Continued Opposition to Changes in Crane Operator Training that Endanger Workers and the Public

More than a year has passed since the Quebec government and the Quebec Construction Commission (CCQ) arbitrarily abolished the mandatory character of the Diploma of Vocational Studies (DVS) for crane operators and replaced it with a much inferior on-site training program. Crane operators and construction workers gave substantive arguments opposing this change as soon as it was announced. Their scientific and operational reasoning fell on deaf ears as the big construction companies wanted the change as it served their narrow private interests regardless of the dangers.

Construction workers protest the CCQ's negligence of health and safety following an incident with a crane: "How is the CCQ going to apply the [new] regulations when it is incapable of doing so now?"

To ensure their safety and that of the public, construction workers have not given up their opposition to the regressive change and demand that the Quebec government immediately restore the mandatory character of the DVS. They are waging a battle in the court of public opinion using their web site and talking to any media that will listen. They have two demands, which they insist the Coalition Avenir Québec government must meet for the common good of all:

1) The regressive regulation must be withdrawn and obligatory crane operator training restarted;

2) A roundtable should be created that includes all concerned parties, including vocational teachers, to look into the problems linked to the crane operator sector and construction site safety.

The previous Quebec Liberal government abolished the mandatory character of the Diploma of Vocational Studies at the end of April 2018, without the consent or input of crane operators, the construction unions or vocational teachers. The vocational course to become a crane operator included 870 hours of practical training within a professional educational setting. The government decree made the diploma optional. An on-site training program of only 150 hours was introduced, which the construction companies themselves provide and oversee. The government and CCQ also replaced the vocational course and diploma with an 80-hour course for the operation of boom trucks with a maximum capacity of 30 tonnes. This type of boom truck is precisely the crane that overturns most frequently and causes the most damage.

The crane operators refused to quietly accept this attack on their right to a say and input and have waged a persistent struggle against the new regulation. One bold action was not to show up for work a week in June 2018. In response, the government chose a committee of experts to study the new regulations, which submitted a report in March. While recognizing that greatly reduced on-site training in the workplace is inferior to a vocational setting and training with professional teachers, the committee of experts proposed that the diploma course be considered a "reference" and not a requirement. The committee of experts accepted the government change as permanent recommending only some small tweaks.[1]

In a TV interview with the TVA network at the end of May, the Director of the Union of Crane Operators, Evans Dupuis, presented the union's point of view: "It's not settled yet after a year now that the new regulation is in force. In the last year, on-site training has been introduced so that anyone can enter the construction industry with only on-site training. Regarding the operation of the boom trucks, the operation of this small crane has been removed from the norm to allow anyone to operate it. We have been denouncing this since the beginning.

"To give a concrete example, since the establishment of the DVS (professional vocational training and diploma), the number of fatal crane accidents decreased by 66 per cent. The DVS has proven its value. What we are waiting for is that the new government make a decision that will respect health and safety and ensure that we have adequate training for crane operators."

"Health and safety of our workers is non-negotiable!"

Regarding one of the expert committee's recommendations to provide three weeks of initial training prior to on-site training, the Union of Crane Operators says this is far from adequate and does not compare with the 870 hours of vocational training to gain a diploma.

Further, crane operators and their union reject on principle the argument of the construction companies and government that a worker shortage in the construction sector justifies the lowering of safety standards. They point out other ways of meeting workforce needs without lowering training standards and endangering the lives and well-being of workers and the public. For example, enrollment in vocational training can be increased with more candidates accepted and provided an opportunity to become crane operators. This was done in the past, they say, but in 2015 registrations were reduced.

Crane operators recall a period when the government removed the mandatory driving course to operate a vehicle in Quebec. This requirement was soon reinstated because the number of deaths on the road increased. They point out that the same principle of a mandatory course to operate a crane should apply to avoid a rise in accidents and deaths on construction sites. The Quebec government must listen to those who do the work in construction and their unions and immediately reinstate the 870-hour mandatory vocational training course for crane operators.


1. An examination of the report is available here: "Expert Panel Report Does Not Respect Safety
Demands of Those Who Do the Work," Pierre Chénier, Workers' Forum, April 18, 2019

(Photos: FTQ Construction)

This article was published in

Number 24 - June 27, 2019

Article Link:
Continued Opposition to Changes in Crane Operator Training that Endanger Workers and the Public


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