The Ontario College of Trades, a hotbed for controversy amongst Ontario’s skilled trades workers since its April 2013 launch, is making news once again.
Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union representing more than 300,000 members in every sector of the Canadian economy, recently claimed the Ontario College of Trades is beneficial for skilled tradespeople in Ontario.
“The College of Trades is good for the trades. The decisions affecting the skilled trades are being made by the trades for the trades, and not by politicians like Tim Hudak,” he said. “It’s about time the Conservatives quit bashing the college and rather embraced the structure and worked with all the stakeholders to make it a successful body.”
Led by Tim Hudak, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario has promised to abolish the College if elected in Ontario’s upcoming provincial election on June 12.
Dias’ comments prompted a swift rebuttal from Karen Renkema, chairwoman of the Stop the Trades Tax Campaign. The campaign was launched in 2011 to stop the Ontario government from imposing a multi-million dollar trades tax on tradespeople and employers. It now has the support of 47 organizations, whose members represent about 200,000 skilled tradespeople and more than 8,700 businesses across Ontario.
Renkema said Unifor is not the first union to come to the defence of the College and will certainly not be the last. Claims that the College is important to public safety are baseless and little more than a scare tactics to sway voters, she added.
“Electrical work, plumbing and many other skilled trades required mandatory licenses long before the College of Trades came into being. To imply this will no longer be the case if the College is abolished, is highly misleading and echoes the kind of false rhetoric the College of Trades itself regularly uses to frighten Ontarians,” she said.
“To suggest the College is increasing public safety is patently false. The fact is College inspectors do not have the legal ability (or expertise) to verify the quality or safety of the work tradespeople are performing. Their only purpose when stepping into a workplace or on a job site is to confirm payment of dues,” she said.