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Why We Postponed the February 21 Rally: Negotiations Update from John Grimshaw

February 17, 2017

Ontario electrician working on power linesThe November 30th Queen’s Park demonstration and our tireless lobbying efforts have been successful. Minister of Labour, Kevin Flynn, has agreed to facilitate a mediated meeting with all the unions representing Ontario building trades.

As a gesture of good faith, the Progressive Certified Trades Coalition (PCTC) has decided to postpone the February 21 rally.

The Story Up Until Now

Please be reminded that the Tony Dean review was initially going to be implemented in its entirety by December 2015, in an omnibus budget bill. We put a stop to it, but in 2016 they tried again with omnibus Bill 70, Schedule 17. But due to a powerful alliance between the IBEW, several large unions and contractor organizations, and the dedication of a strong and dedicated membership, we’ve made sure that our concerns about the integrity of the trades have been heard.

Long before we decided to start demonstrating, we were lobbying the Ontario Liberal government on a regular basis right up until they introduced Bill 70, Schedule 17.

Our main issue with Schedule 17 is that it poses a threat to public safety, our safety on the job site, and our scopes of practice. Giving the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) the final say on legal vs illegal work is a huge problem when they have a long and documented history of treating any dispute as a union vs union contest. In effect, they have been ignoring the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) act by giving certain parts of the scope of practice of a compulsory trade to non-compulsory workers.

I am under no illusion that the OLRB’s practices are going to magically reverse, and the compulsory trades are going to receive a windfall of new work opportunities. The unions for unskilled workers also lobby the government on a regular basis, and their fear since November 30th was that we were trying to grab a bigger piece of the pie through the Ontario College of Trades.

After many demonstrations through December and January, I approached the Minister of Labour, Kevin Flynn. I proposed a possible way to get past the issues between the competing unions through mediation, and to try and catalogue those issues and come up with a resolve.

Moving Forward with Mediated Meetings

The Minister has agreed to try and facilitate a mediated meeting amongst all of the building trades unions to come up with a resolution. The PCTC decided to postpone the Feb. 21 demonstration at Queen’s Park to allow for those mediated meetings a chance to proceed.

The decision was made because of the possibility that we could lose the opportunity to try and come up with a consensus that all parties could agree to. We don’t want to risk opening up of the scopes of practice of the compulsory trades to challenge by those that would love to see that happen (like CLAC, non-union, general contractors, builders etc.)

Nothing in our decision says that we cannot go back to mass demonstrations at Queens Park should this process fail – and the Government has been made aware of that. I’m pretty sure the Government wants this to succeed, so I’m cautiously optimistic that it may happen if there is buy-in from all of the building trade unions.

It’s Your Hard Work That Got Us Here

In short, I’m proud of the members of the IBEW for standing up for what they believe in. We definitely would not have gotten as far as we have today without the support that we have seen since Schedule 17 was introduced last November.

But it’s time to shift gears and try to find a solution, and continuing the demonstrations will only serve to impede the process.

We called the first demonstration to show the government how important it is to our members to preserve the integrity of our trades. After all, it is our members who actually do the hard work to build Ontario up, literally and economically. This demonstration was successful and assisted to continue a conversation with government with the possibility of consensus of all building trade unions.

We have succeeded. To continue with demonstrating this time may jeopardize what we have achieved.

To those who are upset that we’ve postponed the Feb 21 rally, I ask you to consider this: we don’t call demonstrations to show everybody how tough we are. We call them to win.

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