The Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) has extended the review of journeyperson to apprentice ratios by one year, as it implements the Dean Report recommendations regarding its governance, which caused much controversy during the first round of apprenticeship ratio reviews some three years ago.
Representatives of both sides of the spectrum – employer groups and unions representing workers in certified trades – have expressed frustration with the delay, though from differing perspectives.
Apprentice-to-journeyperson ratios have been a contentious issue since the OCOT’s establishment in 2009; with representatives of organized labour arguing for higher ratios on health and safety grounds, while employers and representatives of non-union organizations advocate for lower ratios, arguing that safety concerns are overplayed and high ratios create artificial barriers to labour force entry.
The current rules generally set a one-to-one ratio for the first apprentice and then upwards of 1-3 for additional workers, but they vary depending on the trade and other criteria.
In the first round of apprentice ratio reviews, there was much teeth gnashing as the review panels’ decisions depended on the ideological composition of its members; an issue that the OCOT hopes to resolve through a new system to select panel members through a more independent roster process.
“While we recognize that the OCOT has a new CEO, its previous leadership had more than enough time to make ratio reviews a priority to improve the process,” Joe Vaccaro, chair of the Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance (OSTA) and chief executive officer of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA) said in a statement. “Over the next year we expect that OCOT will create a process consistent with the Tony Dean recommendations that will be more transparent and inclusive for small businesses that want their voice heard. If this happens, we fully expect ratios to be lowered.”
Meanwhile, James Barry, executive director of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Construction Council of Ontario (IBEW-CCO) said that the delay “is consistent with the many challenges the OCOT has faced since its inception.
“Another example of a delay can be witnessed with a closer look at the compliance and Enforcement policy,” he said. “This policy was put into effect in June 2017.”
“To date, there has been little to no enforcement across the province of Ontario. It is my understanding that until recently a majority of the divisional and trade boards in the construction sector have not been fully populated.
“This results in not having a quorum and the inability of the College to hold construction sector meetings. In my opinion, this compromises the governance structure within the College and the constructions sector as a whole.
“When the ratio reviews of the electrical trade take place, the IBEW/CCO will make every effort to be actively engaged in the process,” he said. The IBEW represents almost 20,000 members across the province.
In its statement, the OCOT says the delay will allow it to “work with stakeholders to develop a framework that will clarify the broader public policy objectives ratios are intended to achieve, refine how the ratio review process is conducted, and make any needed changes to the criteria for determining appropriate ratios.”
“The framework is being developed in an open and transparent manner that includes input from broad stakeholder consultations beginning in May 2018, an advisory panel, enhanced communications and other opportunities for feedback,” the statement said.
“We’re looking forward to the next round of stakeholder consultations on the framework and process so that when April 2019 arrives we can make both timely and informed decisions,” said George Gritziotis, the OCOT’s CEO and registrar.