November 27, 2015
On November 20th, 2015, the Ontario government released a Report on Ontario’s College of Trades authored by former Secretary of Cabinet Tony Dean. This Report, entitled Supporting a Strong and Sustainable Ontario College of Trades, contains a number of recommendations aimed at improving the College’s policies and practices to better support Ontario’s skilled tradespeople and their employers. The government has issued a news release stating that it is committed to implementing Mr. Dean’s recommendations.
Ontario College of Trades
The Ontario College of Trades is a provincial regulatory body which was established in 2009 by the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act (“OCTAA”). Its mandate is to regulate and promote the practice of skilled trades in four sectors of Ontario’s economy – construction, industrial, motive power and service.
Under the OCTAA, each trade has a Scope of Practice (“SoP”), which consists of a list of activities or functions performed by that trade. By way of example, the SoP for drywall finisher includes finishing wallboard and repairing drywall taping.
The OCTAA provides for the establishment of bodies known as Trade Boards. Each Trade Board provides the College with advice relating to a certain trade or group of trades.
Trades are classified as either voluntary or compulsory, although a trade may submit an application to the College to have its status changed. If a trade is compulsory, it is an offence to practice that trade without a Certificate of Qualification (“CoQ”) from the College. The College has the authority to issue tickets to individuals found practicing a trade without a CoQ.
Another major function of the College is setting a ratio for each trade that requires an employer to employ a certain number of journeypersons for each apprentice. The ratios vary among trades and are periodically reviewed by the College.
Interaction with Ontario Labour Relations Board
Since the College’s inception, one of the most contentious aspects of its operation has been the relationship between the College and decisions of the Ontario Labour Relations Board (“OLRB”). The OLRB is responsible for adjudicating jurisdictional disputes between unions, which arise when one union claims an employer has assigned its work to another union. Over time, the OLRB has developed a body of case law relating to jurisdictional disputes which, together with workplace agreements and past practice, provides guidance to employers concerning work assignments and prevents disputes that may disrupt the workplace.
When the College pursued enforcement activities, it began issuing tickets to various tradespersons and contractors for performing work allegedly in violation of the OCTAA’s compulsory trade restrictions, even though such work had long been performed by members of a voluntary trade. This led to significant concern on the part of employers, who were potentially being placed into situations in which the assignment of work to one union would prompt a jurisdictional dispute while the assignment of work to another union could lead to a ticket from the College. As there exists overlaps between the SoPs, the created an untenable situation.
This issue, as well as several other perceived problems with the College, prompted the government to review its operations.
Tony Dean Review
In 2014, Mr. Dean was appointed to conduct a review on the manner in which the College makes decisions on issues related to SoPs and how SoPs are used to support the performance of objects and functions under the OCTAA. He was also called upon to provide guidance on what consideration the College should give to decisions made by the OLRB in jurisdictional disputes.
Mr. Dean’s Report contains over 30 recommendations, including several which may have a significant effect on Ontario employers:
Trade Classification / Reclassification Reviews
Review of SoPs
Journeyperson-to-Apprentice Ratio Reviews
Mr. Dean’s recommendations have the potential to significantly affect the practice of skilled trades in Ontario, particularly within the construction industry where jurisdictional disputes are most common. The new OLRB appeal process should provide employers with a more appropriate forum for relief in the event that an employee receives a ticket while performing work that has traditionally fallen within their trade’s jurisdiction. Although the new processes for ratio reviews and reclassification applications will not have an immediate effect, employers should closely track applications or reviews that affect the trades they employ.
We will continue to monitor the implementation of Mr. Dean’s recommendations and keep you posted on any further developments.
If you have any questions about this topic or any other questions relating to workplace law, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer
For more information on new developments in Workplace Law, please refer to our website at: http://www.mathewsdinsdale.com/news-events/in-a-flash
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