Groups critical of Ontario-Quebec pact

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June 5, 2006
Groups critical of Ontario-Quebec pact

PETER KENTER correspondent
TORONTO

Stakeholders aren’t thrilled about a labour pact which was to be announced by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Quebec Premier Jean Charest in Ottawa June 3.
It’s difficult for Ontario construction workers to be employed in Quebec because that province’s government has imposed barriers to keep them out.
Ontario workers can meet union membership requirements to work in Quebec, but quotas limit the number of cards available to authorize out-of-province workers to commence work.
It’s estimated that about 6,000 Quebec construction workers are employed in the Ottawa area, with thousands more employed elsewhere in Ontario.
2006-05-19joscelyn-dumais_nJocelyn Dumais, president of the Association for the Right to Work in Ottawa, says he isn’t holding his breath to see improvements for Ontario workers.
“This announcement is not going to solve the issue. Quebec labour laws must be modified first, and unless they announce that, the barriers to Ontario workers will still be up.”
Dumais expects an agreement “slightly better” than one between New Brunswick and Quebec, in which N.B.’s construction workers are shut out of Quebec.
Clive Thurston-OGCAjpg« We would dearly have loved to have been able to comment.”
Clive Thurston – OGCA
“The premiers will both be singing a song and hope that people will pay attention, but they have nothing serious to say,” Dumais told Daily Commercial News last Thursday. “I’m already looking for a violin to accompany their song — and I don’t play well. This issue will only be resolved when Quebec changes its labour laws.”

Organized labour groups are also expected to be disappointed.

“I had an opportunity to view the agreement six months ago and I can say that the overall sentiment of the Ontario Building Trades is that it needs a lot of improvement and there are no real gains in it for us,” says James Barry, financial secretary and business manager with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Local 586, Ottawa. “I would say this is going to make Quebec extremely happy and ultimately do nothing to help Ontarians.”

Barry says the IBEW gives McGuinty’s government credit for making positive efforts to enforce the Ontario Trades Qualification and Apprenticeship Act.

“But Quebec workers will be exempt from registration when they work in Ontario, though an Ontario worker will still have to register to work in Quebec,” he says. “We have nothing against Quebec workers coming here, but we don’t support making them exempt from provincial license requirements.

“This is just one of about 45 interprovincial agreements they’ll be announcing and it looks like something they just threw in there without listening to the stakeholders.”
Among the groups not consulted: the Council of Ontario Construction Associations and the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA).
“We would dearly have loved to have been able to comment on this agreement,” says Clive Thurston, president of the OGCA.

“This issue is very, very important to many of our members, particularly in the Ottawa area, but we weren’t consulted.”

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Diane Francis Canadian labor market problems

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Canada’s labor WoesDFrancisDiane Francis, Blog

Canadian labor market problems
Diane Francis column Friday Post June 23:Canada’s labor situation worsens because needed reforms elude and politicians don’t get it.For instance, Gatineau contractor Jocelyn Dumais has been fighting Quebec’s closed-shop labor laws for years and he called recently with some upsetting news. The McGuinty government last month backed off a piece of legislation that was designed to force Quebec to level the playing field in the construction industry.

For decades, Quebec has forbidden non-resident Canadians from taking construction jobs while Quebecers have been free to work anywhere else in the country. Notably, they swamped the labor markets along the borders until the Mike Harris government passed Bill 17 which forbid them from working in Ontario until Quebec backed off its restrictions.

« Last month the Ontario government cancelled Bill 17 which forbid Quebec construction workers from getting employment in Ontario unless Quebec changed its unfair labor laws, » he said. « They call it a shared labor mobility agreement, but it’s a fake. »

« The Ontario government tried to get me to support this but it’s not what we’ve been fighting for, » he said. « Here’s what they said they got in exchange: Ontario workers may apply to work there but there were many restrictions. They had to pass an exam, provide certain evidence of experience and had to already be working in Quebec. That’s not labor mobility. »

Ontario added that Quebec agreed to let Ontario residents accept construction jobs involving Hydro Quebec contracts, but only if the salaries were $100,000 or more.

« That was just an exemption for big contracting companies like Ellis Don, » said Mr. Dumais.

14-02-2000jocelynHe’s one of my favorite Canadians and is founder of the Association for the Right to Work (www.adat.ca). Over the years, he has lobbied provinces, staged road blockages and raised hundreds of thousands to mount a Supreme Court of Canada case which, unfortunately, lost. (His charter challenge argued that if workers have the right to associate they also should have the right to not associate. The Court disagreed.)

But he hasn’t given up and hopes to reverse this unfair deal. He also wants to warn Ontario that the McGuinty government is looking at closed-door laws like Quebec’s because of all the illegals and non-union members working in the province.

By the way, Quebec’s unions run the show there and their construction sector is embarrassingly restrictive: Workers must be union members or obtain a special work permit from the province which are about as readily available as Green cards. People are routinely rounded up on sites for the « crime » of working illegally, fined and even jailed.

Another Voice of Reason

Meanwhile, the labor situation worsens nationally as the giant sucking sound from Alberta’s megaprojects continues apace and unions stand in the way of labor mobility through featherbedding and apprenticeship restrictions. What follows is a thoughtful letter from union member John Gilmurray:

« The real problem with labour policy in Canada is the union `local’ system. On a recent visit to England and Ireland I was surprised that there are no locals, just one trade union congress for each country.

Everybody is hired directly by a construction company based on their resume. There are no grandfather clauses, no middle-aged white guys hanging around a union hall dishing out jobs to friends. Supply and demand are the rule. Thousands in Dublin have vacated jobs as teachers and bank clerks to become carpenters and electricians. No wonder they have one of the the best economies in the world. »

« The present shortage of skilled labour in Alberta/Fort McMurray is an almost entirely artificial creation. A small percentage of the millions of skilled labour unemployed all over Europe could be in Alberta within weeks if our bungling federal immigration bureaucracy and archaic union locals would get the hell out of the way and allow our efficient market system to work. »

« There are more people getting hired from carparks and street corners in the U.S. than are now dispatched from union halls. Globalization is creeping in through the back door. In Canada, the young people from Eastern Europe and South America who are turning up on construction sites all over Ontario, Alberta and B.C. may be the trail blazers of our future labour policy. The recent mass hiring of non union workers in Ft. Mcmurray,the construction of new Toyota plants all over the USA and Ontario spells a seismic change is afoot for our unions. Either we change or the new world market will do it for us. »

posted by Diane Francis @ 2:49 PM 3 comments