October 6, 2011

Letter to the Editor

Most Ontario contractors too small to be affected by three-to-one apprentice ratio: Electrical workers’ union

To the Editor:

RE: Ontario Electrical League pushes to change apprenticeship ratios

I am writing to you in regards to the article from Wednesday, September 28, 2011 on journeyperson to apprentice ratios quoting Ontario Electrical Leagues (OEL) Contractor Government Relations Committee Chair and Vice-President of Power-Tek Electrical Services Inc., Walter Pamic.

In 2006, the OEL brought the ratio issue to forefront (OEL website). Around that same time, the Ministry of Labour (MOL) had recently been granted power to issue contravention tickets to employees, supervisors or employers for violations of the Trade Qualification and Apprenticeship Act (TQAA). Employees unlawfully carrying out work in a scheduled trade were liable to be fined $195 and employers authorizing such work were subject to fines of $295. This was brought into effect to enhance worker safety and help combat the underground economy in the construction industry.

The article goes on to compare provincial ratios from selected provinces including Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, while failing to mention provinces like Prince Edward Island whose system — similar to Ontario — has a 1:1 up to 3:1 ratio (smaller electrical contractors may qualify for 1:1 and 2:1 ratio’s), and the province of Quebec which has a 2:1 ratio. Ontario’s current ratio requirements provide flexibility for Ontario’s smaller electrical contractors (up to 12 workers) allowing a gradual increase from 1:1 to 2:1 and then finally to the 3:1 requirement. What Mr. Pamic fails to mention is that almost 85 per cent of licensed electrical contractors in Ontario will not be affected by the 3:1 ratio.

Ratio change arguments like these appear to put companies ahead of the health and safety of Ontario’s young workers and potential apprentices. Mr. Pamic states, “he would hire about eight new apprentices tomorrow.” Currently, with the unemployment rate in Ontario at 7.5 per cent and just as high in several other provinces across the country, there is nothing stopping Mr. Pamic from hiring unemployed electricians, balance the ratio, and start — as he wishes — “eight new apprentices tomorrow.”

Working with electricity can be a very dangerous occupation and the learning process should not only prepare workers for a safe future but keep them out of harm’s way when they are being trained.

Mr. Pamic, reducing the journeyperson to apprentice ratio in the electrical trade in the Province of Ontario would be irresponsible.

Phil Flemming

International Vice-President

First District CANADA

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

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