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martes, 21 de julio de 2009

Port management says longshoring shift issues tied to money, not gender

Union and port officials deny allegations of sexual discrimination

Source:By Richard J. Dalton Jr., Vancouver Sun

Management at Port Metro Vancouver and a local union deny allegations of sex discrimination made in complaints a female worker filed earlier this year with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Leslie Palm said in the complaints that weekend hours handling bins of pulp went to male workers, even though she was qualified to do the work.

She said in an interview with The Vancouver Sun that she usually drove a forklift handling steel but also could move around pulp and lumber.

The pulp work is sought-after because workers can finish after several hours but get nine hours' pay. Palm wanted to handle pulp on weekends. But the male workers, some with lower seniority, "wanted the first crack at the premium shifts -- Saturday and Sunday -- and I got what was left," Palm said.

Palm filed separate complaints against the International Longshore and Warehouse Union local 500; The BC Maritime Employers Association, which dispatches and can discipline workers; Western Stevedoring, the shipping company where Palm worked; and two male co-workers.

Gordie Westrand, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union local 500, said there is no basis to her allegations. "And other than that I can't comment further because it's before the courts," he said.

In an earlier interview, Westrand said the union won't tolerate sexual harassment.

Andy Smith, president and CEO of the BC Maritime Employers Association, said Palm and a male co-worker, who was a casual, handled steel but both could move pulp as well. Yet both were denied the pulp work.

Smith said the steel and pulp workers had agreed among themselves how to distribute the work and that the allocation didn't discriminate against Palm as a woman. Rather, it was just a matter of the pulp workers wanting the work for themselves, he said. He said union workers often complain about their seniority not being respected in terms of getting work.

"We dispute this has anything to do with sex or gender," he said. "This has to do with money." Smith said the employer association does not condone sex discrimination or harassment and disciplines workers for sexual harassment.

He said he estimates that management disciplines employees at two to three times the rate of a construction site or heavy-industry workplace. "We have a level of oversight of the workplace dealing with a pretty rough-and-tumble group of people," he said.


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