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May 22, 2018

Fight of Transport Workers for Rights and Dignity

Quebec Dump Truck Drivers Demonstrate
to Defend Their Livelihood

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Truckers surround National Assembly in Quebec City on May 14, 2018 day of action.

Fight of Transport Workers for Rights and Dignity
Quebec Dump Truck Drivers Demonstrate to Defend Their Livelihood
Dump Truck Drivers' Struggle Exposes Pay-the-Rich Agenda
- Normand Chouinard

Workers Step Up Fight Against Attacks on Their Health and Public Safety
Interview, Evans Dupuis, Director, Union of Crane Operators
(FTQ-Construction Local 791G)

For Your Information
Construction Bill 152 Amended by Committee of Quebec National Assembly

Mine Workers Fight for Their Rights
Compass Mineral Workers in Goderich, Ontario, on Strike Against
Anti-Worker Concessions



Fight of Transport Workers for Rights and Dignity

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Thousands of dump truck drivers, members of the Association Nationale des Camionneurs Artisans Inc. (ANCAI), demonstrated in all regions of Quebec May 14 to condemn the inaction of the Ministry of Transport, Sustainable Mobility and Transport Electrification (MTMDET) on corrupt practices of construction companies. They demonstrated at the premises of various Ministry service centres and organized convoys which passed in front of several major infrastructure projects that are underway in Quebec. According to the statement from ANCAI, the MTMDET "took no concrete action to prevent false invoicing in bulk transport in the public sector," which means that hiring of truckers without legal accreditation is continuing to this day. ANCAI's dump truck drivers are independent truckers who typically have one to three trucks, are not affiliated with any infrastructure construction companies and are hired to transport construction materials (stones, aggregate, asphalt) to construction sites throughout Quebec. Their May 14 action was organized to draw attention to their concern about their survival as independent truckers.

The practice in Quebec has been that the distribution of contracts on public worksites is done by brokerage agencies supervised by the Quebec Construction Commission. Construction companies that are awarded public sector building contracts notify the brokers of their trucking needs and the brokers distribute the tasks to registered truckers through offices throughout Quebec. The brokerage agencies maintain trust accounts in which all financial transactions between the construction company and the independent truckers are recorded. In recent years, since 2012, the Ministry of Transport has changed its practice and allowed construction companies to directly hire unregulated truckers.  According to ANCAI, this means pressuring drivers to work under the table and opens the door to false invoicing and corruption. ANCAI is also concerned that construction companies want to expand their use of carriers who are outside of the brokerage system which would mean that up to 50 per cent of payments for bulk trucking could be lost to ANCAI truckers. ANCAI reports that more than $75 million that used to go to their members has already been lost.

The anger of the ANCAI bulk truckers was firmly expressed at their last convention on April 18 to 22 this year. The truckers were particularly shocked to hear that at a roundtable created by the government, there were proposals made to increase the use of trucking without brokerage by 70 to 80 per cent. It was at this congress that the May 14 day of action was decided.

Following the day of action, ANCAI has requested a meeting with the Minister as soon as possible to discuss the implementation of the durable and preventive solutions they presented to the Ministerial roundtable, solutions which will, according to ANCAI, "ensure the supply of trucks and the integrity of bulk trucking expenses in public markets, including those of the Ministry of Transportation."

Aylmer

Drummond

Rimouski

Gaspe

(Photos: ANCAI)

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Dump Truck Drivers' Struggle Exposes
Pay-the-Rich Agenda


A hundred trucks gathered at rolling stock management centre in Quebec City during day of action.

Workers in Quebec and Canada must support the dump truck drivers who held a day of action on May 14 in defence of their livelihood. By consciously participating in putting into practice a decision they made at their April convention, the truckers affirmed their determination to be respected and to be heard. In doing so, they rejected the pressure on them to accept new arrangements that are being implemented in the major infrastructure and construction sector as a fait accompli. These government actions lower the working conditions of truckers for the benefit of private interests. Truckers also reject the lie that their struggle is only to defend their "corporate interests." They are affirming their right to decide the future of their industry and community. They know that attempts by major infrastructure and construction companies and different levels of government to divide dump truck drivers and force them to compete against one another so that private interests can capture a greater part of the wealth they collectively produce, completely destabilize their lives.

By rejecting the deregulation of their profession, they defend all truckers. It's not just the 5,200 dump truck drivers organized in the Association Nationale des Camionneurs Artisans Inc. (ANCAI) who are experiencing the deep insecurity caused by this division, but all the truckers in this industry who are trapped by the collusion of big private interests and governments. The large public infrastructure projects that various levels of government are planning, in which huge sums of capital will be invested, result in fierce competition between the construction monopolies. Like construction workers, bulk truckers are at the centre of the tumult created by the insatiable appetite of these predators for the public purse. The unity of all truckers working in the bulk transport sector is essential to counter the attempts by governments and businesses to lower their conditions and deprive them of their means of livelihood and their rights. By demonstrating throughout Quebec on May 14, bulk truckers have shown that the actions of the Ministry of Transport are for purposes of paying the rich. Regulation in the trucking sector must be aimed at ensuring the rights of all truck drivers and maintaining an equilibrium that benefits the sector and not select private interests.

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Workers Step Up Fight Against Attacks on Their Health and Public Safety

Interview, Evans Dupuis, Director, Union of Crane Operators (FTQ-Construction Local 791G)


Protest by Montreal crane operators, May 5, 2018 against changes to industry regulations.

Workers' Forum: For months now you have been opposing the new regulations concerning the training of crane operators adopted on May 14 by the Quebec Construction Commission (CCQ). The regulation eliminates compulsory completion of the Diploma of Vocational Studies (DEP) to become a crane operator and introduces on-site training provided by fellow crane operators under a company's supervision, which is much less rigorous and shorter in duration. What are the latest developments on this issue?

Evans Dupuis: We held a rally of several hundred crane operators in Montreal on May 5. We also filed a complaint with the Quebec Ombudsman. The complaint states that the regulations do not comply with the standards for crane operation and with the Act respecting occupational health and safety. It says that the Labour standards, pay equity and workplace health and safety board (CNESST) was not consulted, did not play its role of ensuring that the regulation meets health and safety standards, and should have intervened.

It is the CNESST (formerly the Commission for Occupational Health and Safety -- CSST) which established the regulation in the mid-1990s that requires mandatory professional training for a worker to become a crane operator. The Ombudsman will investigate and report to the National Assembly.

WF: What do you say about the CCQ's arguments that the new regulation is necessary to compensate for a shortage of labour?

ED: That is not true. There is no shortage of labour. It's an excuse. We have been denouncing this for two months and now the CCQ changed the way it is framing the issue. They say that it is to alleviate a possible shortage of labour. The regulation has nothing to do with a shortage of manpower. Now, effective May 14, any journeyman from another trade can go to the CCQ to apply for a crane apprentice card and they can then undertake on-site training. By the way, that's what we had before mandatory training was established and there were a lot of accidents.

The CCQ also says that it wants to ensure the versatility of trades. Crane operation is a dangerous job. We do not need versatility. On the contrary, what is needed is a guarantee that every crane operator has adequate academic training. If the DEP is no longer up to date and needs some changes, we can examine that issue. This is a health and safety issue. Versatility has nothing to do with it.

It has to be noted that we are the profession in the construction industry that works the most hours. It is we who enforce the collective agreement the most. A crane operator refuses to work under the table. He makes sure that the hours he is working are registered and accounted for. We make sure that the health and safety rules are respected. When an employer tells the crane operator, who is alone in his machine, that he must perform this or that task, there are 20, 30 or even 40 workers on the job site who depend on his decision. There is a lot of pressure on him. That's why he needs the professional training that gives him confidence in deciding what is safe and what is not, and instills a sense of responsibility. Our union also intervenes to say when work is not safe and should not be performed. In the standard regulations that govern the work of a crane operator it says "the crane operator has the last word." But if the crane operator was trained by a company and the employer who trained him says "do this" the worker then is not so aware of the dangers and is also afraid of losing his job. This is dangerous for the crane operator and other construction workers, and it is dangerous for the public because crane operators often work in public places.

Take the case of the window cleaner who died two years ago at UQAM when the boom truck tilted. The CNESST's investigation showed that the machine had been used beyond its licenced capacity. A trained crane operator would have said, "No, I will not work beyond the licenced capacity of the crane."

We are stepping up our fight. We are planning other actions as well.



(Photos: FTQ Construction)

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For Your Information

Construction Bill 152 Amended by Committee
of Quebec National Assembly

The Quebec National Assembly's Committee on Labour and the Economy has been holding hearings into Bill 152, An Act to amend various labour-related legislative provisions mainly to give effect to certain Charbonneau Commission recommendations. This is legislation that purports to deal with corruption in the construction industry that in practice is aimed at criminalizing the workers when they defend their rights. The Committee has now adopted all the articles except for one, with some being amended.

Much of the discussion focused on the section of the bill that criminalizes actions by workers or communities that could lead to an interruption or slow down of activities on construction sites.

Bill 152 proposes amending Section 113.1 of Act R-20 respecting labour relations, vocational training and workforce management in the construction industry, which deals with obstruction of activities on construction sites:

Section 113.1 of Act R-20 currently reads:

"Any person who uses intimidation or threats to cause an obstruction to or a slowdown or stoppage of activities on a job site is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of $1,137 to $11,370 for each day or part of a day during which the offence continues." (WF emphasis.)

Bill 152 replaces "to cause" by "likely to cause."

At the hearings of the committee, the Minister of Labour reveled in the legal difference between "to cause" and "likely to cause." This difference, she argued, avoids having to prove the intent of those who hinder activity on construction sites. Employers or judges now have the power to criminalize workers and people in the communities by merely stating that, according to them, an action was "likely to cause a slowdown or stoppage of activities on a job site."

The Minister of Labour proposed an amendment, which passed, replacing "likely to cause" with "reasonably likely to cause," as if this would appease those who are opposed to these measures. This is liberal hypocrisy because the employer or the judge is the person who has all the power to decide whether the action was "reasonably likely" or simply "likely to cause" something to happen.

It is of no concern to the Minister or the Committee members why workers have taken action to defend their conditions; why communities have taken action to defend regional employment; or, why Indigenous peoples have had to erect roadblocks in defence of their land or the natural environment. Private interests are asking government to treat those who they consider a threat to their profits as criminals and all the parties are happy to oblige. Those who pose the threat to their private interests are most often the workers they hire to create the value they then expropriate, which is the object and aim of their private interests. With Bill 152, the Minister and Committee are quite obviously taking the side of employers in disputes with employees and their representatives regarding conditions of work or terms of employment and the adherence to those terms in practice.

The Minister of Labour similarly amended Section 15, which reads in part:

"Any person who uses intimidation or threats that are likely to compel an employer to make a decision regarding workforce management in the construction industry or to prevent the employer from making such a decision, or otherwise imposes such a decision is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of $1,541 to $15,373."

Under the amendment, "likely to compel an employer" is replaced by "reasonably likely."

It must be noted that the punishment for a union representative found guilty of violating these articles is the loss of the right to hold a position as a trade union representative for a period of up to five years.

Among other amendments is the withdrawal of Article 18, which reads:

"An association of employees, a representative of such an association or an employee that holds an employee meeting at the place of employment without the employer's consent or that orders, encourages or supports the holding of such a meeting is guilty of an offence and is liable, for each day or part of a day the offence continues, to a fine of $7,842 to $78,411 in the case of an association or representative, and $1,120 to $11,202 in the case of an employee."

The interventions of the unions in the parliamentary commission in February possibly played a role in the withdrawal of this article because they vigorously denounced it as an attack on their basic right to organize at the workplace. However, the Minister said at the hearings that the employers themselves did not find this article necessary because Act R-20 already contains an article prohibiting workers' meetings on construction sites without the employer's consent. The primary concern of the bill is the prohibition of slowdowns and work stoppages on job sites regarding working conditions and adherence of employers to terms of employment and standards or to paraphrase the Minister, to deprive workers of any possibility of hindering the exercise of management rights under threat of criminalization.

For more information on Bill 152, see Workers' Forum, January 25, 2018.

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Mine Workers Fight for Their Rights

Compass Mineral Workers in Goderich, Ontario,
on Strike Against Anti-Worker Concessions

Workers at the Compass Minerals salt mine in Goderich, Ontario, have been on strike since April 27 against the U.S. owner's demands for anti-worker concessions. The 350 workers involved in production, shipping and maintenance are members of Unifor Local 16-0 and have rejected concessions that include a reduction in benefits, extended shifts, forced overtime and a weakening of existing contracting-out provisions. Workers report that the company's demands amount to negating 50 years of negotiated collective agreements at the mine, which they will not allow. They report that they fought successfully against forced overtime in the past and are determined not to have it reintroduced today. The company claims that it must dismantle shift structures to make production more efficient and general operations more competitive.

Compass Minerals clearly indicated at the end of February that it was not interested in negotiating a collective agreement acceptable to the workers when it handed out lay-off notices to 48 workers at the gate as they entered the premises. According to the union, Compass Minerals tried to mislead laid-off workers into accepting a severance package that annulled their right to be recalled. The company persisted in its arrogance by openly declaring at the beginning of the strike that it would attempt to maintain full production through the use of replacement workers bussed in to the site. Earlier in May, the mine's owners obtained a court injunction to limit picketing, which had been holding up vehicles entering the mining facility. The court order has gone into effect, limiting vehicle delay to a maximum of 12 minutes. Workers are reporting that morale is good on the picket line and that the community is supporting their just struggle.

Compass Minerals' Goderich salt mine is located 1,800 feet below Lake Huron in western Ontario and is the largest underground salt mine in the world. The mine has operated since 1959 and was acquired by Compass Minerals in 1990. The main product is rock salt, which is processed at another plant four kilometres away. The salt is also sold in bulk to manufacturers that make plastics, detergents, disinfectants and other products.

(Photos: Unifor)

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