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August 25, 2006

Underground economy needs action

Construction groups join forces to demand action

TORONTO

The Council of Ontario Construction Associations, Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario and Rescon have joined forces to press Ontario Labour Minister Steve Peters to speed up legislation against the underground economy.

A joint letter from the three groups, expected today, questions the lack of urgency on the part of ministry offices in controlling mandatory workplace safety and insurance act coverage in the construction industry.

“[The government] has a responsibility to belly up to the table to support the legitimate industry,” said Patrick Dillon, business manager for Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario.

Dillon told Daily Commercial News they are aware of the consultation papers released in March 2006 by the ministry, but are concerned about the speed of the investigation.

“By being silent, it indicates [the government] is in support of the people who don’t pay their bills.”

There was a unanimous agreement amongst COCA, Rescon and the Council to write and present the letter to Peters.

Meantime, the ministry is concentrating its efforts on a series of questions covering demographics, the underground economy, what the trades think of the government’s proposal, economic impacts, work specific issues and other variables, according to Patrick O’Gorman, spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour.

“We just have some consultations on the construction sector and how to tackle the underground economy there,” he said.

The process was covered by former Minister of Labour Chris Bentley through the Joint Advisory Implementation Group formed by The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

Consultation submissions for the WSIB coverage project have arrived at the ministry offices.

“Our policy branch is putting together some options for the government to consider, so we haven’t actually put together any legislation, but that will be coming,” said O’Gorman.

The deadline for all submissions was June 30 and all returns were directed to the Toronto office.

“We received quite a few submissions. I believe the ministry is finished going through them, so they are just gathering options for the government,” said O’Gorman.

“One of them would be extended mandatory coverage for everyone in the construction sector.”

The ministry is expected to meet with the three associations in the near future.

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