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New IBEW boss Barry will draw one line in the sand

Don Wall
New IBEW boss Barry will draw one line in the sand

The new leader of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Construction Council of Ontario (IBEW CCO) pledges to work closely with the Ontario government as it reinvents skilled trades regulation but there is one line James Barry will not cross.

Barry, a month into the job as the IBEW CCO executive secretary treasurer, replacing the retired John Grimshaw, said in an interview he enjoys a strong relationship with key decision-makers in the Ontario government and especially Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton. But Barry is committed to taking a stand if the government takes any steps to erode the core of skills that currently define Ontario’s electricians.

“I think the core restricted skill set we have, our scope of practice, if we see that is diminished or compromised or the restricted element is taken away, that is where we draw the line,” said Barry recently.

New IBEW Construction Council of Ontario executive secretary treasurer James Barry said his mandate includes ensuring members have good wages and pension and are highly trained and that the sector is competitive, attracting contractors and non-union electricians alike.
IBEW CCO — New IBEW Construction Council of Ontario executive secretary treasurer James Barry said his mandate includes ensuring members have good wages and pension and are highly trained and that the sector is competitive, attracting contractors and non-union electricians alike.

The government passed the Modernizing the Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Act last year, paving the way for dismantling the Ontario College of Trades and giving the minister the power to prescribe regulations that define new skill sets replace compulsory trades.

The government subsequently backed away and appointed two advisors to consult with stakeholders on those key issues. The IBEW CCO has been active making submissions to McNaughton’s ministry, Barry said.

“A main priority is constructive dialogue with the government and right now, we feel Monte McNaughton has been fair and open to dialogue,” Barry said.

“At the end of the day everything we’d like to see may not come to fruition but certainly we have been listened to and we would like to see a balance and a compromise in the approach in all the new ideas and initiatives.”

There may be room for reforms in other trades, Barry said, but the IBEW is advocating that the compulsory construction trades remain intact.

“Our biggest concern, if they open that up and for example electrical is not a restricted skill set and parts of it are taken away, it is left up to the electrician to go in at end of day to hook it up, and we don’t know who’s done that work,” he said. “Under the system we have, if it is electrical work and it is entirely restricted, we can go into a situation knowing the previous person working on it by law understood what he was doing.”

Barry, 53, has a long history in the sector. He studied business management at Algonquin College in Ottawa before becoming an electrical apprentice and working his way up to the status of licensed 309A electrician. He later served five terms as business manager of IBEW Local 586 in Ottawa then moved on to the IBEW CCO.

He was one of the first appointees to the Ontario College of Trades Board of Governors and was a chairperson of its Construction Divisional Board. He also served on the Ontario-Quebec Bilateral Construction Labour Mobility Committee for over a decade.

“I have been working towards this for quite a while,” Barry said.

“It has been rewarding and I am glad to be in this position and I am truly looking forward to making the IBEW CCO better for our membership and increasing the profile of the CCO.”

Ensuring the IBEW remains rewarding to its members, attractive to potential recruits and competitive within the industry will require not only advocating for his union but also cooperating with contractors and other stakeholders, Barry said.

At the same time, the IBEW needs to work on broader goals that requires consultation even with such rivals such as CLAC (Christian Labour Association of Canada) and non-union electricians, Barry said.

“At end of day, we are a compulsory trade and probably the highest profile trade, the electrical trade is one of top trades that excites people to want to get into the trades, but we want to make sure it stays attractive and it stays lucrative or you are not going to have people wanting to join,” he said.

“We need to build relationships with many different people that possibly in the past the IBEW CCO may have overlooked, but now we understand we need to have dialogue with all industry stakeholders, whether they are union, non-union, the OEL (Ontario Electrical League) and CLAC as we move forward in a visionary and leadership role.”

Future advocacy will include “common sense” proposals such as having the Electrical Safety Authority tasked with enforcement in the electrical industry; supporting trade boards as regulators and protectors of the construction trades in the post-College of Trades regulatory regime; ensuring the Red Seal system remains intact and labour mobility across the country is ensured; and, once the government and stakeholders resolve the trades regulation issues, working to unite the unionized construction trades with LIUNA, the Carpenters’ and the Operating Engineers all cooperating with other members of the provincial Building Trades council.

 

Follow the author on Twitter @DonWall_DCN.

Recent Comments (4 comments)

comments for this post are closed

Benni Image Benni

The Ontario College of Trades was closed by the Province Dec 2018.
There were non union and union trades workers that sat on their trade boards that gave guidance, knowledge and input along with monitoring violations to the trades along with reviewing the scope of practice. The boards also set the Red Seal exam content along with curriculum that had trades teacher board members.
Now we have two policy advisors that operate clandestine meetings without input from the actual trades workers.
All Trades workers were legally bound to pay annual membership fees that amounted to millions of dollars, we received no refunds when the Province closed the College of Trades.
Needless to say there have been massive undemocratic losses by the Province’s bulldozing project.

James Berry Image James Berry

I have known James for close to 30 years and there is no better person the Province of Ontario should be consulting with. James is a true advocate of all trades when it comes to safety and efficiencies on the job for construction workers. Building by consensus, is a true attribute that James possess which ensures customers and clients of the IBEW receive true value for the dollars spent building in Ontario.

Russ Shewchuk
Business Manager
IBEW Local 2085
Manitoba/Nunavut
Electrical Construction& Transmission.

Brent Belanger Image Brent Belanger

I just read this article and I cannot agree with the stand Mr. Barry is taking. I would also like to congratulate him on his new position. I have know him for many years, and we have not always agreed on everything, but I have always found him to be very professional and willing to listen and to always have the welfare of the members of the IBEW at heart. As a retired member of local 586, I am not always up to date on what is going on in the industry, but I still support the IBEW whenever it comes under attack. There is no substitute for proper training, professionalism, and safety when it comes to electricity. Good luck James, and keep up,the good work.

Ben Stegner Image Ben Stegner

That’s why he helped close down the College of Trades and let the province walk away with millions of trades workers dollars, line the pockets boys, line them thick.

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