On May 18, 2017, the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) posted its new Compliance and Enforcement Policy on its website.
The following is IBEW CCO Executive Chairman James Barry’s report on the highlights of the new Compliance and Enforcement Policy, which he assisted in drafting.
James Barry was a member of the nine person Compliance and Enforcement committee and the only member from the organized construction industry. He was appointed to the committee by the OCOT Board of Governors.
James Barry also currently sits as the Construction Divisional Board Chairman at OCOT and is a member of the Executive Committee along with being on the Board of Governors for the past six years. The OCOT represents over 240,000 members.
As a result of amendments to the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act made by Bill 70, the College of Trades was mandated to develop, for the first time, a Compliance and Enforcement Policy.
The Bill 70 amendments directed that the Policy be based on advice from a newly established Compliance and Enforcement Committee, and that a draft Policy first be shared with the Minister of Labour and, ultimately, approved by the College’s Board of Governors.
Under the amended OCTAA, the College was to approve the Policy, make it public, and post it on the College’s website within 6 months of the passage of Bill 70. The College’s Compliance & Enforcement Policy was posted on the College website on May 18, 2017.
The Policy is a significant document that sets out the general principles that the College intends to follow in relation to compliance and enforcement of OCTAA and its regulations.
As approved by the College, the Policy deals with a number of difficult areas in a way that, in the opinion of IBEW, is sensitive to both compulsory and non-compulsory trades. For example, the new Policy sets out a number of key objectives, including ensuring that Certificates of Qualification issued by the College are “valued and respected”.
This notion has been at the heart of the IBEW’s concerns about Bill 70 and it is good to see this specifically mentioned in the Policy.
The new Policy quite usefully emphasizes that “compliance with the law is mandatory” – an approach not prominent previously — and it gives Inspectors the tools they need to promote compliance.
Three other aspects of the Policy deserve the support of IBEW members.
First, for the first time, the College has committed itself to enforcing the journeyperson-to-apprentice ratio requirements established under OCTAA. This responds to a long-standing IBEW demand that has also recently been endorsed by all construction trades.
Second, the Policy establishes the underground economy as a primary area of risk where enforcement activities should be focussed. It is important to recognize, as the Policy now does, that vigorous College enforcement of sections 2, 4 and 8 of the OCTAA is necessary to protect consumers, workers, and the fair functioning of the marketplace.
When employers are allowed to violate the OCTAA they derive an unfair economic advantage over their law-abiding competitors. Lax enforcement promotes non-compliance and all the harms that inevitably flow. The Policy recognizes this.
Finally, the College has identified the protection of vulnerable workers (including young workers and newcomers to Canada) as an important enforcement priority.
The IBEW has, for years, raised concerns regarding lack of enforcement and compliance with the OCTAA and its predecessor, the Trades Qualification and Apprenticeship Act. The new Policy is a good first step in addressing these concerns.
No doubt, however, IBEW and its members will need to be vigilant to ensure that the promise of proper enforcement, announced in this Policy, is a promise kept and not broken.