Construction industry reform: it won't be an 'open bar,' says Boulet
A worker is shown next to construction cones in Montreal, Tuesday, April 25, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Quebec Labour Minister Jean Boulet plans to table his construction industry reform this fall.
He plans to recognize the prior learning and skills of workers not currently in the construction industry but insists it will not be an 'open bar.'
The reform will decompartmentalize the trades. The minister says it is not about reducing the number of trades but rather creating a more versatile workforce that can perform tasks currently assigned to other sectors. He also sees it as a way to reduce construction delays and boost efficiency.
When asked if this will mean Quebec will have more workers who have not gone through construction trades school, the minister replied, "we'll see."
"What is important for me is to recognize their skills and competencies, to ensure that their training is equivalent to what is required in Quebec to work in the construction sector. We don't want it to become an open bar, either. We must make sure that we evaluate the people and allow them, without unnecessary red tape, to enter this sector," said Minister Boulet.
The minister made it clear that he would consult with the community before moving forward. In 2018, changes to training sparked an illegal strike of crane operators.
Boulet said he is aware there will always be pushback. "Yes, there will be all the time. As soon as you make a change, as soon as you consider a modernization, it creates some tension. That's why I talk. I listen, I collaborate, I get solutions," he said.
His speech to the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal to present his reform has raised concerns in the union community.
Éric Boisjoly, General Manager of FTQ-Construction, argues "the regulations are already quite permissive" regarding the variety of tasks that certain trades can perform.
"Do we want skilled people, or do we want people who have flexibility? If we want competence and quality of work, I think we have to make sure our workers are competent," insisted the head of the industry's largest labour organization.
Boisjoly also noted that unions are not the only ones to be so classified by trade: "the decompartmentalization of trades, we also see it as a decompartmentalization of contractors, because they themselves are compartmentalized" in painting and interior systems, for example.
Boisjoly also noted that the minister emphasized the versatility of the trades while omitting other aspects, such as professional training and work planning.
The Quebec Provincial Building Trades Council (International) is also concerned about the reform announced for the fall. We are concerned, but we are trying to move forward," said Council President Michel Trépanier.
"On versatility, we will work with the government, the CCQ and employer associations in the best interest of workers and businesses," he concluded.
The minister also said he wanted a more inclusive industry for women, First Nations and immigrants.
"Currently, women represent 3.65 per cent of the workforce active in the industry in Quebec. We must also work to retain them," he said.
-This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 1, 2023.