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Some foreign workers unqualified to work – says union

Posted by mhudema on June 16, 2008

By CAROL CHRISTIAN, SUN MEDIA

FORT MCMURRAY — With increasing mistrust of government regulation of electricians’ trade qualifications, some in the oilsands are taking matters into their own hands.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has a team of Asian workers that now checks the references and the work histories of Chinese immigrants seeking membership before working in the oilsands.

It’s being done as part of an effort to weed out some Chinese immigrants who are unqualified, even though they hold Ontario industrial electrician trade tickets or the Alberta equivalent.

The number of people flocking to Fort McMurray after getting industrial electrician tickets in Ontario has steadily increased over the past few months, said IBEW business manager Tim Brower.

“If the government says you’re qualified, it’s (always been) good enough for us,” he said.

“Now we’ve found that there’s a huge percentage of these people that, when they actually get … on the job, that they’re not qualified construction electricians.”

Greg Flood of the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities said an investigation is continuing into two schools in Toronto.

Donna Babchishin of Alberta Advanced Education and Technology said Alberta officials are co-operating in the investigation.

“We found there was a company from Ontario that was actually advertising (in the Chinese media) they would train people to pass their journeyman exam,” said Brower.

The union soon noticed it was the same school some applicants were putting down as their work experience.

“We connected the dots,” he added.

While the province sent notices to electrical contractors warning them some employees may not be qualified, “it’s not going to fix the problem that there (are) already hundreds and hundreds of unqualified people working in the province,” said Brower.

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7 Responses to “Some foreign workers unqualified to work – says union”

  1. Eric Klyne said

    Tim Brower had absolutely nothing to do with initiating any kind of investigation into the major influx of Asian workers into the IBEW Local Union 424.
    Many members had complained over the past year about the lack of competency and lack of English communication skills that the recent flood of Asians had…but Tim Brower would just shrug at Union meetings.
    It wasn’t until Union MEMBERS took it upon themselves to investigate and complain that Tim Brower has reacted and taken ownership of the investigation.
    That’s typical of Tim Brower.

  2. Apprentice said

    I agree 100% with Eric….Multiple times over the past 8 months i have been on the phone with A.I.T regarding journeyman that could not operate a drill nor explain what type of electrical work they had done previous to coming to canada. The lack of support from the hall on this issue has been disgusting leaving alot of newer members frustrated with the 424 for not providing skilled workers to teach apprentices. Whats even more frustrating is seeing a worker that had been recognized as unqualified and dangerous to others on the job taking a call within a week. What type of skilled membership will we have 5 yrs from now? Will there be a difference in our work oppossed to a non-union company?

  3. Chris Marshall said

    This has been a very pressing matter for union officials and workers in the field. Unfortunatly, I believe it also required some time and foresight from all parties involved, so that we wouldn’t end up looking like a redneck organization. I would not want to stand in the shoes of anybody in the union office right now, trying to find ways of dealing with the situation we find ourselves in.

    From a field point of view, I know alot of the brothers that I have been working with are upset about this fake ticket problem. I also know that alot of our brothers from other countries with proper tickets and training are concerned as well. These workers with fake tickets cast a dim light on everyone. There are also workers from Canada, not immigrants, who have faked credentials and experience in order to get tickets.

    I think we have a responsibilty as Journeyman tradespeople and Union members to make sure that the brothers we work beside are doing union quality work, and living up to union work standards. As far as I am concerned everyone with a membership in our hall is my brother, and I will treat him as such until it is proven otherwise. And if my brother needs help and guidance in how to be a good union member and a good electrictian, then I will take it on myself to help him.

    So instead of infighting and backstabbing, we should come togther as a union and make sure that all of our brothers and sisters, immigrant or otherwise, understand fully what is expected of them. And how proper union work should be done.

  4. Eric Klyne said

    Well said Chris Marshall…except for the last part.
    Are you not aware of all the backstabbing that Tim Brower has done and continues to do?

    Dissidence is needed in order to have a healthy Democratic Union. New members need to be shown that along with what is expected of a Union craftmen in the field.

  5. journeyman said

    I have no problem with anyone i work with, but if they dont have the experience to work than by rights they shouldnt be there because in the long run they could hurt themselves or someone else, and heres another way of looking at it, lets say you have a relative be it your son or nephew or what ever, would you be comfortable knowing that this person who isnt qualified to work is training them? think about the saftey of it, we work in a dangerous feild and you cant come out of nowhere with a fake ticket and be expected to work on certain equipment that only qualified journeyman who know what they are doing. Its a scary thought and i for one would not want to see anyone get hurt.

  6. Green Journeyman said

    I find it very distressing that some members are more concered with our membership being being percivied as “redneck” then they are concerned with the quite common and perhaps legitimate perception that our union shelters those that are incompetent and incapable. I have worked alongside journeymen whom have been unable to strip wire or operate drills. Rather then documenting this and taking appropriate steps to terminated the individuals (as Flint had done with the specific individuals to whom I am referencing) our brothers paired them up with experienced journeymen and treated them as first year apprentices.
    This not only stunts the learning curve of other apprentices but makes a mockery of our trade and membership. It is a slap in the face to every individual who has gone through an apprenticeship and makes it very difficult to retain quality apprentices. How can an apprentice, knowing that he/she has more experience and ability then huge numbers of journeyman, not be insulted by making a fraction of the wage?
    This problem was left to fester not only by Tim Brower and his administration by also by the rank and file members. We sat back and knowingly trained fraudulent workers. For this, we should feel great shame. This problem has never been nor will it ever be about foriegn workers. It is about blatant fraud and the refusal of our membership to set standards of compentency for it’s workers. I hope, for the the long term survival of our membership this changes.

  7. k.ivey said

    Let’s not cloud the issue at hand.

    With these unqualified electricians, whether Chinese or Russian, the first and foremost concern should be the language, from a purely safety point of view, how can you communicate with your buddy when he/she does not even speak the language? This, I find absurd, insulting and a serious safety violation.

    Then, he/she should know the tools of the trade, have the proper tools, be able to identify and USE them.
    As for the “school” in Ontario who is “selling” tickets, everyone and anyone who came from that traing institute should have their licences’ revoked immediately. Absolutely. Five years retroactive. Any Alberta equivalency should also be revoked. This should be effective in putting the ‘school” out of the business of “selling tickets”.

    If the persons can then verify his/her apprenticed hours, unequivocally, be given a chance to demonstrate a theoretical and practical workmanship. If he/she cannot demonstrate their earned licence then they should be rejected from the union and ejected from the trade. If he/she first proves his/her qualifications, then demonstrates a working knowledge, we accept them absolutely.

    SHAME on our union “leaders” for allowing this mockery of our trade and diminishment our status as authoritative and qualified tradesmen.
    SHAME on our union “leaders” for permitting this to go on for so long.
    SHAME on our union “leaders” for not shielding its members.
    SHAME on our union “leaders” for not having moral fibre.
    SHAME ON ME for my own inaction.

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