It’s the right thing to do. Period.
On the eve of global Menstrual Hygiene Day May 28, BC Infrastructure Benefits (BCIB) announces it will provide free menstrual products to its employees, removing a barrier for people on some of the biggest construction projects in British Columbia.
BCIB is the first Crown corporation to sign the United Way’s Period Promise, which seeks to reduce period poverty, de-stigmatize menstruation, and help more people get access to the products they count on. Research by the United Way found that more than 20 per cent of people who menstruate missed work due to being unable to access menstrual products. Meanwhile, 30 per cent of people who menstruate have had to leave work for the same reason. Menstruation, in fact, is one of the top two reasons that women miss work in Canada.
The call for BCIB—a major employer in the construction sector—to sign the Period Promise came from Build TogetHER, which represents women in the BC Building Trades.
“We are absolutely thrilled,” said Build TogetHER director Miranda Kurucz, an apprentice steamfitter based in Kitimat and a member of UA Local 170. “This commitment removes one of the barriers faced by people who menstruate. The products will be there when they need them, so they can focus on what they do best: building important public infrastructure.”
BCIB employs the skilled labour force on infrastructure projects build under B.C.’s Community Benefits Agreement, including the Pattullo Bridge replacement, the widening of Highway 1, the Broadway Subway and the Cowichan District Hospital replacement. Part of BCIB’s mandate is to create safe and respectful working environments.
“Today’s announcement is a practical expression of the work we’re doing through our Respectful Onsite Initiative, a program that gets employees talking about issues such as reconciliation, women in trades and gender equity. BCIB is working with the province and contractors to open doors for women and people across the gender spectrum,” said Irene Kerr, BCIB’s president and CEO. “But it’s not enough to simply open the door. We need to create safe and welcoming jobsites so that everyone is able to do their best work.”
BCIB also works to recruit underrepresented groups into the skilled trades, mobilizing, growing and diversifying B.C.’s skilled trades workforce, something that is close to Build TogetHER director Mollie Routledge’s heart
“We have a skilled trades shortage, so there has been a push for some time to recruit people from underrepresented groups, including women,” notes Routledge, a journey electrician responsible for membership development with IBEW Local 993 based in Kamloops. “The more ways we can demonstrate that construction is welcoming to women, the more inclined they’ll be to consider a career in the sector.”
BCIB signing the Period Promise to provide barrier-free menstrual products on construction sites also sends a critical message to the industry, notes Chelsea French, who co-chairs Build TogetHER and is a commercial transportation mechanic.
“Menstruation is a biological function, not a women’s issue,” said French, Build TogetHER co-chair and member of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115. “Removing these barriers helps destigmatize menstruation while being inclusive to all people who menstruate, including nonbinary people and trans men.”
BCIB taking this step to embrace barrier-free access to menstrual products could have a profound impact across the construction sector, said the United Way’s Neal Adolph.
“It signals that people who menstruate belong in the skilled trades, and have a right to learn the skills to build B.C. And furthermore, it’s the right thing to do, period.”
Indeed, Build TogetHER is hopeful this is the start of a trend in the sector, with BCIB an early adopter of what will ultimately become common practice in construction.
May 28, which is Menstrual Hygiene Day, is a global movement to eliminate persistent taboos and stigma around menstruation.
BC Infrastructure Benefits: bcib.ca
Build TogetHER, Women of the Building Trades: buildtogetherbc.ca
Period Promise: periodpromise.ca/
Menstrual Hygiene Day: menstrualhygieneday.org
Director of Communications BC Building Trades
Communications Specialist BC Infrastructure Benefits
Director, CLC Labour Participation
United Way Lower Mainland