Sprinkler and fire protection installers to become first new OCOT compulsory trade

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Ottawa Construction News staff writer

An Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) trade classification review panel has decided that the sprinkler and fire protection installer trade should be compulsory, the first compulsory trade certification decision since the OCOT was established last year.

The split 2-1 decision sets the stage for the much more contentious and higher-impact potential general carpentry trade certification process, which is now moving through the OCOT system.

The classification review panel received submissions from employer and labour organizations, along with fire officials before releasing its decision on April 23.

Chair Bernard Fishbein from the OLRB and Larry Lineham, previously business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) local 1687 voted in favour of compulsory certification.  Robert Bradford, previously executive director of the Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA), filed a minority, dissenting report.

The OCOT says there will be a two year period before the trade is made compulsory.  The decision could be reversed in this time, though Bradford said in his dissenting opinion that he thinks this will be unlikely.

“Lastly, and importantly, we also wish to make clear that our decision was close,” Fishbein and Lineham said in their majority decision.  “As this is the first trade classification review, for those awaiting and watching this decision, we wish to make it clear that evidence satisfying the criteria set out in the regulation should be clear and convincing, or other requests in different circumstances might well not meet with the success of the sprinkler fitter here.”

The majority decision noted that jurisdictional issues are unlikely to be a problem for the sprinkler installers, because the plumbing and pipefitting trade, already compulsory, supports the compulsory certification option.  As well, “it was not clear to us that there is any significant number of individuals actually regularly engaged in sprinkler fitter installation who are not already C of Q (certificate of qualification) holders or apprentices.”

The majority decision said “before this recommendation is implemented, the college should develop and promulgate criteria for ‘grandfathering’ any such (non-certified) people who wish to continue working as a sprinkler fitter, and in any event, within120 days of this decision.

“We recognize what we said at the outset about our limited jurisdiction over the internal operations of the college, but this appears inherently part of our mandate to determine whether sprinkler fitter should become a compulsory trade — and quite bluntly, it appears that no one else is in a better position (or in any position for that matter) to determine those criteria.  Certainly, that includes this panel which heard no submissions on how such grandfathering should work.”
In his majority opinion, Bradford wrote that “proponents of this application have failed to provide adequate information about impacts or why reclassification is necessary.”

“Not only is such reliable and factual evidence lacking in the applications and the subsequent oral submissions, it is virtually non-existent with respect to any of the seven review criteria and therefore the application cannot succeed.”

“In particular, proponents did not establish the linkages, if any, between compulsory certification of the trade and training, health and safety or any of the other review criteria,” Bradford wrote. “Such linkages were asserted as if they were fact, but there was no reliable evidence brought forward to support the assertions.  Establishing such linkage is considered fundamental to demonstrating a need for reclassification as a compulsory trade.”

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