Workers Speak Out About Their Concerns
Quebec Construction Workers Call for Reinstatement of Crane Operators Training Program
At a press conference on July 17, construction workers who are members of the FTQ-Construction union demanded the Quebec government reinstate the mandatory 870-hour professional training course for crane operators, and that it be provided in an educational setting with professional instructors.
The Quebec government and the Quebec Construction Commission (CCQ) in defiance of the wishes of workers and their unions removed the compulsory vocational training requirement for crane operators in May 2018 and replaced it with a much less stringent 150-hour training program delivered on the job site as a responsibility of the construction employer. They also greatly reduced the specific mandatory training and regulation for the operation of boom trucks with a maximum 30-tonne capacity to an 80-hour course, even though these cranes have a history of overturning the most frequently and causing the most damage.
FTQ-Construction members held their press conference to remind the Quebec Minister of Labour that construction workers in all trades oppose the weakening of the regulations dealing with crane operator training. They explained that not only did the government and CCQ introduce the changes unilaterally, without the input and consent of the workers involved, but that the weakened regulation endangers the lives of all construction workers as well as the public.
François Patry, President of Local 9 of the National Brotherhood of Carpenters and a spokesperson for the workers, made the following important comments at the press conference: “For us, who represent over 70,000 workers in various construction trades, one death is one too many! We formally request that Minister Jean Boulet maintain the vocational training program adopted in 1997 because it reduced the number of deaths per year involving cranes by 66 per cent. Were the Minister to allow pilot training to be reduced to have more planes in the sky, it would be nonsensical. This, however, is what he has done in the construction industry.
“The construction industry is an industry that kills and injures workers. Although we represent only five per cent of the workforce in Quebec, we account for 25 per cent of all work-related deaths each year. Decisions are taken without factoring in construction worksite accident prevention. Consideration is given to the requirements of production and of profitability, however prevention gets eliminated. One such example is the Minister’s decision to remove the requirement for the Vocational Studies Diploma in the training of crane operators. Training is an integral part of prevention on construction sites. Cranes are important equipment on construction sites, which ensure that headway is made on the job. They lift very heavy loads. All workers on construction sites are at risk, including carpenters, labourers, electricians, all the trades, which is why we strongly support what the crane operators are doing. They are not alone.
“It is not easy on a job site to say No to an employer, that the work is not safe and that I am not going to do it. The more you are told during vocational training that such and such cannot be done for all the reasons given to you, the more arguments you have to tell the employer that you are not going to do that work and your arguments are also backed by your union. You are not alone. That is an integral part of prevention.”
During the press conference glaziers, heavy machine operators and workers from other trades made it clear that all construction workers are behind the crane operators, and that the safety of workers and of the public comes first. A principle at stake is that the people who do the work and their organizations must have a say and give their consent on matters that directly concern them and their work.