Talking with the trades:Everyone deserves the right to go about their daily business without fear

picture shows two men,one with a hard hat, looking over a piece of paperDid you know that most building companies have policies about street harassment? We asked one man from the building trades to talk about street harassment.

Hi there! Tell us a bit about what you do
I am a Site Manager for a main housing developer, based in the South East region of England. I manage the whole process of the construction of new housing developments. I work with workers from various sub contractors involved in the process. I have worked within the industry for 10.5 years and have worked with this company for 5.5 years.

What do you think of street harassment?
I don’t think it’s fair that anyone should be harassed when they are out and about or made to feel intimated, sexually harassed or verbally or physically abused. Everyone deserves the right to go about their daily business without fear or worrying about running the gauntlet when they step outside their house, office etc.

Builders get a lot of stick for street harassment, what are big companies like the one you work for doing on this?
When new people are inducted onto a site I explain to them that any form of sexual harassment or bullying will not be tolerated. There is a zero tolerance policy and anyone caught doing this will be removed from site. There will be an internal inquiry as to the appropriate measures to be enforced on that individual.

Is it enforced?
Any issue will always have back up from senior managers and all the way up to the Chief Executive. The company I work with will talk to the sub contractor and make them aware that the individual will not be allowed to return to work on that site. There may be room for mediation if a sincere apology is offered to the person affected. However, a stiff stance has to be taken to deter others from thinking they can get away with it if they just apologise. A loss of wages is often the biggest deterrent for many people as they do not want to lose their jobs.

Have you ever kicked someone off site for it?
As to date no, however I did recently issue a warning to a worker for waving at a woman who walking from her property to her car. He was also making comments to a group of workers. She wasn’t aware as they were inside a building a distance away. I told him that he couldn’t do that as it was classed as sexual harassment and he replied “they love a bit of attention”. I replied “It is not tolerated, if you do it again you’re off site”.

Does it ever start conversations with the other workers on site?
Yes, for example in the above situation the other workers said that he was an idiot and that he thinks he is funny. The majority of workers think that it is not acceptable as they have partners, daughters etc and they would not like that behaviour directed towards their loved ones so they would not do it themselves. They are normally the first to challenge that kind of behaviour.

Do you think things are changing in the building trade?
The building trade has come a long way, especially within national/worldwide construction companies. There is now much more awareness of issues like sexual harassment  racism and homophobia and it won’t be tolerated. There is still banter within the trade and certain language used, however this is mostly used by the 50+ generation. Often they are not aware that what they are saying is offensive and they believe there is no malice meant by their comments. I do notice that with the younger generation it is changing and workers would not even think of using certain language.

If someone is being street harassed near a site, what would you advise they do?
Ask to speak to the Site Manager and explain to them what has happened. If they are not confident going onto site then contact the head office to put in a complaint. I’d recommend they did report it so it can be dealt with and rest assured that it will be. No company wants to be known as a company which tolerates any form of harassment.

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