(For Release Thursday, October 12th, 2023)
Flush Toilets Now: B.C. construction unions demand flushing toilets on work sites
New report outlines path to better conditions
There are $358 billion worth of construction projects either underway or on the books in B.C. The construction industry contributed $25 billion to the provincial GDP last year alone. Construction workers build the infrastructure that British Columbians rely upon every day.
And yet those same workers who create that wealth and build that infrastructure are forced to endure abject, unsanitary washroom conditions on the work site.
Porta-potties are a scourge for tradespeople across the province. They are often unsanitary, filthy, stinky, unlit and have no heating or cooling. Something has to change.
Nearly half of all construction projects are institutional, commercial or industrial. These projects involve dozens, if not hundreds, of workers and last well over a year. The $4.5-billion Oakridge redevelopment is a perfect example. When complete, it will offer luxury homes, luxury shopping and luxury office space. But for the approximately 1,000 skilled tradespeople building the project, their washroom conditions are anything but luxury.
“Enough is enough. 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,” said Brynn Bourke, executive director of the BC Building Trades Council, which represents 22 craft construction unions and more than 40,000 unionized workers.
“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.”
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, as has been a requirement in Quebec since 2015. That recommendation is highlighted in a new report (attached) commissioned by the Building Trades 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 health care 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, visit https://getflushed.ca/.
Quotes from Tradespeople (interviews available upon request)
“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.” – Peter White, Ironworker
“Porta-potties make you feel like a second-class citizen. Office workers wouldn’t accept these kinds of conditions.” – Matt Baron, Electrician
“There’s a lot of profit made in the construction industry. How much would it really be to bring in a nice bathroom on some wheels?” – Crystal Tirado, Painter
“I sometimes hold it in for 11 hours because the porta-potties are so bad.” – Lindsay Sangster, Insulator
Established in 1967, the BC Building Trades represents 22 local craft construction unions and more than 40,000 unionized construction workers in B.C. These highly skilled workers account for approximately 55 per cent of the non-residential construction labour force. The BC Building Trades works with construction companies to leverage the most out of development for all stakeholders, to advance the economic prosperity of the province, to put local workers first and to ultimately build a better British Columbia.