November 30, 2016 11:40 am
Updated: December 1, 2016 6:09 am

Thousands protest amendments to skilled trades budget bill at Queen’s Park

WATCH ABOVE: Skilled Trade Workers Protest Bill 70 at Queen’s Park

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More than one thousand skilled tradespeople flooded the front lawn of Queen’s Park on Wednesday to protest the Liberal government’s proposed amendments to Bill 70, which they say will threaten jobs and workplace safety.

Ontario’s trade associations say Schedule 17 of the omnibus budget bill will permit the Ministry of Labour, and in particular the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB), sweeping powers over the definitions of compulsory trades and voluntary trades.

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“We’ve been trying to explain to Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals that the direction that they are taking on the oversight of the Ontario College of Trades is wrong,” John Grimshaw, of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, told reporters at the Ontario legislature on Wednesday.

“They are basically leading it down a path, maybe not right away, but will eventually erode the value of what it means to be an electrician, or to be a plumber, or to be a pipefitter.”

READ MORE: Fees on skilled trades and employers help fund new Ontario College of Trades

Grimshaw said the bill will deregulate compulsory trade work in Ontario, which could diminish consumer protection and feed the underground economy.

However, a union representative from LIUNA Local 183 said the “OLRB have a critical role to play” in trying to balance the best interests of Ontarians with the changing demands of the construction sector.

“We continue to support the decades of respected expertise of the Ontario Labour Relations Board in helping determine the right worker for the right job,” Jason Ottey, Director of Government Relations & Communications, LIUNA Local 183 said.

“It’s strange that the trade organizations opposing these changes have, without exception, long supported the independence and wisdom of the OLRB. They have decades of respected expertise. Let’s continue to trust them with this important public responsibility.”

The amendments, if approved, would impact more than 200,000 certified trades professionals in the province.

Trade associations say changes will also benefit businesses by allowing cheaper, unskilled labour to do complex and potentially dangerous work without certification.

The group says it wants the province to conduct further consultations on the proposed changes and have it removed from the budget bill until a solution is reached.

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