OCOT approves slight apprentice ratio reduction for carpenters


                Completes review of all trades

    Ontario Construction Report staff writer

    The Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) has decided to allow an increased number of apprentices to work in the trade, resisting the Carpenters’ Union which had sought to maintain the status quo, but declining the request of several employer groups for changes that would bring the carpenter apprenticeship ratio closer to the level of most other provinces.

    The ratio review panel decision released in late September said called for a one-to-three ratio, after the first journeyman/apprentice.  In other words, for small businesses, a single journeyperson could have a single apprentice assistant, but each additional apprentice would require three journeypersons to be working for the business or 1:1, 1:3.

    “The current ratio of 1:1; 4:1is much higher than the ratio for the trade of General Carpenter in all other Canadian jurisdictions except for the non-residential construction sector in Quebec,” wrote review panel chair Diane Gee in the decision.  “All other Canadian jurisdictions have a ratio of 1:1or 1:2. This fact suggests to the panel that the current ratio may be set too high.”

    Gee is an alternate chair of the Ontario Labour Relations Board.  Other panelists included Valerie Brennan and Larry Lineham.

    The decision noted that “Construction Sector Council, the CDCO and CLAC submit that there will be an increased need for skilled carpenters in the next few years. The CLAC argues that current supply may not be sufficient to meet all of the demand. Lowering the ratio will help to address this need.

    “Further, lowering the ratio may assist the economy. According to the submissions filed by CDCO, companies with fewer than 20 employees accounted for 45 per cent of construction employment (across all trades) in 2011. Small contractors made submissions to the panel in which they indicated that the current ratio was having a detrimental impact on their ability to grow. By assisting small contractors to grow, a lower ratio will in turn assist the economy.

    “While we believe that the ratio should be reduced, we also believe that the reduction should be a modest one in order that any negative impact of the ratio reduction can be ameliorated. For example, lowering the ratio will result in the need for more spaces to be available for apprentices to attend trade school. It is unknown whether the current trade schools would be able to handle a large influx of additional apprentices. Further, although we do not believe that a modest reduction in the ratio will have an impact on health and safety, we do not feel that we are in a position to judge the potential impact to health and safety were the ratio to be reduced suddenly and dramatically.  Similarly, while little impact to journeypersons is anticipated provided the ratio reduction is modest, we have reservations as to the potential impact on journeypersons if the ratio were to be reduced considerably.

    “For all of the foregoing reasons, we recommend a modest reduction in the current ratio for the trade of general carpenter to 1:1; 3:1.”


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