Last week saw 5 demonstrations against Bill 70 Schedule 17 across Ontario.
Together, the rallies achieved more news coverage, and help put the issue in front of more members of the public than ever before. We hope that the Liberal government got the message that until Schedule 17 goes away, neither will we.
An Open Invitation to Talk
IBEW, like the other skilled trades at the protests, want to reopen discussions about Schedule 17. We would like to meet with Premier Kathleen Wynne and Labour Minister Flynn.
While many Liberal politicians have been saying that “consultations were held,” we feel the important points were not reflected in the wording of the Bill Schedule 17.
- If the Liberal government understood the complexity of electrical work, they would not be seeking to reopen the scopes of practice for the skilled trades, as Schedule 17 does in Part XI.1, “Scopes of Practice and Compulsory and Voluntary Trades”.
- The Ontario Labour Relations Board should not be the board of appeal for tickets issued to uncertified workers or their employers.
Until changes are made to protect the safety of skilled trades and the public, we’re happy to keep demonstrating.
Here’s a recap of what happened around the province.
Ottawa, January 19th
The January 19th protest in Ottawa took place in front of MPP Yasir Naqvi’s office. Organized by IBEW Local 586 in partnership with UA Local 71 and SMWA Local 47, the protest saw 125 members at its peak.
As you can see from the video below, the protesters earned tons of honks from traffic. One member was even given an orange by one bystander to keep the energy up!
Business Manager for 586, John Bourke, was interviewed on CBC TV Ottawa (editor’s note – we used to have a link to the clip, but CBC has since taken it down).
While Naqvi wasn’t available to meet with the protesters, a member of his staff spoke to them briefly, and said the word would be passed along.
John Bourke noted, “The members are really, really determined. They want to see this resolved, and we’ll keep protesting as long as it takes until we get results,” he said. “No matter how many protests we have, they keep coming.”
“We want to get the word out to the other Locals: keep the pressure on!” He added.
Local 586 member Randy Smart confirms Bourke’s assessment. “It’s been almost two months since we’ve started protesting Bill 70, Schedule 17. I’m proud to not only be standing here today with my brothers and sisters at MPP Yasir Naqvi’s office but with all the IBEW locals across Ontario. I have a simple message for Kathleen Wynne: WE ARE NOT GOING AWAY!”
Oakville-Hamilton, January 20th
About 60 – 70 members of Hamilton’s IBEW Local 105, UA Local 67, and SMWA Local 537 came out to protest in front of Labour Minister Kevin Flynn’s office. Minister Flynn was not on hand to meet with the protesters.
Coverage of the rally made Inside Hamilton/Oakville Beaver, however, and the protesters handed out leaflets to try and spread the word about the issues.
“Spirits were high, and the members all showed great enthusiasm and determination!” said Local 105 Business Manager/IBEW CCO President Lorne Newick. “If need be, we’re in this for the long haul.”
Guelph, January 20th
Well over 100 demonstrators met outside MPP Liz Sandals’ office, rallying for over 2 hours.
Members of IBEW Local 804 were joined by members of UNIFOR, United Association of Piping Trades and the Sheet Metal Workers Local 562. Also contributing their valuable support were members of Wellington Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OETCA), ETFO, and Guelph District Labour Council.
“I was really pleased with the attendance, and especially with everyone from the other unions who came out to show their solidarity,” said Local 804 Political Action Committee member Dino Celloto.
While MPP Liz Sandals was willing to come out and speak briefly with the demonstrators about the issue, she seems unconcerned about the problems that Bill 70 Schedule 17 will create.
Local 804 Business Manager George Couch sums it up. “I think it’s really a safety issue. If you don’t have training in the electrical field, you really shouldn’t be making decisions about who is doing the work,” he says. “Ms. Sandals talks about the OLRB, but she doesn’t understand how long it takes to get decisions from them.”
Dino Celloto seems unfazed by the lack of a positive response. “We’ve done our best to talk to the Liberals to try and get some corrections to Schedule 17. We’ll increase the pressure if needed.”
London, January 20th
Meanwhile, in London between 60-100 members of IBEW Local 120 and friends rallied in front of the office of MPP and Deputy Premier Deb Matthews on Friday afternoon. A busload of skilled trades came in all the way from Sarnia to lend a hand, as well as a group from Windsor.
Considering the short notice and the rain, IBEW Local 120 Business Manager John Gibson is proud of all who attended.
“The members are really concerned about safety, and also for the future of their trade. When they see uncertified work happening they don’t know who to call anymore,” John
Gibson said. “And I know there are weekly violations happening, because they let me know,” he added.
While Deb Matthews wasn’t available for a meeting, 2 of the protesters were allowed to meet for about half an hour with her second in command. Members Pete Thompson and Jim Dumaresq reported that they presented concerns about safety and the underground economy.
There was also good media coverage of the rally in the local news:
“Hopefully at the end of the day the Liberals will listen, given that this is such an important safety issue for workers and the public,” John Gibson commented.
IBEW Local 120 would like to thank everyone who made the trip from Windsor and Sarnia including IBEW Local 530, IBEW Local 773, United Association Local 527, Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local 473, United Association Local 663, Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local 235 and United Association Local 527.
Kingston, January 20th
In Kingston, IBEW Local 115 demonstrated in front of MPP Sophie Kiwala’s office at noon. Over 100 members of IBEW, UA Local 401, and SMWA Local 269 passed out over 300 leaflets to passers by.
“We got a lot of people honking horns as they drove by,” commented Local 115 Business Manager Bill Pearse.
Unlike last time, however, the MPP didn’t make an appearance. An aide met briefly with the protesters and promised to make sure everyone was made aware of the situation. “I understand Ms. Kiwala tried to raise the issue with Minister Flynn, but it didn’t have much effect.” said Pearse.
But the rally did draw tv news coverage, and when added to all the coverage around the province, momentum is starting to build.
You can watch the clips on CKWS TV here.
Bill Pearse is wondering when there will be a proper meeting about the issue. “Schedule 17 should never have been in the budget. There wasn’t the proper level of consultation or fair treatment of the process. We hope the government will realize that the fair way to deal with this is to sit down and really talk about this.”
Let’s Talk – Really Talk
IBEW and other skilled trades have spoken with MPPs and their staff, some of whom seemed to understand concerns, and many who seemed alarmingly uninformed. Some, like Liz
Sandals, seemed to have made up their mind already that everything’s OK, even though IBEW legal counsel has informed the leadership to the contrary.
The overwhelming feeling that members are getting is that the concerns are just not understood. And that makes sense – it’s a complicated issue with a long history. The tragedies that have led to the formation of OCOT may not be remembered by all.
To recap, we think the solution is to have a real consultation, where all the facts are presented and a real discussion about the effects of Schedule 17 takes place. We’re calling for a meeting with Minister Flynn and Premier Wynne so we can explain how Schedule 17 will lead to increased worker and public injury, a drop in skilled trades apprenticeship, and a growth in the underground economy.
If not, no problem. We’ll just keep demonstrating – and we promise, they’ll get bigger, not smaller.