Council adopts union position on apprentice ratios

PORTLAND, OR -- The Oregon State Apprenticeship and Training Council stuck by the union position in adopting a new policy of ratios for apprentices to journeypersons at its quarterly meeting at the State Office Building in Portland earlier this month.

The policy states that ratios in the building and construction trades shall be jobsite specific for all prevailing wage work, following the example established by the inside electrical industry in 1992. At that time, the non-union electrical element agreed to the union ratios of one-to-one for the first apprentice and one-to-three for all others at work.

Ratios have been a point of contention in all trades with non-union committees generally seeking the accounting to be done on a shop basis as opposed to union committees favoring the jobsite determination. Union officials maintain that their position helps assure a "level playing field" for prevailing wage construction job bidding.

The council did accept shopspecific ratios for industrial and manufacturing state-registered apprenticeship and industrial training programs. It also enhanced present policies governing the electrical industry to allow policy waivers in emergency situations.

The policy says that ratios will be set forth clearly in apprenticeship program standards which must be approved by the state council.

Full impact of the policy has yet to be determined in light of trades failing to adopt minimum guideline standards. For example, no agreement has been reached in the plumbing industry after more than two years.

Bob Kimes, training coordinator for Tualatin-based Plumbers and Fitters Local 290, told the Northwest Labor Press that "we are not going to lower our standards" and that non-union committees have refused to emulate their inside electrical counterparts in agreeing to the union position.

The council was brought up to date by Ken Fry who runs apprenticeship training for Portland Electrical Workers Local 48, as to some union feelings about the present direction of apprenticeship in Oregon. Fry is secretary of the state Union Apprenticeship Coordinators Association.

He said that union coordinators recently voiced concern in changes in selection procedures, lack of consistency by the council and the Apprenticeship and Training Division of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries in their actions and problems for committees obtaining liability insurance now that they are no longer considered state entities.

He noted that most committees have gotten over selection procedures "hurdles" now that the council has voided procedures which involve final selection by employers as detrimental to equal opportunity laws.

New procedures presented by union training committees were approved by the council although some, such as those from Portland Sheet Metal Workers Local 16, were subject to bureaucratic concerns.

Steve Simms, state apprenticeship director, reported that some insurance companies have been reluctant to deal with apprenticeship committees, except those connected with training trusts such as the ones which run most union programs. He said "difficulty in financing" appears to have stymied efforts to assist by the Oregon Building Congress.

John Slevin, a former president of Portland Painters Local 10 and retired state apprenticeship official, suggested a request for an opinion by the Oregon attorney general on the status of committees to clarify the role of committees and help them in their quest for reasonably-priced insurance.

Jack Roberts, Oregon labor commissioner and state apprenticeship council chair, said that would be impractical because of the cost of obtaining an opinion and because an opinion, regardless of what it says, would not be binding on a private entity such as an insurance company.

Simms said a new apprenticeship registration form, which must be used after Jan. 1, is being circulated to committees along with a manual on how committees should conduct their business. He said dates will be announced for seminars throughout the state to help committee officers now that the state agency has been placed in an advisory role only.

He also said his agency is working with the State Building Codes Division to develop a common approach to apprenticeship issues and to expedite policing.

He announced a strategic planning meeting for the apprenticeship community for late February in Portland prior to council subcommittee sessions.

Commissioner Roberts emphasized it was the duty of the state council to deal with inconsistencies in law and policy administration.

Later, Bill Winn, coordinator, for Portland Cement Masons Local 555, questioned why non-union firms were able to avoid training agent requirements when working on state highway projects.

Roberts responded, "We are working with the Oregon Department of Transportation to resolve the problem."

It was announced the next state council meeting will be held March 19 at the State Office Building in Portland.


Dec. 19, 1997 issue

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