Perfect, thank you.
I would like to extend my sincere thanks for the invitation to appear today. Canada's Building Trades Unions is a national, non-profit organization that represents 14 national construction unions across Canada, representing 500,000 tradeswomen and tradesmen across the country.
CBTU is working towards an equitable, accessible workplace in Canada through Build Together, a workforce development program focused on the recruitment and retention of workers from under-represented portions of the population. Diversity in organizations is increasingly respected as a fundamental characteristic of an organization's ability to create an environment of involvement, respect, and connection, where rich ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives are harnessed to create value. A better-skilled and more inclusive workforce is the key to successful attraction and retention.
The Canadian construction industry has an aging workforce, and in the coming decade will lose almost a quarter of its skilled workers to retirement. At the same time, medium- to long-term forecasts by BuildForce Canada indicate that the industry will continue to grow. To fill the vacancies left by retiring baby boomers and meet the demands of anticipated growth, the industry will need to recruit and train new workers. This is an enormous opportunity for women in Canada to earn a secure living wage. Careers in construction offer economic security for women and a direct path out of poverty.
Build Together's initial program, women of the building trades, promotes, supports, and mentors women in the skilled construction trades. Women represent 4% of this industry on average in Canada, a number that has remained unchanged in decades. At our CBTU 2016 policy conference, a resolution was passed on women in trades that included a goal to double the number of women in our industry within the next five years. We hope that through our work and our partnerships with other incredible organizations across the country this number can change and that we can successfully recruit and retain women in our industry.
Build Together has challenged existing myths and stereotypes of careers in the trades, providing the space for robust conversation on how to engage women in the sector. In support of the project, Build Together has provincial platforms where tradeswomen as leaders, mentors, and ambassadors can network, engage, and support the cause at the local level. Again, we have created the space for conversation on how to engage women in the building and construction trades.
We've identified methods to defy stereotypes and amplify the strengths and characteristics of women as tradespeople. As part of our outreach, tradeswomen have attended events across the country, including trade shows, career fairs, schools, mentorship events, and networking functions. We have been featured in media outlets across the country as part of the overarching narrative of middle-class opportunities in the trades as well as the empowerment and equalization of women.
In the past, the burden fell on women to use humour to deflect discrimination or harassment, in fear that speaking out or filing a complaint would not make a difference. We believe that unions, employers, owners, contractors, and tradespeople all have to commit to removing these barriers rather than blaming someone for failing to overcome them.
At CBTU, we have demonstrated our commitment by passing a respectful workplace resolution at our 2016 policy conference, recognizing that harassment and discrimination in the workplace are behaviours that will not be tolerated by our organization and our affiliates. In support of this resolution, we introduced resources that aim to create safe and welcoming work environments. Build Together has workshops, materials, and diversity training modules that provide leadership with the information, tools, and protocols they need to enforce a zero-tolerance policy towards unwelcoming behaviour.
Change must come from the top down and from the bottom up, but most importantly from middle management—the supervisors, foremen, and forewomen who manage our tradespeople every day on the job. When workplace culture is inclusive and staff morale increases, ultimately productivity and efficiency improve. Research suggests that in environments where employees feel valued, teamwork increases, which leads to decreased absenteeism and employee turnover.
In support of our work on respectful workplaces, we'll be launching an industry-wide, industry-championed campaign, calling on levels of leadership within industry to be champions and advocates for respectful workplaces. We want to provide our communities, our members, and our partners with the most promising future in an inclusive network of building trades.
Now that I've had the opportunity to highlight the work we do, I would like to take a moment to address a barrier that I've encountered in our work with Status of Women Canada.
As outlined in the Status of Women Canada general eligibility requirements for the women's program funding, labour unions are not eligible for funding via Status of Women Canada. Other not-for-profit organizations are eligible, as well as for-profit Canadian organizations, if the nature and intent of the funded activity is non-commercial and not intended to generate profit.
Our office has met with Status of Women Canada on this issue a number of times over the last three years, with no resolution on this policy. There have been a number of calls for proposals that women of the building trades have missed out on, slowing down progress of our mandate, and in our opinion, the mandate of Status of Women Canada.
The latest call for proposals that we were not eligible for was the call for proposals for projects to advance gender equality across Canada. Through this call for proposals, organizations will receive funding to identify women leaders in various sectors, organizations, and communities, and engage them in local projects to advance gender equality. The call aims to identify and engage a total of 150 women leaders from across the country, to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017 as we move forward.
We are disheartened that because of the exclusion that Status of Women Canada has outlined in their eligibility requirements, there will be no female leaders from the labour movement, especially construction, included in the 150 women leaders from across the country.
Tradeswomen from across the country who are leaders in their communities, in their workplaces, and in their unions and who have spent countless hours volunteering their time for the cause will not have the chance to be engaged in this project. They are working hard every day to provide solutions to the barriers women face in their industry. They are mentors and advocates who work tirelessly for gender equality in Canada, and they do not deserve to be excluded as leaders in this country.
The unionized skilled trades do not have pay equity issues, but we do have workplace cultural issues and issues surrounding child care and pregnancy in the trades. We are working to address some of these barriers, but we need your help.
We hope that the eligibility requirement can be revised and changed to reflect the important work we do in this sector; to help us continue to provide economic security for women in our country; and to reflect the inclusive eligibility requirements of other federal departments, such as ESDC and numerous other government departments.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak today about the work we are doing and for hearing our recommendations on the economic security of women in Canada.