On Friday January 6th over 100 members of Ottawa’s IBEW Local 586, UA Local 71, and SMWA Local 47 protested outside the office of MPP Bob Chiarelli.
The members were continuing the protest against Schedule 17 of Ontario’s recent Bill 70, which began last November. Schedule 17 will jeopardize worker and public safety by allowing general labourers to do the work currently within the scope of practice of scheduled trades (unionized or not).
It will also become harder to enforce tickets issued for illegal work that is a part of the $15 billion underground construction economy. As part of Schedule 17, the Ontario Labour
Relations Board will become the board of appeal for these tickets, which means there will be a higher and impractical burden of proof once a worker’s Certificate of Qualification will no longer be the deciding factor. You can learn more details about the problems with Schedule 17 here.
In spite of the seriousness of the issue, spirits were high amongst the protesters (especially after the success of the Shaw Centre protest in December). The other great news about this protest was that the media coverage was even more extensive.
Local 586 Business Manager John Bourke said, “The members are fully engaged and determined not to give up demonstrating. They kept asking me, ‘when’s the next one?’”
- Listen to John’s interview with Robyn Bresnahan of CBC Ottawa Morning.
- Watch TV coverage of the protest on CBC Ottawa News with Adrian Harewood (Editor’s note – we used to have a working link to the clip, but CBC has since taken it down).
- Read the article on the protest in the Ottawa Citizen.
Cold Weather Was No Deterrent
While Bob Chiarelli was not in his office at the time, one of his aides spoke with Bourke and James Barry, IBEW CCO Executive Chairman of Membership Development, who made the trip from Toronto to attend. Mr. Chiarelli and other Ottawa-area MPPs have met with John Bourke and other skilled trades representatives in the past.
“They know that as long as Schedule 17 exists, this issue is not going away and neither are we,” commented Bourke.
The protesters slowed traffic just enough to pass out leaflets about Schedule 17, but not completely disrupt it. In spite of the inconvenience, many motorists honked or gave a thumbs up. Police were on hand, but as the protesters were peaceful the police didn’t interfere.
IBEW 586 member Brett Maclean was at the protest. “It’s great to see the skilled trades out working together to protest Bill 70 Schedule 17 at MPP Bob Chiarelli’s office, despite the snow and cold weather.
“Everybody is in great spirits and it seems like we’re starting to gain some momentum. We are getting more and more media coverage and the public is beginning to hear our message loud and clear: STOP ATTACKING SKILLED TRADES!”
The Fight is Far From Over
There is still a lot you can do to fight Schedule 17, whether you’re unionized or non-unionized. This is not a union issue; it affects all skilled trades. Read this article to find out how you can help.