Everyone deserves to go to work and come home each day with their safety and dignity intact. The law requires all employers to provide a harassment-free workplace, but experience tells us that employers like Toyota tend to use the quickest, cheapest solution rather than investigating the matter thoroughly. Unifor organizers receive questions and complaints regularly from Team Members about harassment in the workplace, including bullying and other demeaning, degrading, and humiliating behaviour at Toyota. This is too often the case in non-unionised workplaces where harassment is treated as a personal problem and workers are often ignored or discouraged from raising harassment issues and even face potential penalties for speaking out.
Harassment has a specific legal definition related to prohibited grounds outlined in human rights legislation and can include: race, gender, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, political affiliation, or religion, gender expression as well as gender identity. The law further defines harassment as behaviour that the offender knows, or ought reasonably to know, is offensive. Harassment, particularly by management, is about power. Very often, the odds are stacked against a worker who may have to hire expensive outside legal support.
In unionised workplaces, harassment in the workplace is treated as a serious health and safety issue and support is provided directly to workers through their union. Unionised workers have a wide variety of workplace anti-harassment protections and supports that non-unionised workers simply don’t or, when they do, exist in name only and are difficult to access. Unionised workers are protected by comprehensive anti-harassment policies backed by Collective Agreement language that management is legally required to follow, independent investigations and grievance procedures to resolve cases of harassment, access to resources and specific benefits, as well as specially-trained in-plant advocates including a Women’s Advocate and Racial Justice Advocate. Together, these anti-harassment mechanisms work together to protect workers from all forms of harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
Even when employers say they take harassment seriously or have agreed to work jointly with workers on an anti-harassment procedure, having a union means taking a different approach that includes accountability, a fair resolution, and a self-directed investigation by workers. Rather than have Toyota management investigate cases of workplace harassment, Team Members should take the lead. Joining Unifor means that a Toyota Team Member who works in the plant may get specially trained as your representative and help workers report their complaints. It also means a clear investigative process, a review of existing management policies, and negotiation of an appropriate resolution that works for you.