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Shaping the New Tomorrow

With Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act, the Government of Ontario is embarking on a reform of the labour landscape in the province.

As part of this process, it is vital that the men and women working in the skilled trades be engaged partners in shaping the new tomorrow. Ontario’s skilled pipe trades workers are on the front lines every day, and are trained to ensure that not only is the job completed, but it is done so with the utmost of skill and with public and worker safety at the forefront. As the government changes direction on labour, it is paramount that this does not change.

We want to build a stronger system that will support apprenticeships and grow the skilled trades, while protecting the public interest.

Preserving Existing Ratios

When Ontario last reviewed the ratio of journeypersons to apprentices in the skilled trades, it was an intensive, evidence-based process that took a considerable amount of time to allow for a full public consultation.

We attended public meetings and wrote submissions and letters; we engaged with other trades, the Ministry of Labour and the Ontario College of Trades. At the forefront of all discussions was worker and public safety, and they remain a top priority of the OPTC. This is a vital consideration in setting ratios for the training of apprentices. The right balance is key to ensuring proper oversight and training; if that balance isn’t right, public safety is put at risk.

While it was contentious at times, we are satisfied that in the end the voice of the skilled trades was heard.

The resulting ratios recognized unique differences between the trades and assigned ratios accordingly. It was a reasoned approach. A sensible approach. An approach that is working.

We cannot say the same for the changes proposed in Bill 47.

Putting Public Safety at Risk

Introduced in October, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act would make sweeping changes to ratios in Ontario’s skilled trades, moving them to 1:1 across the board.

The government talks of this improving the trades, but completely ignores the negative impacts this may have on public and worker safety.

We have seen the results of this in British Columbia. More than 15 years ago, B.C. implemented changes like what is currently being considered in Ontario with Bill 47. As a result of those changes, today B.C. construction workers are three times more likely to be killed on the job than the provincial average across Canada.

We need to ensure apprentices are doing tasks for which they have been trained and are properly supervised when learning new skills. Thorough training under a certified journeyperson protects public and workplace safety. We worked hard to get the existing rations, and we feel they are serving the skilled trades well.

There is no need to change them.

The current government proposal for an across the board ratio of 1:1 for journeypersons and apprentices does not reflect the realities of construction and maintenance work sites. Poorly supervised apprentices leads to inadequate training which, in turn, put workers and the general public at risk.

Capacity in the System

Furthermore, there is no need to change the ratios.

There is currently capacity in the system to welcome more apprentices and still meet the current ratios. Under the current standards, we can ensure that apprentices are being properly mentored and trained by qualified journeypersons. We need to make sure apprentices are doing tasks for which they have been trained, and are properly supervised when learning new skills.

However, no matter where they are set, ratios are meaningless unless they are enforced on the job sites. It is in the broader public interest that enforcement of ratios be a key part of the government’s labour policy moving forward.

We want to work with the government to create the right balance and keep Ontario construction sites safe for both the public and workers on site.