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

Members of the Okanagan Screen Arts Society received a cheque for $1,500 Thursday, April 15, 2021. The funds are to help the society’s efforts as they prepare take over operation of the Vernon Towne Cinema at the end of July. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Vernon dealership gives Towne Cinema a lift

Vernon Watkin Motor Ford, in business for more than 100 years, donated to the theatre with nearly as long a history

Interior Health’s overdose prevention site in Vernon is saving lives. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Vernon’s controversial overdose prevention site saving lives

Site sees fewer problems than expected, but some still want it moved

Vernon Jubilee Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared over at Vernon Jubilee Hospital

The outbreak affected four staff, 10 patients and led to three deaths in just over two weeks

Black Crow Cannabis is just one of Vernon's many pot shops now open in town. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Kelowna has highest cannabis fees in Okanagan

Vernon’s 14 stores pay second highest business licence fees

Vernon Girl Guide Mabel Smith sells cookies to staff at Watkin Motors Ford prior to the suspension of sales. (Facebook Photo)
Vernon Ford dealership shines with diamond award, again

Watkin Motors earns Ford of Canada president’s award for superior customer service

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick roundup of the stories that made headlines across the Okanagan, from April 11 to 16

Penticton bylaw officers tore down a “pretty significantly sized” homeless camp underneath the bridge near Riverside Drive Friday, April 16 morning. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton bylaw tears down ‘significantly sized’ homeless camp under bridge

Many residents had made complaints about the camp before it was torn down

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

The towns of Osoyoos and Oliver and the Osoyoos Indian Band are beginning to look into the feasibility of a regional aquatic centre. (Metro Creative Graphics)
South Okanagan leaders team up to get ball rolling on regional aquatic centre

Oliver and Osoyoos have long expressed desire for a year-round indoor aquatic centre

Most Read