Flush toilets now, say B.C. unions
By Adam FreillConstruction Health & Safety
B.C. construction unions are demanding flushing toilets on work sites as new report outlines path to better conditions.
The BC Building Trades Council is calling on Premier David Eby and Minister of Labour Harry Bains to require flushing toilets on construction sites that have 25 workers or more. In a statement released earlier this week, the organization explains that while there are $358 billion worth of construction projects either underway or on the books in B.C., and industry contributed $25 billion to the provincial GDP last year alone, the workers who build the infrastructure that British Columbians rely upon every day are forced to endure abject, unsanitary washroom conditions on the work site.
“Enough is enough,” said Brynn Bourke, executive director of the BC Building Trades Council, which represents 22 craft construction unions and more than 40,000 unionized workers. “Nearly every other industry, from film to events and tourism, has found a way to bring clean, flushing toilet facilities to mobile sites. Construction workers deserve flush toilets now.”
Most building sites simply provide porta-potties, which the organization says are often unsanitary, filthy, unlit and without heating or cooling.
“I’ve been at a lot of jobs where the washrooms are so bad that you just have to hold it. Being forced to use porta-potties is degrading and dehumanizing,” stated Peter White, an ironworker in the province.
“Construction workers have been faced with unsanitary and undignified washroom conditions for too long. We need the provincial government to step in and stand up for the people who build this province,” added Bourke.
As such, the council has asked the premier and Ministry of Labour to require flushing toilets on sites with 25 workers, matching a requirement that has been in place in Quebec since 2015. That recommendation is highlighted in a new report commissioned by the council that details the appalling conditions of construction site washrooms.
“After the pandemic, it became clear that construction companies are not willing to meaningfully improve sanitation conditions for construction workers. We need the provincial government to step in,” said Bourke.
The new Building Trades report is accompanied by a letter-writing campaign urging the government into action. Bourke thinks the campaign will resonate with people far beyond the construction sector.
“We’re asking workers across the province, whether they work in an office, a classroom, or a healthcare setting, to imagine having to use disgusting porta-potties at work,” said Bourke. “The fact of the matter is, most people would not tolerate porta-potties, and construction workers shouldn’t have to either.”
The BC Building Trades first launched its Get Flushed campaign following significant health and safety concerns in the construction industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information about the campaign, visit https://getflushed.ca/.