British Columbia

Rampant abuse of BC Ferries employees by passengers must stop, says union

The BC Ferry and Marine Workers' Union says eight out of 10 ferry workers surveyed suffer abuse from passengers and they are calling on BC Ferries to enforce a zero tolerance abuse policy to better protect employees.

Union wants company to do more to protect workers from verbal and physical attacks

Eight of 10 BC Ferries workers have been verbally or physically attacked by passengers, according to the BC Ferry and Marine Workers' Union. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

The union representing BC Ferries employees says the majority of its workers suffer abuse on the job and it is calling on the company to better protect them against aggressive passengers. 

According to the BC Ferry and Marine Workers' Union (BCFMWU), eight of 10 ferry workers surveyed have suffered abuse including harassment, threats and physical violence. Half the employees surveyed say the abuse is impacting their mental health, and the union says it's time for BC Ferries to enforce a zero tolerance policy for worker abuse.

Kevin Lee, acting president of the BCFMWU, wants the company to enforce a policy similar to airlines, where abusive passengers are prohibited from travelling.  

"We need to nip this in the bud," Lee told CBC's BC Today host Michelle Eliot.

'Uptick' in abuse

He said there has been an "uptick in abusive behaviour" and told Eliot he thinks it is record numbers of travellers and a lack of adequate infrastructure leading to ferry terminals that are fuelling passenger frustrations.

In a statement, BC Ferries says it has zero tolerance for employee abuse and that abusive conduct or comments will not be tolerated.

"Every employee has the right to a work environment that provides respect for the individual and is free from bullying and harassment," said BC Ferries.

BC Ferries says it is in the process of posting signs such as the one shown at ferry terminals to curb employee abuse. (Submitted by BC Ferries)

The statement comes in the wake of a BCFMWU campaign asking the public to use social media to pressure BC Ferries to enforce its policy. 

The company said it is in the process of posting signs at ferry terminals to remind the public.

Lee said the union has been asking for signs for over two years. He said it is ironic the company is issuing the signs after the union launched a public campaign.

"The sign's the first step," said Lee.

The union is also calling on the company to improve training for employees, including de-escalation training and mental health education.

A BCFMWU video outlining the union's message and campaign

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