Apprenticeship changes will put lives at risk, says AFL

EDMONTON - Industrial construction sites will be less safe, and the lives of workers could be at risk if the Minister of Advanced Education confirms a change of regulation recommended yesterday by the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training Board, says the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL). The AFL is Alberta's largest labour organization, representing over 113,000 workers and their families.

The Apprenticeship Board has recommended that the Minister of Advanced Education, Dave Hancock, approve a reduction of the ratio of journeymen to apprentices on job sites in selected trades. The new rules will require only one journeyman for every one apprentice (1-to-1 ratio) for ironworkers, boilermakers and pipefitters. The previous rules required three journeymen for every apprentice (3-to-1 ratio).

"The proposed new ratio of journeymen to apprentices will weaken safety on construction sites, and could put lives at risk," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "The 3-to-1 ratio is a longstanding arrangement that ensured two things: quality training of apprentices and adequate supervision to ensure safety on the worksite. Both of these things are undermined with this decision."

During consultations over the change, representatives from both employers and labour argued against reducing the ratio. "The Apprenticeship Board is ignoring sound advice from the people doing the work. If the Minister simply rubber stamps their recommendation, more workers will get hurt."

The real reason for the decision, McGowan says, is to help a minority of well-connected employers who are looking for ways to lower their labour costs. "Apprentices work cheaper than fully ticketed tradespeople. The reason for the reduced ratio is to allow for fewer journeymen and more apprentices - lowering the employer's wage costs."

"It is clearly an example of putting profit ahead of safety."

McGowan says the new ratios might be appropriate for residential or small commercial construction, but are dangerous for large, industrial projects. "Industrial projects are complex jobs requiring high levels of skill and experience. Workers are often spread out and can be ten or fifteen minutes away from their apprentice. A 3-to-1 ratio builds in multiple contact points for an apprentice. With 1-to-1, what happens if something goes wrong?"

"Ignoring stakeholders while blindly doing the bidding of their corporate friends. This is classic Alberta Tory policy-making - and workers will pay the price," concludes McGowan. "I urge Minister Hancock to refuse this ill-advised regulatory change."

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For more information contact:

Gil McGowan, AFL President at 780.915.4599 (cell) or 780.483-3021 (wk)


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