Construction rules and social media: Myths and reality

Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are very powerful when it comes to conveying all sorts of ideas and opinions. For instance, anyone can call himself or herself an expert and give out advice. But watch out: such advice may in fact encourage honest people to do things that are illegal. The CCQ’s Customer Services have received questions from workers and employers who are wondering about things that they have read on the Web.

It pays to be careful!

In most cases, you’ll be able to find answers to your questions about the construction industry’s rules at You can use the search engine to find information. You can also call the CCQ’s Customer Services, which will be able to help you out (1-888-842-8282).

Here is a short list of subjects that were recently addressed in social media and that should be clarified:

The CCQ hands out “tickets” left and right without due process.

Part of the CCQ’s mission involves overseeing compliance with the rules that apply in the construction industry (Act R-20, related regulations, collective agreements). Its first concern is to ensure that workers and employers on construction sites have the skills necessary to guarantee the quality of work, as well as the safety of property and people.

The people most visible in carrying out this part of the CCQ's mission are the site inspectors, who travel around the province to verify that the rules are being properly applied on all construction sites. But they are not the only ones; several other categories of employees with “investigatory powers” also try to ensure that the rules are respected.

Contrary to what you may believe,the CCQ inspectors do not have the power to hand out “tickets.”Their role is to observe what is happening in the field, to identify the people on sites, and, if necessary, to recommend to theDirecteur des poursuites criminelles et pénales(DPCP) that legal action be taken. In the end, it is the professionals at the DPCP who decide whether or not to bring prosecutions. And so, it is a thorough process.

It is also worth noting thatfines are payable to the government’s consolidated fund, not to the CCQ.

Why try to catch people who just want to do their work?

The main purpose of detecting violations of the laws, regulations, and agreements is to ensure fair competition. The idea is to stand behind people who do things correctly: workers who make sure that they have the right competency certificate, and employers that pay the wage rates set out in the collective agreements, declare hours of work correctly, and so on. Obviously, the first people hurt by schemes to get around the rules are the people who choose to respect them.

It is important to understand that the CCQ also pursues civil lawsuits on behalf of workers to collect unpaid sums due by employers (salary, vacation benefits, etc.). In 2015, almost $14 million was recovered in this way, and most of it went to the wronged workers.

You can learn more by reading the CCQ’s annual management report.

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Construction workers can never work outside of their region of residence; that doesn’t make sense.

It is true that, unlike other professionals, construction tradespeople follow rules that encourage regional hiring.

The objective of this regulation is to ensure that construction projects provide economic benefits above all to the regions in which the work is done. This is why, as a general rule, construction sites are filled mainly with workers who live in the region. This is a commendable objective with positive effects for the different communities of Quebec.

But sometimes we can’t find work in our region!

The very nature of the industry means that construction projects are not distributed equally in every region. It may happen that sites in a particular region require more qualified workers than live there, and the rules set out all sorts of ways for workers to move from one region to another. Some of these rules are in the regulations, and others in the collective agreements. On average, workers perform about 10% of their volume of work outside of their region. In some regions, this figure may double, even triple, depending on the economy.

The regulations therefore try to create a balance between workforce mobility and regional hiring.

If I get caught working outside of my own region without having the right, what happens?

If a worker gets caught working outside of his or her region without having the right, the CCQ may recommend prosecution. However, it is not the workers but the employers who are targeted in these cases! In fact, according to the law, employers are responsible for respecting workforce-mobility rules in managing their sites.

To uncover employers who do not respect the rules, workers obviously must help out with the verifications and investigations.

It should also be noted that the CCQ does not have the power to expel anyone from a construction site. When violations are observed, the people concerned are informed of the consequences of their actions.

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The CCQ doesn’t allow construction tradespeople with a competency certificate to perform tasks that are really very simple.

Everyone can agree that it’s not a good idea for plumbers to do electrical wiring. On the other hand, sometimes the public asks why only painters are allowed to paint or only tile setters can install ceramics; after all, most people have friends who say, “I’m a handyman – I can do that!” Nevertheless, applying paint and installing tiles are trades in themselves – and the tasks involved are often more complex than they seem.

That is why, in Québec, work covered by Act R-20 must be done by workers who hold competency in the appropriate trades. The industry rules define 25 trades, six specialized occupations, and one general occupation into which all of the tasks required to perform construction work have been divided. Workers learn their trade and prove their competency through training, practical experience, and qualification exams.

The Regulation Respecting the Vocational Training of the Workforce in the Construction Industry sets out which tasks are exclusive to a particular trade and which are shared among different trades. These definitions been established for a long time by members of the industry, as well as the unions, employer associations, and tradespeople.

Contractors who comply with the regulations ensure that work on their site is executed by the right construction trades. That is what the CCQ verifies when it visits a site.

Yes, but if the work is done well, what’s the problem?

Some people think that the CCQ inspectors make judgments on employees’ quality of work. This is not the case. The CCQ must ensure: 1) that the workers who have done work hold the appropriate competency certificates, and 2) that they are paid according to the collective agreements.

In the end, it is up to the client to determine if the quality of work executed meets its expectations before it pays its contractors.

Remember, health and safety questions fall under the CNESST, and those concerning the Building Code fall under the RBQ. Of course, when CCQ employees observe irregularities in these areas, they advise these organizations.

But I think the trade definitions are too restrictive!

The CCQ has been working on this issue for the last two years. The objective is to review the definitions and propose changes to the regulation so that workers can be more versatile and the organization of work can be more flexible.

Techniques and tools are changing every day. And so it is normal to periodically review which trade should perform which task.

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