Updates from February, 2024 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Kate 18:39 on 2024-02-20 Permalink | Reply  

    The École nationale du meuble et de l’ébénisterie, which operates in Montreal as a branch of the CEGEP de Victoriaville, is set to close by 2027. Will the government step in to find a way to keep the school open? Making furniture by hand is not something that artificial intelligence will be doing by 2027.

    • Ian 18:54 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

      Cabinet making is the term in English, but it goes way beyond cabinets. It’s any detailed carpentry beyond structural construction, so basically anything wood that involves finishing, particularly in new home construction and manufacturing. I see “nous embauchons” signs for ébénisterie all over VSL. It’s a very in-demand trade.

    • DeWolf 19:29 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

      My wife did the EMSB ébénisterie program. (The French term is a lot nicer, given that “cabinet making” in English sounds pretty limiting.) One of the potential routes for graduates was to work in aviation making custom wood components for private jets – which is apparently a very lucrative trade and not one you normally think about. Turns out rich people love wood.

    • Dominic 19:49 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

      Friend of mine did that in the early 2000s, is now a master woodworker. Pulls in way over six figures, huge house in the ex-urbs, fancy car. I guess woodworking has a high demand and low supply.

    • dwgs 20:37 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

      I also did the EMSB program. Most cabinetmakers (not a term that I have a problem with, nobody works with ebene anymore :-)) aren’t employed in new home construction, it’s usually finish carpenters or multi skill guys who do the finish work. Cabinetmakers in general make less money than the guys who do framing for new construction, which I’ve always found ironic since the the skillset is way more broad and deep. Most of us don’t make way over six figures but if you’re good and can work fast you’ll do all right although it’s one of the first trades to be hit hard in an economic downturn. Strange you say that AI won’t affect us because I think one of the reasons we’re paid less is that CNC routers can do a lot of what we do cheaper and faster and it’s been that way for a long time. When I had my own business and someone asked me for a quote for a custom bookcase / armoire / whatever I would always ask about budget and had they checked what was on the market. Inevitably the reply was “Yes but we want something special”. So you put in the time to do a quote and when they see the price they’re shocked and say “But I can buy one from Ikea for $100!!” That’s because Ikea can crank out Billy bookcases for less than it would cost me for rough materials, never mind my time.
      A lot of graduates go to work for Bombardier doing custom work on private jets. It’s a good living and the work is high end but it’s not traditional woodworking, lots of veneer on ultralight honeycomb aluminum panels because having a lot of heavy solid wood isn’t a good thing in an airplane.
      In short, it’s a great, interesting craft but don’t get into it if you want to get rich.

    • Kate 20:51 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

      DeWolf – That’s why the TVA piece mentions Bombardier. I was wondering. But it makes sense.

      She must have studied at the Rosemount High School building? I taught briefly in their graphic design program, and one evening the cabinetmaking class started a fire and the alarm went off, and we ended up spending most of the class time outside. At least it wasn’t winter…

      dwgs: I didn’t know about the involvement of CNC routers in this trade. But then, I’m the guilty owner of several Billys.

    • dwgs 21:12 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

      Yes, the EMSB program is at Rosemount Technology Centre. It’s a great program that costs very little. I find it hard to believe they’re thinking of closing L’Ecole du Meuble, there was always high demand for the one at RTC and i had the impression that the work was higher end on the French side. BTW, I would bet that most graduates of these schools end up working in large cabinet shops contributing skilled labour to the economy, if you want to make a living doing high end work it’s like being an artist, you need wealthy clients who appreciate your craft.

    • CE 20:47 on 2024-02-21 Permalink

      I once went to the École nationale du meuble et de l’ébénisterie open house and it was a fun experience. The students make interesting items and even have a little show and sale of their final projects. It will be a shame if it shuts down. I worked next to an old man who ran a furniture repair/restoration workshop and he said he made good money (most of his customers were from Westmount) but couldn’t find an apprentice to take over the shop. I love working with wood so why I didn’t drop everything and start working with him is a great mystery to me!

  • Kate 18:33 on 2024-02-20 Permalink | Reply  

    Fire broke out in a homeless camp in eastern Ville‑Marie late Tuesday morning. Luckily no one was hurt, but an unknown number of people lost their shelters.

    • Kate 17:29 on 2024-02-20 Permalink | Reply  

      Bill Brownstein writes a snotty piece about reality show The Bachelor and its view of Montreal. I don’t watch reality TV myself but if I’d been sent to cover this story I wouldn’t have wasted column‑inches trumpeting how much I hate the show I’m forced to write about. Or maybe he just needed to hit a word count?

      • Blork 19:05 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

        Those “Bachelor” shows are awful yet strangely addictive. There are so many spinoffs and variations that their huge fan base are referred to as “Bachelor Nation” or something like that. But to your point, anything that is so awful yet so popular always triggers a knee-jerk reaction among certain people to be sure to declare themselves “above” it. I will admit that I find this almost as tiresome as the things being denounced.

      • GC 20:02 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

        I don’t watch it, but I highly doubt they romanticized Montreal any more than they do ANY other city where they shoot an episode. And, of course they lived the good life and booked hotel rooms that the average person never will. Isn’t that kind of the point…to present a fantasy life?

      • dwgs 20:39 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

        What do I dislike more, reality TV or bitter old white male Gazoo columnists? I honestly can’t say.

    • Kate 10:59 on 2024-02-20 Permalink | Reply  

      McGill University is abolishing the position of live-in dormitory floor fellows – they’re unionized – and replacing them with a bureaucratic fixture called “residence life facilitators” who will not actually live in the dorms with the purpose of helping young people out on their own for the first time – and, especially appealing to the university, they’re not unionized.

      This decision seems notably unwise given all the news about young people struggling with their mental health in an era of social media.

      • P 16:40 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

        They flew too close to the sun. This was inevitable and I even warned someone that this was the eventual outcome when they pushed to unionize.

        Free rent, free transit passes, almost unlimited free food and a host of other perks, but they just had to unionize and poke the bear over nonsensical issues.

        If I cared, I’d go rub it in some faces.

      • Kate 17:16 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

        McGill attempts to break unions on principle. They’re willing to do damage to get the upper hand on their employees.

      • P 17:51 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

        Which is what I was saying to the floor fellows at the time. They had a system where they were provided an amazing deal in exchange for a dozen or so hours of their week acting as floor fellows.

        They decided (“collectively”, with emphasis on the quotation marks) that in addition to thousands of dollars worth of benefits for a part time job, untaxed (as far as I could tell) perks and exceptionally flexible schedules, they wanted wages. And that they wanted to get involved in collective bargaining and to continue to pick fights with the people paying their rent.

        And my point to them was that the McGill administration is exactly the kind of cold and cunning group that will just eliminate the program altogether once they get the chance.

        Well, they got the chance. And now a fantastic and beneficial program for new students is gone.

      • Ian 19:01 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

        Union busting is illegal even in Quebec, and organizing for collective bargaining rights is protected by law.

        Solidarity with other workers is the hallmark of a decent person. Why are you siding with the bad guys, P? Are you a former floor fellow that was scared to mobilize?

        The floor fellows didn’t “bring this on themselves”. They do provide an essential front-line socail service. I refer you to every other time McGill has engaged in union busting and deceitful labour practices, from their faculty all the way down to the support staff. Even though I am an alumnus I think McGill really represents some of the worst tendencies of universities in this regard.

      • Blork 19:13 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

        While I do not like McGill’s union busting, I think “P” makes some good points. I don’t think unionizing is needed for what amounts to a part-time job that by definition only lasts a few years. This isn’t a career job. Nobody’s raising a family on a “floor fellow” job. Nobody plans to be a “floor fellow” for more than a couple of years. There’s no need for the protections provided by unionizing.

        Clearly, the unionizing effort there was based on youthful idealism over practical realities, and had I been around and involved when this was going on I would have been on the same side as “P.” I would even (almost) go as far as saying that unionizing a job like that sort of makes a mockery of “real” jobs that should be unionized.

      • Nicholas 19:16 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

        CBC Corrections, Feb 19, 2024 2:40 PM ET: “An earlier version of this story said that the facilitator jobs would not be unionized, based on the comments made by the union president. In fact, the position is covered by the same union but under a different collective agreement. The story has been updated.” The CBC story is from Saturday, updated Sunday; it originally had the line: “‘The residence life facilitators that they’ve said are going to replace us are not unionized,’ said Hutt, adding that this means it will be easier for the school to negotiate on their terms with workers.”. The CTV story, from today, was last updated at 2:03 p.m. EST, and does not say one way or another whether they will be unionized, nor does an archive updated four minutes after the first publication.

      • Ian 19:29 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

        I disagree, respectfully.

        If some workers in a university setting are unionized, they all should be. By definition, many jobs in a univeristy are not permanent – especially since tenure is increasingly elusive.

        This indicates more need for protection, not less.

        Even janitors are unionized, as well they should be.

      • bob 20:10 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

        $14.25 an hour when minimum wage is $15.25 an hour. Some union.

      • dwgs 20:42 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

        As a McGill employee I can say that both P and Kate are absolutely correct.

      • Blork 22:03 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

        Hmm. Well… I’m not married to my opinion on this. And I am admittedly old-school when it comes to unions, meaning that where I grew up they protected miners and steelworkers and so on from having their families ruined by “the company.” Even here and now, it makes sense that teachers and nurses and other career people be unionized for all sorts of reasons.

        But I don’t see the point in unionizing jobs that are by definition transitory and part time, especially in cases like this where the “floor fellow” is probably going to be an engineer making a six figure salary in a few years. What exactly is the union protecting for someone in such a short-term job that has zero chance of being long-term?

        Do the complications and overhead of a union justify the protection for a job that doesn’t really need protection?

        Ian, I hear what you’re saying, but any academic job at a university is a job on a career track, and you can’t really compare that with a short-term job like “floor fellow” that is in no way on a career track. (You could argue that working at a food kiosk or mopping floors isn’t a “career track” either, but those jobs are at least potentially long-term and the employees rely on them for their living. Not so with “floor fellow.”)
        Anyway, I’m not planting any flags on this issue, just speaking to how I feel.

      • Maxim Baru 22:20 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

        Please forgive me for breaking decorum, but some of these comments about unionization are totally checked out.

        Unfortunately, most people in Quebec and Canada don’t understand just how much our labour market was set up in the 1940s on the assumption that the core industries people are working in are unionized — meaning that everyone needs to be unionized to access basic rights we take for granted.

        For example, Canadians pride themselves at not having at-will employment like in the US. But in Quebec, everyone is an at-will employee for the first 2 years of any employment. Your boss doesn’t owe you a reason for firing you at all. Unless you are unionized, and owed just cause for termination.

        Or how about your right to talk to your coworkers about each others conditions of employment, like wages? Unless you are unionized, your boss can fire you for talking about it with coworkers. You boss can also fire you for your activities outside of work. Don’t believe me? Read the basic text on Canadian employment & labour law by David Doorey.

        In Europe if you don’t have a union, you’re probably covered by a sectoral agreement anyways. Or at least you can elect a works council. There’s some kind of mechanism for industrial planning that involves the general population. But in Canada we have nothing like that except for through the unions.

        All to say: everyone up and down the labour market needs to be unionized. It’s beneath the dignity of an adult not to be. People just don’t understand how inverted the labour market has become in terms of the basic rights they think they have.

        As for the floor fellows in specific, everything they get from the university in terms of in-kind payment and whatnot is definitely taxed. My understanding is that some people get virtually nothing on their pay cheques because everything has been whittled down by deductions done by the university. And even if they achieved no gains except to shift from the less advantageous set of laws governing individual contracts to the law governing collective agreements which entitles them to progressive discipline and just cause termination, it would have been worth while to unionize.

      • Blork 00:29 on 2024-02-21 Permalink

        No need to ask forgiveness, as you’re not breaking decorum. You’re just voicing your opinion, and that’s what these comments are all about. 🙂

      • Kate 10:20 on 2024-02-21 Permalink

        Thank you, Maxim Baru. You are not breaking decorum, you’ve made valuable points.

    • Kate 10:53 on 2024-02-20 Permalink | Reply  

      Heritage Montreal is officially saddened by that collapse of two buildings – or rather, two façades – on Van Horne.

      It seems a shame to lose the one on the left with the gables and spandrels and detailing around the balcony and roofline – you can see it here on Streetview – but the other building, if it ever had any charms, lost them long ago.

      CBC radio news said at 5:30 that the owner “may not have properly maintained the façades” – you think maybe?

      CBC also says the two buildings were among the oldest in Outremont.

      • CE 13:53 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

        One thing that will likely be lost on the building to the right is the grandfathered balcony that hangs over the sidewalk. I wish the city would allow them again but I think they can’t be put on new construction.

      • Ian 19:03 on 2024-02-20 Permalink

        To be fair that rule applies to streets without a front lawn/ stoop. This building clearly had a stoop. If the newconstruction goes right to the property line to maximize the interior space, that’s on the architects and the developer.

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