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Delegates focused on the theme “Respectful Workplaces – we all have a role in health and safety” at CUPE BC’s Occupational Health and Safety Conference held October 14 – 16 in Vancouver.

Mike Jackson, chair of the OH&S Committee introduced panelists and welcomed delegates to the opening plenary session and First Nations Elder Rose Point of the Musqueam Nation shared a blessing. CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill told delegates that although we have made gains in health and safety at the workplace, we need a Code of Practice to ensure that all workers enjoy their right to come home safely at the end of the day. 

We’ve achieved joint Occupational Health and Safety committees through law. But that’s the very start,” said O’Neill. “We can make a difference. If you go to an employer and say something isn’t safe, you never know – you could have saved a life.”

Keynote speaker Barbara Coloroso, renowned expert on bullying, riveted the audience with her 90-minute presentation “The bully, the bullied and the bystander.” She explained how bullying dehumanizes the target and is about utter contempt for another human being. 

Coloroso spoke about the importance of keeping the target safe, the witness safe, and dealing with bullying. “We need to hold people accountable,” said Coloroso. “We need the 3 P’s in place (policy, procedure and programs) to stop hatred and create a climate of inclusiveness.”  

Following the opening plenary session, a reception sponsored by CUPE BC gave delegates an opportunity to socialize and network. Barbara Coloroso was on hand to sign copies of her books that were available for purchase. For more information on Barbara Coloroso visit the Kids Are Worth It Website.

The next day opened with a panel discussion moderated by Vanessa Wolff, National OH&S Representative. First up was labour lawyer Leo McGrady who spoke about criminal aspects of bullying. McGrady discussed six forms of bullying covered by the Criminal Code: criminal harassment; uttering threats; assault; assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm; public incitement of hatred; and intimidation. 

CUPE National Equality Representative Connie Kilfoil presented “What the Heck is Bullying and Harassment.” She led participants through an exercise completing “The Harassment Continuum”, a chart that shows ten different forms of bullying and harassment in the workplace that lead to increasingly serious misconduct and discipline.

David Clarabut, a director with the Compensation Employees Union (CEU) and safety officer with WCB, presented on “Bullying from a Compensation Perspective.” Clarabut told delegates that we sometimes don’t look at Part Three of OH&S regulations covering rights and responsibilities of the employer, supervisor and worker. Regulations specify that employers need to establish occupational health and safety policy and programs in the workplace.

Jory Faibish, a Certified Mediator (MDABC) and on faculty at the Justice Institute of BC (Centre for Conflict Resolution and the Centre for Leadership), rounded off the discussion by comparing bullying and conflict.

For the remainder of the conference, delegates participated in two of six workshops offered. The four-hour long workshops were Harassment and Compensation; Workplace Violence; Recognizing Mental Illness in the Workplace; Taking Back our Joint Committees; Occupational Diseases; and Ergonomics.