Ottawa Construction News staff writer
In one of the most unusual alliances in recent labour history, the Labourers Union has broken ranks with the skilled trades and joined the coalition of generally non-union employers seeking an end to the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT).
“We were originally supportive of the notion, in principle, of the College of Trades to be an institution that would promote skilled trades, and apprenticeship to young people and would facilitate a conversation around skilled trades,” said Cosmo Mannella, LiUNA Ontario Provincial District Council’s business manager.
“However, the college has demonstrated that this is not what it is,” he said. “It has proven itself to be a completely reckless institution that is threatening jobs, and creating barriers for those already employed in the skilled trades. Our tradespeople have succeeded through learning practical skills on the job and being forced to write an exam, after many years of skilled employment, will only create barriers for them to thrive.”
Labourers’ union members report they are receiving tickets from OCOT inspectors for doing the work of certified trades, such as laying conduits for electrical pipe – tasks the union says members have been doing safely for decades without government intervention.
The Liberal government opened the doors of its multi-million dollar new trades bureaucracy last spring, the anti-OCOT organization behind the “Stop The Trades Tax” campaign says on its website. “Ontario apprentices are journeypersons are being forced to pay membership fees to the Ontario College of Trades. To make matters worse, the College of Trades is preparing to make it even harder to work in the trades by enacting an agenda that includes broad-based compulsory certification for all Ontario trades.
“This will mean any tradesperson, working anywhere in Ontario, will need a licence to pick up a hammer, install drywall, amongst many other things, plus will have to fork over more money every year to the government for a piece of paper in order to find work or even to keep the job they have already,” says the Stop The Trades Tax website.
“The Stop the Trades Tax Campaign is pleased to welcome LiUNA to our group. It has long been the view of the Stop the Trades Tax Campaign that the Ontario College of Trades is failing in its mandate by only serving the interests of a narrow group of unions and killing jobs and hurting trades people,” said Karen Renkema, chair of Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance and the Stop The Trades Tax campaign. “LiUNA joining our opposition to the College of Trades demonstrates the growing divide amongst labour groups on the issue of the college and the increasing opposition to this job-killing bureaucracy.”