Remarks For The Canadian Construction Association Employment Equity Committee
Marcia Braundy - WITT National Network
Thank you for the opportunity to address this committee. I come to this meeting with very mixed feelings today. There is a part of me that wishes to read you the riot act; and a part of me that would like to admonish you to get your act together and work on your own, and with your unions, and with us, to get some real results.
To be true to myself and my constituency, I must do both. Let me start with the riot act.
That part of me wishes to highlight and denigrate many of your efforts in the area of employment equity over the last 8 years. During the time when the EE Legislation was being developed, your organization acted as a powerful lobby to keep construction from being included under the federal contractors program. At the time, there was not a strongly organized lobby to refute your claims, and you won that exemption with the position that voluntary measures would be much more effective in your industry.
Later, after the legislation was enacted, you approached the federal government for funds to develop your EE program, and it looked like you might actually accomplish something. You hired one of the most effective filmmakers in the country to prepare a recruitment video for women. It was excellent. And then you produced your real recruitment video, when your equity message did not appear.
Still looking at the issue as a supply side problem, you decided to put on some preparatory programs. As we have seen from the Amalgamated Construction Association report, the most effective way to have done this would have been to first run some exploratory programs, so that the career choices the women made would have been more effectively informed. As it was, if women expressed any interest in technical occupations, they were slotted into whatever trade course was available in their area. We saw the results in one of the Ontario plumbing courses.
Even if we consider the pre-apprenticeship courses a good faith effort, there was little pressure put on local construction companies to hire the graduates. In some areas, women were successful in finding jobs, but in many areas, women were left with seeking work in the construction area with little if any support or assistance from the sponsors of their training. That is not good enough.
Often the excuse is given that it is the unions who are the problem, and I agree with you, the Building Trade unions are a problem. But construction employers have been working collaboratively in many areas with the unions and are perfectly capable of negotiating any of these issues at the table as well as getting cooperation at the Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committees. What it takes is political will, and that is what you have not demonstrated.
Now lets take a look at some of your successes. You have had a voluntary program, funded by the government, which has allowed you to educate and inform your members about the current legislative climate, the demographics, and the benefits of women working in their industry. One of my early recommendations to Joanne Stead was that she use the opportunity to go out to all the regions and assist Associations and large and medium employers to develop action plans for equity initiatives. Clearly, the Canadian Construction Association felt it was more important to develop educational materials.
And you have developed some good pieces. Kem murch's video, Ingrid Wellmeier's series of pamphlets, the newsletter highlighting everything from practical EE tips to program examples, Joanne Stead's work with our national Industrial Adjustment Committee, her participation in the development of our National Standards and Program Development Guidelines for WITT courses, and Ontario Region's Coordinating Group training activities, as well as a couple of other ad hoc training programs for women around the country.
But how many of the women who went through those programs got apprenticeships? Even temporary jobs? How many got into the unions? Whose responsible for that? What kinds of support and retention programs did you have in place at the association level? On the worksite?
Where are the Action Plans that would have actually made something happen? When Stein and Company in Chicago decided that it wanted to use the opportunity of building a federal building to create a program to increase training and employment for women, they did just that, and created the Female Employment Initiative. This program put on information sessions for potential women workers, interviewed and hired a large number of women and provided them with an ongoing support system in the form of jobsite monitors who would check up on how they were doing and meet with them offsite if needed to discuss and modify any barriers that were observed. Sessions were also held with supervision and the unions, to ensure that they understood their role in ensuring the success of the project. Stein worked actively and in an ongoing fashion with the Chicago Women In Trades Association, the Apprenticeship Administration and the Building Trades. Today, the program is successfully being used as a model in many places in the United States.
Perhaps its true that they are not operating under a "voluntary" program, but as we all know, there was a spectrum of effort exhibited under the legislated program down there, and the Female Employment Initiative is certainly an excellent example of what we consider to be good faith effort.
After hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal money has gone into the "voluntary" efforts of the Canadian Construction Association and its affiliates, let us look at the results, using this information from British Columbia, prepared by Employment and Immigration Economic Services Division.
It is useful to look at BC, because that economy rebounded later from the recession in the early 80's, and has been in a growth mode during the past 5 years. It helps to eliminate the argument that women aren't being hired because the work picture is bad for everyone. Please look at the stats for Carpenter and Electrician at the top, as these are the two largest apprenticeable occupations, the data is more clear. The only years the numbers went up at all were the years when BC had a number of WITT exploratory programs across the province. When the numbers rose by well over a thousand men, the number for women went from 24 to 22, or from 17 to 21.
While women were graduating from pre-apprentice carpentry and electrical programs with significantly higher grades than the majority of men, they were just not being taken up by industry!
Similar statistics are available right across the country, and the only difference is in Ontario where, even in a time of devastating recession, they have been able to increase their numbers of women in technical apprenticeships by more than 70% to close to 1800. The Women's Access to Apprenticeship Program is an excellent example of political will, and is probably what afforded your Ontario programs a modicum of success in placing the women in jobs. And we are working to increase the use of that program around the country. What are your doing?
This year, the Special Parliamentary Committee presented its report with no mention of the Construction Sector. This may make you feel complacent. In 1985, there was no national organization to speak on behalf of women, and organize a campaign to ensure that the construction sector was being included under the Federal Contractors Program. Today there is, and in your recent decision to discontinue the Employment Equity program because the government felt it was time for you to demonstrate your own financial commitment, you have given us just the ammunition we need to launch our initiative.
Your program was only in its early stages, the educational phase, garnering support from your members, preparing potential recruits. Now you are dropping it at a point in time when it appears the recession may be ending, and there is also a major roads and bridges undertaking at hand.
You are faltering. If you drop the ball here, it will be much more difficult to pick it up with any credibility at another time. There is a good possibility that we will have another government soon, or even a coalition of some sort. Do you really want to destroy what credibility you have been able to build on this issue for want of the intestinal fortitude to go to your members with the need to continue this program?
And now I would like to tell you a little about the WITT National Network. We have about 40 groups across the country, in every province and territory except PEI. We have 12 Provincial Reps and hope to have 12 Alternates, from among whom are selected 5 Advisory Committee members to work with the elected National Coordinator as our major decision making body. Ontario, Manitoba and soon BC and Alberta have provincial organizations, which deal a bit more politically than the local groups who deal mostly in providing support to members, Role Modelling programs for schools, and local advocacy when needed. There are also many members at large, and associate members such as Labour Councils, School Boards, Colleges, Unions and even an employer or two. Associate members do not vote on issues of concern to the organization, but may provide input through sitting on committees and working groups.
We have been working under an Industrial Adjustment Agreement which recognizes that as a result of Canadian demographics and Employment Equity needs, the integration of women into trades and technical occupations is a labour market adjustment issue for Canada. We have sub-committees which have worked in a number of areas. Our Front Line Education committee and a number of our members are developing modules to assist employers and unions with an effective integration process. Our WITT Course committee has developed a set of National Standards and Program Development Guidelines that are being implemented across the country. As a result of the quality of this initiative, we have recently been invited to sit on the Standards Development group of the Engineering Technicians and Technologists. We now have a group made up of unions, employers WITT women and government reps looking at Seniority and Employment Equity issues.
Our organizations are willing and interested in working with your organizations, at all levels, to ensure workable and results-oriented programs. We think you should reconsider your decision to cut back on your activities in this area. The decision is up to you.