Ontario’s certified trades are continuing protests against legislation reforming the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) passed in December, which reverts certain enforcement/adjudication powers to the Ontario Labor Relations Board.
Among the protests, more than 100 members of Ottawa’s IBEW local 586, along with plumbers union (UA) local 71 and Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA) local 47 protested outside infrastructure minister Bob Chiarelli’s office on Jan. 6.
“The members were continuing the protest against Schedule 17 of Ontario’s recent Bill 70, which began last November,” the IBEW Construction Council of Ontario reported on its website.
“Schedule 17 will jeopardize worker and public safety by allowing general labourers to do the work currently within the scope of practice of scheduled trades (unionized or not).”
It will also become harder to enforce tickets issued for illegal work that is a part of the $15 billion underground construction economy. As part of Schedule 17, the Ontario Labour Relations Board will become the board of appeal for these tickets, which means there will be a higher and impractical burden of proof once a worker’s Certificate of Qualification will no longer be the deciding factor. You can learn more details about the problems with Schedule 17 here.
In spite of the seriousness of the issue, spirits were high amongst the protesters (especially after the success of the Shaw Centre protest in December). The other great news about this protest was that the media coverage was even more extensive.
Local 586 business manager John Bourke said, “The members are fully engaged and determined not to give up demonstrating. They kept asking me, ‘when’s the next one?’”
However, despite the protests, the provincial government has given no indication it will revisit the decision to amend the OCOT legislation, the changes of which received royal assent in December, following extensive protests by employer groups and the Labourers International Union of North America and a comprehensive review of the OCOT by Tony Dean.
Plumber and Sheet Metal Unions are opposing Schedule 17 for sensible reasons. Gov’t of Ontario is making a mistake on this and should pay attention to what the unions are saying.