Syndicat des Cols Bleus de Laval - SCFP 4545

Blue-collar workers admit to illégal strike

 

Blue-collar workers admit to illegal strike

City drags union to Essential Services held a loud and noisy protest near the entrance of the Montmorency metro station

last Thursday as dignitaries gathered to inaugurate the Laval metro. These bluecollar workers walked off the job illegally

according to the City of Laval and to the Es sential Services Counci l, and CUPE 4545 president Martin Gagnon agrees.

Gagnon admits that las t Thursday’s walkout was illegal. 97 per cent of the union had voted in favour of a strike to be

called at the appropriate time weeks earlier. “We must give a seven-day warning to the City and to the Essential Services

Council before walking out,” Gagnon said. “But when we decided to go ahead with this walkout, we were already out of time,

so we went ahead but we would admit to an illegal walkout.” The illegal walkout disrupted, and even

contributed to the delay of, the inauguration of the Laval metro. Nonetheless, Gagnon stands firm by his belief that this

walkout was absolutely necessary, as the union has been without a collective agreement for the past 14 months. “To us, it seems

the only thing the employer wants is conflict, so we decided to go forward with the walkout,” Gagnon explained. “We

wanted to launch a message to the Mayor (Gilles Vaillancourt) so he can talk to his lead negotiator to get things moving on

the negotiation table.” The union ensured that services to the population would not be slowed down during the walkout and

that all emergencies could be answered immediately. For instance, he pointed out that all workers at water-filtration plants were

on the job during the walkout, as well as two electricians and two sewer and aqueduct workers, who remained at the job site to

take care of any possible emergencies. “As far as we know, there were no incidents across Laval during the four-hour walkout,

and we made sure to cover all possible emergencies.” That did not prevent the City of Laval from denouncing the walkout and

from dragging the union to a mediation session before the Essential Services Council the following day. The City’s spokesperson

for unions, Louis Beauchamp, said that the City asked for the Council’s intervention to prevent a similar situation from

reoccurring. “Normally in such a situation, both parties must agree on a list of essential services, which is then approved

by the Es sential Services Council,” he explained. An example of an essential service would be snow removal in the middle of

winter, he added. By press time, the union agreed not to exercise any more pressure measures as long as the list of essential

services is not finalized. Nonetheles s , the mediation proces s remains completely separate from the collective agreement

negotiation. A key issue at hand is the recognition of blue-collar workers by the City. Gagnon explained that since 1 989,

workforce has remained steady at 500 employees while the City’s population has increased by 23 per cent. “We have 300 extra

kilometers of roads in Laval, and we need to maintain all of them, but we do not have more employees to do this extra work,”

Gagnon said. Salary and retirement plans are other issues that have dragged on the negotiation process. If the negotiation talks

keep stalling, other measures could occur shortly, Gagnon warns. “We might have plans for some pressure tactics in the short-

term,” he said.

NANCY GIRGIS

More than 425 Laval blue-collar workers