Our Fight Is for the Health and Safety of All!
– Evans Dupuis, Director, Union of Crane Operators (FTQ-Construction Local 791G) –
Renewal Update: What are the latest developments in your fight for the safety of workers and the public?
Evans Dupuis: We denounced the Minister of Labour’s position because he decided to implement the Committee of Independent Experts’ recommendations. We declared that its recommendations were unacceptable from a health and safety standpoint. We called on the government to intervene to get the Labour Minister to reconsider his decision, however the government refused to budge. We also called upon the Minister of Education to intervene in the matter. We received no response from him, as all he did was pass the file along to the Labour Minister.
The entire milieu, the crane operators themselves, the FTQ-Construction affiliates, the teachers’ union representing those who provide the vocational training to those wanting to become crane operators, the Crane Owners’ Association, all of us denounced the Labour Minister’s position. As for the Education Minister, we published an excerpt of the comments he made while in the opposition against the reduction in crane operator training by the Liberal Party when it was in power. Now that he’s in power with François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government, he’s playing the same game as the Liberal Party did at that time.
The Labour Minister has endorsed the Committee of Independent Experts’ recommendations. The committee recommended an initial three-week training period in an educational institution, it maintained onsite training during the apprenticeship period, while also prescribing refresher training classes during the same period.
What we are saying is that the recommendations do not comply with the committee’s analysis. In its analysis, the committee pointed out that the best training for crane operators, one that meets safety standards, is the 870-hour Diploma of Vocational Studies (DEP). If you say that the best training is the DEP, you cannot then turn around and recommend three weeks of training. It makes no sense. How do you compare the 870-hour vocational training to an initial vocational training of three weeks? In our opinion, the true initial training is the 870-hour DEP. Furthermore, how does one maintain the training of boom truck operators with only 80 hours of training instead of the DEP?
We demand that the mandatory 870 hours of vocational training be reinstated. In addition, we agree that the past experience and skills of workers from other industries should be taken into consideration, within the framework of the DEP. That means, as has already been provided for by the Ministry of Education, that given their skills and experience, they may not have to complete the entire 870 hour program, as long as this is all done within the compulsory DEP.
The Minister has now given the Quebec Construction Commission (CCQ) the mandate to implement the committee’s recommendations, without the issue of health and safety being sorted out in any way, shape or form. The entire crane operator milieu has denounced the changes. The Committee of Independent Experts has even recognized that the sector is opposed to the changes. However, the Minister is not taking the opinions of those directly involved in the sector into consideration. The Minister is listening to the lobbying of the employer and of the CCQ. The Liberals did the same thing. How can you refuse to listen to the majority?
The health and safety of workers and of the public is at the heart of the matter. This has been the case since the beginning. Crane operators need to know that their colleagues have adequate training to do their job.
1. In April of 2018, the former Quebec Liberal government unilaterally imposed new regulations governing crane operator training in Quebec. That decision overturned the norms and training that had been established for new crane operators to ensure not only their own safety, but also that of other construction workers and the public at large. The new regulations abolished the mandatory character of the 870 hour Diploma of Vocational Studies (DEP) training required in a professional institution to become a crane operator. The DEP is now optional. A new 150-hour training provided directly on the worksite and under the responsibility of the employer has been introduced. The government also replaced the vocational 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 and their union have firmly fought and are still waging a fierce battle against this attack on the safety of construction workers and the public. It’s within this context that the government established the Committee of Independent Experts in September of 2018, with a mandate to assess the security aspect of the new regulations. In its report issued in March of 2019, the committee said that the DEP remains the reference standard for the training of crane operators, however it has accepted that it become optional. As an alternative, it proposed a three-week initial training period and that on site training be maintained.