The space behind the switchboard on the Queen of Cumberland- where women engineers have been changing into their coveralls. This space cannot be locked and has five separate entrances, says lawyer Adrienne Smith. Crew members often need to enter to get equipment. This space is typical of spaces women engineers change, Smith says. (Courtesy of Adrienne Smith)

The space behind the switchboard on the Queen of Cumberland- where women engineers have been changing into their coveralls. This space cannot be locked and has five separate entrances, says lawyer Adrienne Smith. Crew members often need to enter to get equipment. This space is typical of spaces women engineers change, Smith says. (Courtesy of Adrienne Smith)

Human rights complaint filed over private change rooms for female BC Ferries engineers

BC Ferries, union rep still in discussions

A human rights complaint has been filed on behalf of BC Ferries female engineers, who want private, secure changing rooms aboard vessels.

The ferry corporation has known of requests for private change rooms for at least 15 years, according to Laurence Spencer, the engineering representative for the B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers Union. Attempts to address the matter have fallen through several times.

“The perception is that they don’t have a safe and secure changing area,” Spencer said. “There was initial movement [from BC Ferries] and then for whatever reason, it was deemed less important than something else and fell off somebody’s desk.”

READ ALSO: Victoria’s visually impaired community wins ‘floating bus stop’ case against city

The complaint, filed with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, represents the 16 women working as BC Ferries engineers, a department which employs roughly 500 men in total, according to Spencer. Female maintenance workers in Vancouver will also be impacted by the outcome of the complaint.

Vancouver lawyer Adrienne Smith is representing the employees.

“They’re alleging discrimination on the basis of sex and gender in employment. And this is because they have a very dirty industrial job, they need to wear coveralls in the workplace and they need a place to change into those that the employer is not providing.”

There are bathrooms available for changing, Smith notes, but they can only be accessed by walking through the current changing space, designated for men.

Smith said the result is that female employees are changing in any space on the ship they can find. That includes machine spaces, behind control panels and storage lockers, all spaces that are not secure, contain critical equipment and are frequently used by other crew members.

Spencer said the complaint was highlighted by a recent incident in which a female engineer was changing at the moment when several male colleagues happened to walk by.

“It’s a little upsetting both for the male engineers that she’s working with and for herself,” Spencer said, adding that the engineering department at large is in support of the complaint. Women have been working in the engine rooms on BC Ferries for more than 30 years, he added. The complaints also alleges that the lack of private, secure space for changing leaves room for sexual harassment.

So far, talks with BC Ferries have been positive, Spencer adds. Discussions are ongoing.

In a statement, BC Ferries said it is still working to resolve the matter and will cooperate fully with any investigation, but can’t comment further due to privacy.

The BC Human Rights Tribunal has not decided yet if the case will be heard.

READ ALSO: Receptionist sexually harassed by Esquimalt denture clinic owner awarded nearly $40,000


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: nina.grossman@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

bc ferrylawsuit

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Five properties have been added to the Lake Country fire protection zone, after council moved to expand the local service area Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Google Maps)
Lake Country expands fire protection zone, covering 5 exposed properties

The properties petitioned to join the local service area after being left out ‘for reasons unknown’

VSAR’s Air Rescue One unit assisted in a rescue in West Kelowna May 3, 2021. (VSAR screenshot)
VIDEO: VSAR’s Air Rescue One team assists in West Kelowna Rescue

The Vernon Search and Rescue helicopter team pulled off a successful rescue Monday

Peachland resident and cleanup volunteer Lloyd Stinson Sotas holds up a discarded TV riddled with bullet holes. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
PHOTOS: Peachland residents clean up community watershed

More than 70 people gave back to Mother Earth by assisting with the cleanup

Kelowna Toyota is located at 1200 Leathead Road. (BLack Press Media file)
Kelowna Toyota’s auto service department closed due to COVID-19 exposure

The dealership’s sales department is still open and is operating under regular business hours

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Kelowna OK Tire closed due to COVID-19 exposure

The business will remain closed until May 11

Two e-scooters parked on the sidewalk along Water Street in downtown Kelowna on Monday, May 3. Scooters parked on walkways are causing accessibility issues for some people with disabilities. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick summary of the stories that made an impact from May 3 to 5

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

City of Vernon Coun. Dalvir Nahal proposed two blocks of Main Street be closed to bolster recovery for downtown businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
Vernon’s ‘support local’ Main Street closure would cost city $24K, staff say

Bylaw costs, loss of parking revenue and equipment logistics behind price tag

Officials are surveying the streets of Vernon to get a better sense of the issue of homelessness in the city, as part of the province’s point-in-time homeless count for 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Province conducts homeless count in Vernon

It’s the first time Vernon has been included in the provincial homeless count

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A proposed development would see two four-storey affordable housing complexes erected on Adair Street in Armstrong, next to the Nor-Val Arena. (Google Maps)
Local tenants to be prioritized for Armstrong affordable housing project

Staff have drafted an expression of interest to find a developer to move forward with on the project

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

Most Read