. It also needs to include the concept of psychological safety and that hazing, harassment and bullying on the jobsite creates stress and distraction which is a safety concern.”

Stevens says response to the training has been positive from the construction employers, and “what we are hearing from employers across the board is that they are not only ready for something like this but hungry for something like this because it helps them talk about diversity in a productive way with their teams.”

With a skilled trades shortage and only 4.7 per cent of trades in B.C. being female, Stevens says it was the right time to launch the training.

Another compelling reason, she says, is that there is an appetite for diversity, and, from a cultural perspective, employers know they need to do a better job in attracting and retaining women.

“Once they pursue a career in the skilled trades, ‘How do we do a better job of keeping them?’ While it’s hard to get exact data, we know that the attrition rates among the tradeswomen are very high and higher than men.”

Scott Sherba, president of Prince George-based Westcana Electric, says his company has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to diversity, equality and inclusivity, but the training showed more can be done and his team is determined to be part of the solution in building an industry that works for everyone.

“Members of our team found the first phase of training respectful and informative and we look forward to next sessions.”

Following is a schedule of the upcoming workshops:

Oct. 7 – Prince George – site supervisors, forepersons, union business managers

Oct. 22 – Williams Lake – corporate leaders, executives and HR personnel

Oct. 23 – Williams Lake – site supervisors, forepersons, union business managers

Oct. 30 – Fort St. John – corporate leaders, executives and HR personnel

Oct. 31 – Fort St. John – site supervisors, forepersons, union business managers

For more information or to register, contact Maria O’Neill-Plouffe at mariaoneill-plouffe@nrca.ca or 250.563-1744.