Air Cut Off To Underwater Divers During Labor Dispute.
So, scuba divers who refused to leave a Quebec dock during a labor dispute had their air compressors shut off while they were underwater, a hearing was told Thursday. The hearings into a controversial bill to overhaul job placement in the Quebec construction industry wrapped up Thursday the way they started — with allegations of intimidation on work sites.
Union on union violence?
A small union rival of the province’s largest union, the Quebec Federation of Labour (QFL), reported the lives of some of its members were put in danger this week when people showed up at the Trois-Rivieres, Que., dock Monday to close the work site as part of a wave of wildcat strikes to protest against the government bill. The men argued with the scuba divers who refused to leave and retaliated by shutting down the air compressors of other divers who were underwater, the hearing was told. Bill 33 would see unions lose power over who may work on construction sites in the province.
The two major construction unions — QFL and the Conseil provincial du Quebec des metiers de la construction, known as l’International — are adamantly opposed to the changes.
Daigneault said the divers were able to get back to the surface and didn’t suffer any injuries, but he stressed cutting them their air supply is irresponsible and could have potentially killed them.
“Some people were beaten up this week, but this went too far”…Ya think?
“This was a voluntary act for sure,” he said. “Some people were beaten up (this week) but that just went too far. We’re in 2011, can we act intelligently instead of holding workers hostage and preventing them from working?” Daigneault said.
He said his union members were in the process of filing a complaint to the Trois-Rivieres police.
A spokesman for the police said they received a call concerning the scuba divers Monday, but noted they haven’t received an official complaint yet.
Quebec Labour Minister Lise Theriault said she was totally disgusted when she heard the news.
“It’s horrible and incredible. We are in a democratic society and it’s not a good way to make your point. The question to ask is why people do that? It’s because they have a lot to lose,” Theriault said.
Allegations of intimidation have been swirling since Monday when the illegal strikes started and the Quebec Construction Commission reported Thursday it had so far received 145 complaints from contractors, workers, and project managers about intimidation and illegal union activities on 200 work sites.
The president of the Syndicat quebecois de la construction du Quebec, Sylvain Gendron, told the hearings Thursday that a 21-year-old member of his union got beaten up this week because he didn’t want to take part in the illegal strikes.
Other incidents were reported in the media and Theriault herself received threats of broken legs Monday. At least four Liberals saw their riding offices vandalized in the past week.
Theriault said the events have only added to her resolve to adopt the bill and put an end to job placement by unions.
“My position was reinforced because there is indeed intimidation the way job placement is done, something is unhealthy and that needs to stop,” she said.
The smaller construction unions CSD and CSN said the bill will put an end to intimidation and discrimination based on union allegiance.
Entrepreneurs associations and the province employers’ council also appeared at the hearings into Bill 33 Thursday to tell the government to go ahead with limiting the ability of unions to assign workers.
“Changes are necessary. Entrepreneurs are victims of intimidation on work sites,” said Gisele Bourque, general manager of an association representing 2,000 entrepreneurs in highway and civil engineering.
“There are more construction sites where there are problems than sites where all is going well,” she added.
Meanwhile, the Parti Quebecois said Thursday it will support the bill in principle but will propose amendments when it will be studied article by article.