July 16, 2012
Canadian Construction Unions Council aims to improve training
The Canadian Construction Unions Council (CCUC), an organization proposed by two existing unions, would aim to encourage improvements in training and to influence legislation, according to its draft bylaws.
In June, FTQ-Construction and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada announced their intent to propose CCUC to their members. FTQ-Construction is an association of 17 unions representing Quebec construction workers, while CEP represents about 120,000 workers across Canada, mainly in the telecommunications, energy, forestry and paper industries.
Both organizations have published draft bylaws to include governance, funding, collective bargaining and aims. One aim is to encourage improvements in the apprenticeship and training systems.
“Quebec and Alberta actually put a lot of energy into apprenticeship and skills requirements and training, but British Columbia for example, (over the last ) 10 or 15 years, they have completely destroyed the apprenticeship system and it’s going to have to be reconstructed,” said Dave Coles, CEP’s national president.
In 2009, the B.C. government announced that operational costs for program developing for its Industry Training Authority would be 50 per cent lower than what was forecast in the spring budget.
Coles said he hopes the Ontario College of Trades, which is intended to regulate more than 150 trades in the construction, industrial, motive power and service sectors, will improve the situation in Ontario.
“There have not been enough resources put from the federal government and most provincial governments into apprenticeship training programs,” Coles said. “You need to have the consistency.”
A spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Labour stated in an e-mail to the Daily Commercial News that the province is “committed to increasing apprenticeship completions” through measures such as introducing technical literacy and numeracy support. The labour department says the province is also making it easier for professionals outside of Ontario to work in the province with the Ontario Labour Mobility Act of 2009.
Coles criticizes the approach that some firms have taken, which he calls a “jack of all trades approach” to skilled training.
“The skills needed on most construction sites, if not all, are very high now, whether it’s electrical, pressure welding,” he said.
“These are highly skilled jobs and if you don’t get it right somebody gets killed or you have a huge environmental catastrophe. So they need young, bright, well-trained skilled tradespeople.”
One of the aims of CCUC is to “work co-operatively to combat or prevent anti-labour legislation,” according to the draft bylaws.
“We have a problem in our union where we’re legislated out of competition,” Coles said. “For example in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland, only American construction unions can work in construction and Canadian unions can’t. There’s an anti-union bias that we’re not happy with.”
In New Brunswick, Section 38 of the Industrial Relations Act, which stipulates bargaining rights in the construction industry, a “trade union” is defined as one that “pertains to the construction industry.”
In Nova Scotia, part 2 of the Trade Union Act covers the construction industry, and in Section 92, “union” is defined as “a trade union that according to established trade union practices pertains to the construction industry.”
In a 2000 hearing involving the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC), the Nova Scotia Labour Relations Board/Construction Industry Panel ruled that CLAC was not a trade union as defined by Section 92, in part because the Nova Scotia Legislature “devised a statutory scheme that called for, (even though it did not explicitly say so), a construction industry in which employers bargained with one or more of the 14 international skilled trade or craft trade unions” affiliated with Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO.
Currently, the Building Trades in Canada represents those 14 U.S.-based unions, including the boilermakers, piping trades, crane operators, sheet metal workers, insulation mechanics, elevator trades, plasterers and masons, Teamsters, electrical workers, painters, labourers, iron workers, carpenters and bricklayers.
“CCUC will be a Canadian union run by Canadians,” said Yves Ouellet, general manager of FTQ-Construction.
“I think it’s a huge step for Canadian construction.”
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