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October 26, 2010

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OH&S Conference delegates focus on respectful workplaces

Renowned bullying expert Barbara Coloroso kept delegates riveted during her presentation on "The bully, the bullied, the bystander."Renowned bullying expert Barbara Coloroso kept delegates riveted during her presentation on "The bully, the bullied, the bystander."

VANCOUVER—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 on “The bully, the bullied and the bystander.” She explained how bullying dehumanizes the target and is about utter contempt for another human being.

“Bullying isn’t about a conflict,” Coloroso said. “We cannot use conflict resolution skills when we’re dealing with bullying.” Coloroso said that the majority of bullying on the job is sexual, ethnic or racial in nature. She stressed the importance of talking about it when something doesn’t seem right in the workplace. Coloroso explained that it’s difficult for people who are targeted by bullying to speak about it because they are ashamed and afraid of retaliation.

Coloroso said there are three types of bullying: verbal which is the most common; physical which is the least common; and relational which includes shunning, rumours and gossip. Cyberbullying is used to target people on the internet and with cell phones.

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 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. All of these offences are punishable by the court of law.

Panelists shared insights on different aspects of bullying during Friday morning's plenary session.Panelists shared insights on different aspects of bullying during Friday morning's plenary session.CUPE National Equality Representative Conni Kilfoil presented “What the Heck is Bullying and Harassment.” She led participants through an exercise completing “The Harassment Continuum”, a chart that shows 10 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.” He praised the work of safety reps saying, “Together we will bring issues of workplace bullying to the forefront.” Clarabut said that we need to raise awareness about bullying and workplace conduct and what’s acceptable in our workplace, not just in social circumstances. 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. Faibish explained that bullying is a deviation from normal behaviour, intention is to cause harm, targets an individual, often is not witnessed, is not resolvable and must stop, and is a barrier to innovation, improvement and success. Conflict, however, is a normal, natural and necessary part of human interaction that can escalate, cause significant effects to health and safety, and may need intervention and support to resolve.

Following the panel discussion, delegates asked the panelists questions and had a short discussion about bullying and harassment in the workplace.

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.

CUPE BC Secretary-treasurer Mark Hancock addressed delegates at the closing plenary. He shared an experience in his own local when workers put their tools down and did a full-day lockout around a health and safety issue. “At the end of day we got a super committee made up of their executive, members and managers,” said Hancock. “And as a result of members standing up, we got a new works yard.”

Hancock thanked delegates for taking time out of their lives to attend the conference, Locals and Councils for supporting members to attend, facilitators who put on top-notch workshop, CUPE National and CUPE staff.

CUPE BC’s Strong Communities provided two blankets that were won by Sally Bankiner from CUPE 15 (Vancouver Municipal, Education and Community workers) and Jolene Lamoureux from CUPE 338 (Kelowna Civic workers). Two pairs of tickets to Saturday’s Canucks game were won by Don Jackson from CUPE 728 (Surrey Schools) and Deb Schweder from CUPE 3799 (UNBC Support staff.)

View photos.


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