On Friday February 3 there were more protests by skilled tradespeople in both Ottawa and Oakville. These were part of an ongoing series of protests that have been happening weekly since November, except for a short Christmas break.
Ever since Ontario Omnibus Bill 70, skilled trades have been protesting Schedule 17, which threatens public safety and worker safety as well. According to legal experts, Schedule 17 will allow the Liberal government to:
- Give work that needs to be done by skilled trades (for safety reasons) to unskilled workers. This could result in additional jobsite injuries and even fatalities. It will also likely lead to reduced safety for the public as they live and work in buildings constructed with reduced safety standards.
- Unintentionally help the underground construction economy. When unskilled workers do the work of skilled trades, they and their employers can be caught and ticketed. The new rules allow the Ontario Labour Relations Board to act as a board of appeal for these tickets. The OLRB doesn’t have the expertise to make safety-based rulings.
Skilled trades are demanding a meeting with Premier Kathleen Wynne and Labour Minister Kevin Flynn to address these issues.
While Bill 70 has received Royal Assent, which means it’s supposed to be law, parts of Schedule 17 haven’t been Proclaimed, which is the final step. These key parts can still be changed.
Over 70 members of Sheet Metal Workers Local 30, UA Local 67 and IBEW Local 105 demonstrated in front of Labour Minister Kevin Flynn’s office.
“Spirits are still high and our determination hasn’t wavered,” said IBEW 105 Business Manager Lorne Newick. “ And you’d better believe we’ll be back next week too.”
In Ottawa, almost a hundred skilled trades protested outside the office of Nathalie Des Rosiers, MPP for Ottawa-Vanier. Plumbers Union (UA) 71 and the Sheet Metal Workers Union (SMWIA) 47 joined IBEW Local 586 on the picket line.
It was a noisy but peaceful affair as protesters earned honks from passing drivers:
Even though Ontario Omnibus Bill 70 was announced in November, IBEW members are just as concerned today. Member Catherine Gorman told us, “I cannot stress enough how detrimental Schedule 16 & 17 are to the safety of workers and the public.
“From all of my experience combined, the prospect of these schedules being implemented is horrifying and guaranteed to put the province into a disastrous state. With certainty, workplace injuries and fatalities statistics will sky rocket. This is a serious life-threatening lack of due diligence by the province who seems to be untroubled by the idea of subjecting the public to substandard construction and infrastructure installations.”