Ontario Construction Report staff writer
Representatives of the Carpenters Union and the Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario (ISCA) have sent letters to editors of publications, clearly indicating their dissatisfaction with the Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak’s positions on the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) and apprenticeship ratio reviews.
The campaign is heating up for the June 12 provincial election.
Below are the letters:
Letter sent to the editor of the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail by Tony Iannuzzi, executive secretary-treasurer, Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario (CDCO).
Tim Hudak’s latest fantasy about creating 200,000 high-paying jobs in the skilled trades with “the stroke of a pen” is pure fiction.
The unionized sector invests millions of dollars each year to provide virtually all apprenticeship training in the voluntary trades, while non-union sector invests nothing and tells Mr. Hudak that they can’t create any jobs because of ratios.
We have 8,500 active apprentices registered with the Carpenters’ Union, and we operate 14 training centres across Ontario. Carpenters’ Local 27 Training Centre is the largest facility in the province with government-accredited Training Delivery Agent (TDA) status for general carpentry apprentices. The Interior Finishing Systems Training Centre, which we operate in partnership with employers, is the largest TDA facility for drywall apprenticeship training in Ontario.
Journeyperson-to-apprentice ratios are not a barrier to entry for the skilled trades. Lowering those ratios will not magically create 200,000 skilled, high-paying jobs overnight. What it could very well do is wipe out 200,000 well-paying jobs and replace them with 200,000 lower-paying jobs as employers seek to reduce their labour costs.
The impact, ultimately, will likely be seen in a lower quality of workmanship and less attention to health and safety concerns.
One of the reasons why we have journeypersons to apprentice ratios in Ontario, historically, has been to protect apprentices from being exploited as cheap labour. Another is that different people teach and learn differently. What might be a more effective learning style for one apprentice might not be as effective for another. We would think this to be self-evident. You wouldn’t expect your children to go to school for 13 years and be taught by a single teacher.
Mr. Hudak thinks he can win the election by misleading the public into thinking that the Ontario College of Trades is a barrier to getting a job as a skilled tradesperson. The reality is that most trades in Ontario are voluntary — in fact 134 out of 156 are voluntary — and those journeypersons are not required to be members of the college in order to work in their chosen fields. For the remainder, those that fix our cars and wire our houses for electricity, I’m glad that the College of Trades is now, for the first time in history, verifying their qualifications.
ICSA executive director Hugh Laird also wrote a letter expressing similar thoughts:
With the “stroke of a pen”, Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak will change journeyperson to apprenticeship ratios and create 200,000 well-paying jobs.
The actual quote from the news conference at an Arista Homes construction site in Vaughan on Thursday was: “It doesn’t take a complicated piece of legislation. It doesn’t take any of your tax dollars. It won’t cost you a penny. Just one simple cabinet meeting, one stroke of the pen, and it’s done.”
Later in the same news conference, he has the nerve to say: “I’m not the leader who is going to promise you all kinds of things and all kinds of money.”
This reckless rhetoric that comes out of his mouth is nothing short of ridiculous. Does anyone truly believe that 200,000 well-paying jobs can be created with the stroke of a pen? Maybe he should cure cancer or erase our provincial debt and deficit with a simple “stoke of his pen.”
He allegedly studied economics, yet he doesn’t understand simple math as we explained it to him in our training centre.
He continues to slam the Ontario College of Trades as a barrier to entry into the skilled trades, while neglecting to mention to his audience of carpenters and drywall mechanics that they don’t have to be members of the college because their trades are voluntary. In actual fact, the only compulsory tradespeople (who have to be members of the college) who are likely to be found on a residential construction site are electricians and plumbers.
In the four trades that we train and administer, the ratios are meaningless. We who understand the trades and train workers cannot even find enough apprentices to meet our existing ratios of 3:1 and 4:1. To put it in perspective, the contractors who comprise ISCA employ approximately 10,000 journeypersons and 1,500 apprentices.
We’ve explained the economics of this situation to Mr. Hudak. Lowering ratios would not create 200,000 high-paying jobs. It would allow unscrupulous employers to reduce their costs and the quality of workmanship they offer by laying off 200,000 skilled journeypersons and replacing them with 200,000 lower-cost, lower-skilled apprentices, at the expense of public safety.
Hugh Laird, Executive Director
Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario; Interior Finishing Systems Training Centre