As business manager of the Provincial Building Trades Council, I would like to respond to Mr. Clive Thurston’s May 11, 2015 letter to the editor.
Mr. Thurston's claim that I am biased when it comes to apprenticeship ratios or whether a trade should be compulsory certified or not is both wrong and without merit.
In my earlier response to the Dawson report, I cited statistics that show notable safety improvements that have been documented as a result of compulsory certification in order to balance out the report's assertion that compulsory certification is harmful to the construction industry.
Whether or not trades actually choose to go that route is up to individual trade boards at the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT). The OCOT is tasked with determining compulsory and non-compulsory status, as well as setting apprenticeship ratios after a careful review of the evidence based on construction industry needs, consumer interests, economic variables, and worker health and safety.
OCOT takes a comprehensive approach in addressing these complex issues through industry engagement by requiring the above-noted factors to be looked at with maximum participation from stakeholders, when making such decisions.
Moreover, despite Mr. Thurston's allegations, there is absolutely no evidence on the record that I have prescriptively opined on particular apprenticeship ratios for any given trade.
I am fully satisfied that OCOT will make the correct determinations on ratios, and will update them every four years, keeping in mind the interest of the apprentice, the trade, the industry, and the consumer, as required by OCOT's mandate and as set out by the original reports from Mr. Tim Armstrong and Mr. Kevin Whitaker. It would appear that apprenticeship biases do exist if one looks at Mr. Thurston's own terminology when he refers to the "current high [apprenticeship] ratios."
Despite his vociferous opposition against OCOT, Mr. Thurston applied for, and was appointed to OCOT's Roster of Adjudicators back in 2012. At the time I was able to set aside Mr. Thurston's opposition to the College as I was hopeful that progress could be made towards greater support for the College from him and from the OGCA (Ontario General Contractors Assocation).
Unfortunately, he resigned his post shortly thereafter, which reaffirmed his role, in my mind, as a critic on an initiative that is transforming Ontario's trades system.
His decision to continue opposing the College (by being one of the groups who commissioned the Dawson report, for example), in my opinion, only serves to stifle movement towards greater self-regulation in the industry, coupled with better worker outcomes, increased consumer protection and a more highly-skilled workforce for our employers and owner-clients.
The balanced governance structure of OCOT, which includes representation from employers, workers and consumers, as well as the ability for purchasers of construction to verify the accreditation of the trades workers they hire, helps to inspire confidence among consumers. This helps raise the profile of the trades, making them more attractive as a career of first choice for more Ontarians.
If we agree that the construction industry needs "sound decision-making," then I call on Mr. Thurston to support OCOT to help achieve precisely that.
Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario