Partnership key for OCOT enforcement officers

Leveraging partnerships and technology are some of the ways the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) enforcement division is going to level the playing field in the compulsory trades it oversees, states one of its officials.

“Legitimate contractors in this province can compete with the best of them, but what they can’t compete against is people who aren’t playing by the rules,” said Bob Onyschuk, director of OCOT’s compliance and enforcement division in an update at the recent Ontario Building Trades convention.

Using technology to immediately check whether someone is legally allowed to conduct business in Ontario is one of the daily routines employed by Onyschuk’s fleet of enforcement officers to help protect legitimate businesses and combat the underground economy, he said.

The enforcement officers oversee the 22 compulsory trades in the construction, motive power and service sectors. OCOT is the only regulatory college in the province that has a provincial offences officer designation.

Since the enforcement officers have been on the job, they have conducted 302 site visits in the ICI construction sector, 141 in the residential construction sector, 505 automotive garages, 53 auto body shops and 279 field visits in the service sector.

Ten tickets have been issued in the ICI construction sector, one in the residential construction sector, six in garages and two in auto body shops.

Experienced in the construction sector, Onyschuk said he has been “blown away” by the non-compliance rate in the motive power sector.

“It’s a world unto itself. Fifteen year olds welding frame is a common practice because no one has enforced in that industry.”

He added the hairstylists currently have about a 40 per cent non-compliance rate.

There had been a grace period for education about their role, which has roughly the same power as the Ministry of Labour in terms of entry, but now it’s time to crack down.

“We’re getting to the point now where it’s time to get tough and that’s what’s going to happen. We’re going to start nailing that down,” he said.

“There are some of them out there that the only thing they understand is the tough side of things.”

Tickets are $195 for an individual and $295 for an employer.

Onyschuk said if he gives an employer more than four tickets, he’s generally not getting the message.

“I’ve been in a lot of situations where as soon as an officer leaves, the employer gives the ticket over to the worker and says ‘you want to work here tomorrow, pay it.’ If they keep turning up again, that’s when we can get into charges that he can’t get out of,” he said.

Charges can go up to $5,000 for the first offence and up to $10,000 for the second offence.

Examples of non-compliance include practising a compulsory trade without a valid Certificate of Qualification (C of Q) or being a registered apprentice in that trade; not complying with prescribed journeyperson to apprentice ratios; and representing themselves as a member of OCOT when they are not.

Proceeds from tickets and charges go to the municipality where the offence occurred, not OCOT.

One weakness OCOT enforcement is facing is when a Justice of the Peace does not known anything about skilled trade qualifications.

“We’re trying to get in front of them to tell them you’re going you’re going to start seeing them in your courts. It’s important because of the public interest and the skilled worker,” said Onyschuk.

Enforcement officers have also been trained in forensics auditing, such as looking for dead or retired people on a payroll and making sure they are looking at the right set of books.

Onyschuk, who used to work for the Ministry of Labour, has been on the job last November.

Twenty enforcement officers were hired in the spring and there are an additional 22 currently in training. It is expected to take a few years to reach the targeted 150 enforcement officers located throughout the province.

Current expertise among enforcement officers includes carpenter, plumber, sprinkler fitter, sheet metal, electrician, collision and mechanical repair, hairstylist, enforcement, site supervision and community college instructors.

As each officer may not know everything about each specialty, they can leverage off each other’s expertise and the knowledge of the divisional trade boards, said Onyschuk.

Daily Commercial News Online

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