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

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

It costs as little as $7 to charge an EV at home. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Electric Vehicles a rare sight (in the Kootenays), but change on the way

Electric pickups will increase the appeal of zero-emission vehicles in years to come according to Blair Qualey of the New Car Dealers Association

Linda Krawczyk and her dad Doug Finney enjoyed a ride around beautiful Fernie on Friday thanks to Melanie Wrigglesworth and the local chapter of Cycling Without Age. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Cycling Without Age goes for its first spin

Doug Finney (86) got to enjoy a ride around Fernie

The Cranbrook Community Forest is good to go for mountain biking. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Snow’s done, time to hit the trails

South Country trails are good to go

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
69 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The total number of cases in the region is now at 9,840 since the pandemic began

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

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 syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read