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

Food trucks will be allowed to operate in several Sooke parks beginning May 1. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sooke’s food truck pilot project under scrutiny

Councillor questions impact food trucks will have on nearby restaurants

A walk for autism awareness. (Black Press Media file photo)
COLUMN: Autism acceptance, not autism awareness

Elizabeth Sparling is the mother of a 24-year-old son with Autism Spectrum Disorder

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred off Ucluelet just after 12:30 a.m. on April 10 and was reportedly felt as far south as Oregon. (Map via United States Geological Survey)
Quake off Ucluelet reportedly felt as far south as Oregon

Magnitude 1.5 earthquake also reported off Vancouver Island’s west coast hours earlier

Claremont Secondary’s year-long drama class will perform TRAP, a thrilling play by Stephen Gregg, virtually from April 14-17 at 7 p.m. (Image courtesy Colin Plant)
Claremont’s drama students to ‘TRAP’ audience’s attention with thrilling virtual performances

Grade 9-12 drama class will perform via livestream from April 14-17

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

Nanaimo RCMP are asking for the public’s help in identifying the man suspected of being involved in a stabbing. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP trying to identify stabbing suspect who wielded rusty knife

Stabbing followed argument between two men at Port Place Shopping Centre April 1

Most Read