Electrician says city contractor rule unfair

Barb
Barb Sweet
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A journeyman got a jolt when the City of St. John’s turned down his application for an electrical contractor’s licence and now he’s on a mission to change the bylaw.

The city’s bylaw, unique in the province, requires an extra two years’ experience beyond the four to obtain a journeyman’s ticket to get a contracting licence.

“I could be a doctor in that length of time,” quipped the man, who didn’t want his name used out of concern it would affect future work opportunities.

To work in other municipalities, electrical contractors — electricians wishing to operate their own business or companies that employ a qualified journeyman electrician — receive their certificate from Service NL.

Three codes

Service NL has three codes. Code 3, while it allows a journeyman with less than two years’ experience to be a contractor on residential homes, restricts the amount of voltage and amperage the contractor can work on and also requires that all their work be inspected by a Service NL inspector.

Code 2 is unrestricted, but still requires inspections.

Code 1 is for elite electricians who, in some instances, may be able to inspect their own work.

So basically, an electrician with less than two years’ journeyman’s experience can operate as an electrical contractor anywhere but in St. John’s. On a street that crosses boundaries between St. John’s and Mount Pearl, for instance, the man could wire one house as a contractor if it is in Mount Pearl, but if the neighbouring house is in St. John’s, he must pass it by.

See TWO-YEAR, page B2

He can still work as an employee electrician for a company in St. John’s, but not be his own boss. At the end of the two years, the applicant must submit an affidavit from the more experienced journeyman he worked with.

The electrician who spoke out to The Telegram said it’s an unfair system and he wishes the industry would speak out about.

“It don’t say on that it’s not good for the City of St. John’s,” he said of his interprovincial certificate which qualifies him as a journeyman electrician after passing required testing. He also said his trade school never mentioned the St. John’s rule to students.

He has already obtained his restricted electrical contractor certificate from Service NL.

The electrician attended trade school, logged his required apprenticeship hours while working for several companies in the province, leaving only for 10 days to take a job in Calgary because of a brief slowdown in work here.

He argued he’s got his Red Seal certification allowing him to work anywhere in Canada and should be good to go as a contractor.

“On one end of Blackmarsh Road, I was doing a bit of work and then me buddy asked me to do a house on the other end and I can’t do it,” he said of a street that crosses the boundaries between Mount Pearl and St. John’s.

He’s got a job, but wants to start building a business so that when industry work slows down, he has something to fall back on.

“I have a business. I got liability insurance. If you don’t have that, you’re stupid, you know,” he said.

“Why another two years? You are either doing it right or not. If it’s not, inspectors could pull my licence. … If everybody was perfect and knew everything about everything, you wouldn’t need inspectors and you wouldn’t need insurance. Everything would be perfect all the time.

“I guess the five per cent cheats their way through and everybody else got to take the fall for that.”

City spokeswoman Susan Bonnell  said the rule has been on the books for years and arose from faults and deficiencies inspectors were noting, causing the city to adopt a more stringent requirement.

St. John’s Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth said he understands the tradesman’s concern, but won’t apologize for higher standards in the capital city that are meant to protect residents from dangerous work.

“The process is working and working well. We have very few complaints,” he said.

He said if companies, trade schools and the union want change and can prove their case, the city would at least consider it.

But Ellsworth said as a former owner of an electrical contracting company — he is not an electrician, but employed them — standards were not always met.

Some that came out of training institutions “were not qualified to hold a screwdriver,” he said.

The same rules apply to plumbers and that’s the only time Ellsworth can recall a recent complaint — on his first stint on council. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2009, but followed issues while off council and returned as deputy mayor in 2013.

Organizations: Service NL.Three, Service NL.The

Geographic location: Mount Pearl, Calgary, Canada Blackmarsh Road

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  • Fred
    June 15, 2014 - 06:08

    Ellsworth not an electrician........Standards not always me.........." were not qualified to hold a screwdriver ' ??. Sounds like Mr Ellsworth is unqualified to judge anyone but uses his position as Deputy Mayor to restrict qualified journeyman electricians. Gimme a break.

  • Taxpayer
    June 14, 2014 - 08:46

    On the surface, sounds unfair to me.

  • Jack
    June 14, 2014 - 08:22

    Just another case of St. John's suffering from "Truro Syndrome" in making laws that interfere with existing federal and provincial laws. Since skill trades, apprenticeships, and journeyperson certifications are a Provincial Jurisdiction, St. John's City Council has no right to set their own rules. As long as you have a Journeyperson Certification, St. John's should allow them to operate as contractors no questions asked. No more legal redundancies St. John's, meaning get rid of the stupid "2 year rule" and let them serve as contractors. Otherwise, St. John's will be no different than Truro in making redundant laws that are already in place, such as the stupid "no feeding the deer law".