More Ontario College of Trades apprenticeship ratio reviews released

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Slight modification for electricians angers Ontario Electric League

Ottawa Construction News staff writer

The Ontario College of Trades has released its latest apprenticeship ratio review decisions and the decision for the only trade where there has been a change – a slight reduction – has angered the Ontario Electric League (OEL), which has argued for a 1:1 ratio.

One trade is still outstanding, and it may be the most contentious: the carpenters. The Carpenters Union also is expected to request compulsory certification status later this year.

Meanwhile, drywall contractors will continue to experience one of the most restrictive apprenticeship ratios in Canada at 1:4 (after the first apprentice/journeyperson) for acoustic and lathing applicators, (only Quebec is more restrictive), while the ratio remains at 1:1, 3:1 for drywall finishers and plasterers.

Sprinkler and fire protection installers and powerline technicians remain at 1:1, the figure that the OEL had hoped to achieve for electricians.

The OEL led a campaign that resulted in 285 individual electricians, apprentices and electrical contractors submitting requests for the 1:1 ratio – the highest volume of responses since the OCOT started its apprenticeship ratio reviews.

However, the OCOT adjudicators discounted the 1-1 ratio campaign.

In its decision, the adjudicators observed “there were 58 submissions from employers and contractors, 74 submissions from individual journeypersons, 98 submissions from apprentices and 36 submissions from pre-apprentice students that were virtually identical other than bearing the names of different individuals or employers or contractors.

“All advocated the same position – that the journeyperson to apprentice ratio be reduced to 1:1. Without wishing to cast any aspersions, some parties have obviously circulated these pre-formulated statements encouraging as many supporters of this position to file these albeit identical submissions separately in their own name.

“Obviously, we have considered the substantive points raised in these submissions,” the OCOT said. “However, we wish to make clear that no point carried greater weight simply because a party managed to have a number of other people or entities to also file the same submissions. The number of people filing the same submission is pointedly not a criterion the Regulation directs us to. As best we could, we have tried to consider the merits of the submission made to us – not the number of times these submissions were made to us.”

These views have disappointed the OEL.

“In making its recommendation, the review panel ignored the requests of 98.4 per cent of the submissions to move to a 1:1 ratio and accepted the recommendation of one respondent despite the objective third-party evidence presented by those calling for 1:1,” said OEL president Stephen Sell. “It is clear the Ontario College of Trades is not interested, despite its stated objective, in responding to the overwhelming requests from its members and the stakeholders as it has chosen to accept the recommendation of a single stakeholder. This is extremely disappointing to say the least.”

The IBEW Construction Council of Ontario and the Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario (ECAO) recommended in a joint submission the slight “tweaking” ultimately approved by the OCOT review panel. (The Greater Toronto Electrical Contractors Association, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union 353, the Power Workers’ Union, Hydro One Networks Inc. and single individual recommended no change in the ratio reviews. The Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) proposed a 2:1 ratio.

In its decision, the OCOT says the change it approved will help smaller contractors “who are in members that a least are the significant bulk of the electrical contracting industry.”

“It increases the number of apprentices permitted to be hired even more than the CLAC proposal of an across-the-board 2:1 ratio,” the OCOT review panel said in its decision.

“It also slightly eases the ratio for larger contractors generally and certainly for domestic and rural electricians. We accept that in setting the ratio we should be attempting to balance the human cost of too tight a ratio (people denied the opportunity to become electricians) with the cost of too loose a ratio that allows the system to overload itself with more apprentices (and ultimately journepersons) than the economy can absorb into employment. Hopefully this recommended change will increase the number of apprentices in a modest fashion so that possible negative economic impacts either do not occur or are minimized – and certainly can be monitored.”

The OEL says it will be writing to the Minister of Training, College and Universities, calling on him to accept a 1:1 ratio. “This disappointing decision by the review panel clearly demonstrates that the Ontario College of Trades is more interested in catering to the select needs of an individual stakeholder rather than meeting its stated goal ‘to encourage more men and women to work in trades and give the industry a greater role in governance, certification and training,’” the OEL statement said.

Meanwhile, the only trade remaining to have its apprenticeship review completed is the carpenters. An OCOT spokesperson said the panel reviewing the carpenters’ ratio review asked for an extension, and the review should be ready in September.

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