Close to 250 skilled trades demonstrated in front of MPP Sophie Kiwala’s office on Friday December 9 starting at noon. Members of IBEW Local 115, UA Local 401, and SMWA
Local 269 were out in full force. Some members of other locals travelled from other cities like Hamilton, Ottawa and Windsor to be on the scene.
Skilled trades handed out 400-500 leaflets to members of the public, and spread the word to anyone who stopped to ask about the issue. Since the demonstration, members of the public have called the offices of Local 115 to express support for the protest, and concerns over Schedule 17.
Schedule 17 is a part of omnibus Bill 70, and includes amendments to the Ontario College of Trades Act of 2009. These amendments would pave the way to allow general labourers to do the work of electricians and other skilled trades. It also proposes changes to journeyperson to apprentice ratios that currently insure proper supervision for apprentices on the job. You can learn more about what Schedule 17 may mean for you here.
Not a Union Issue
Schedule 17 could have a big impact on anyone who is a certified tradesperson, a registered apprentice, and anyone who works on buildings under construction or uses these facilities afterwards.
“We’re very worried about Schedule 17,” said Local 115 Business Manager Bill Pearse. “We’re worried that workers and the public will be at increased risk. In 2013 there were 18 electrically related deaths, with over 70% of them non-compulsory trades. If Schedule 17 goes through that number is going to go up.”
Pearse continued, “A lot of members are very concerned that they may not be as safe on the job as work they should be doing is going to be done by general labourers who aren’t fully trained.
Lack of Consultation
Pearse spoke of how betrayed members feel. “What is most upsetting is this was in the budget bill. There should have been a separate issue and there should have been consultation.”
Around 1 PM, Kiwala agreed to come out and talk to the protesters. She appeared not to understand the full implications of Schedule 17, and the exchange was at times heated. Kiwala said she has taken the protesters’ concerns to the Ministry of Labour. Many, however, feel that she should have looked into the issues more before voting on the bill.
There was full exposure for the demonstration in the media: both CKWS TV and the Kingston-Whig Standard had coverage of the event (both these links contain video). The Whig showcased their article on the front page of the Saturday print edition.