Unions defend Ontario College of Trades: ‘It is not red tape’

Unifor Local 444 president Dave Cassidy, centre, discusses the cutting of the Ontario College of Trades as Karl Lovett of IBEW Local 773, left, and Mike Meloche of UA Local 527, right listen on October 26, 2018. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

Local union members say the Ontario PC-majority government’s plan to reform the apprenticeship system will be a step back.

Spokespeople for Unifor Local 444, UA Local 527, and IBEW Local 773 slammed Bill 47 during a media conference Friday at the Local 444/200 union hall in Windsor.

Bill 47, also known as the Making Ontario Open for Business Act, contains amendments to the Employment Standards Act, the Labour Relations Act of 1995, and the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act of 2009.

If approved, the bill would repeal previous provisions on apprenticeships, and change the ratio of journeymen to apprentices in skilled trades. The government says it will cut the bureaucracy and make apprenticeships more efficient, but Karl Lovett, business manager of IBEW Local 773, said all it will do is set Ontario back.

“If it’s read and enacted the way it is now, it should be labelled Bill 1947, because that’s what it’s going to take us back to,” said Lovett. “The suggested reform regarding a ratio of one-to-one with apprentices only weakens the quality of our trained Ontario workforce.”

Unifor Local 444 President Dave Cassidy is not buying the government’s argument that the cutting of the Ontario College of Trades would streamline the apprenticeships in the province, saying that OCOT is a separate entity from the Labour Ministry.

“We want to see the Ontario College of Trades continue. It is not red tape,” said Cassidy. “The problem is that they still have the MTCU [Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities] there, and then they have OCOT there. They work out of different buckets.”

In a region that is already looking for more skilled tradespeople, Cassidy said Bill 47 would have a trickle-down effect on businesses.  He said people who do not have the needed training would likely be hired, compromising quality and safety.

“When you have these potential tool-and-die places that don’t have the skilled workers…you’re going to see people that are low-paid, that are not skilled,” said Cassidy. “That’s what’s making Ontario potentially go backwards.”

Bill 47 received first reading at Queen’s Park this week.