Mill workers see workplace violence, but are afraid to report it, says a Red Shirt Foundation report.
The foundation formed following a Nanaimo Western Forest Products mill shooting in April 2014, when Michael Lunn and Fred McEachern died and Tony Sudar and Earl Kelly were injured. The foundation was named to honour Lunn’s love of red shirts. Together with Western Forest Products, United Steelworkers union and WorkSafe B.C., the foundation funded the Workplace Violence in Sawmills in B.C., Canada report.
According to the report, common articulations of workplace violence include verbal abuse, swearing, bullying and demeaning and discriminatory actions.
At the workplace, 63.5 per cent of survey respondents had been yelled at, 48 per cent sworn at and 33 per cent publicly humiliated. Additionally, 15 per cent were threatened with being hit, 14.2 per cent had objects hurled at them, 12 per cent had been pushed or shoved and 6.3 per cent struck. Furthermore, 26.7 per cent said they wouldn’t report negative behaviour because they thought nobody would do anything. Participants felt uneasy reporting incidents because of expected negative repurcussions.
Among the report’s recommendations are establishment of a zero-tolerance policy on workplace violence, with education.
“I think … organizations have to build a culture of reporting, for one thing, and that they have to do the follow up,” said Lynn Jacques, foundation chairwoman.
“Because a lot of people in the past did report, but what happens is, there’s no follow up, so they’re left to their own circumstances to try and solve those problems and that can’t happen.”
There is a stigma associated with workers who “rat out” others and Brian Butler, United Steelworkers’ Local 1-1937 president, said there is collective agreement wording to curb that.
“So ideally what we’ve asked our members to do is that if you have an issue, co-worker-to-co-worker, that you involve your stewards in the workplace … all of our manufacturing operations, we have a member trained in investigating harassment complaints and we like them to involve those individuals so that they can try and mediate, de-escalate the situation between the workers before it becomes more of a disciplinary issue with the company,” said Butler.
“I’m happy that it’s done and that we can move forward now with what we did find out and hopefully there’ll be some training that goes out to people that need it,” said Marcy Lunn, Lunn’s daughter and foundation spokeswoman.
In an e-mail, Babita Khunkhun, Western Forest Products spokeswoman, said the company has a number of channels for employees to freely provide input, including a code of conduct hotline for workers that want to remain anonymous.
Canfor Ltd., Interfor, Weyerhaeuser Canada and Tolko were other mills participating and research included surveys, phone interviews and focus groups.
A total of 367 volunteers participated in the study.