“This is an illegal lockout”
Quebec City - The 162 blue-collar worker layoffs issued by the City of Quebec yesterday are illegal. This was the legal opinion given to the executive of the City’s manual workers’ union (Syndicat des employés manuels - CUPE 1638) who were quick to file a motion for intervention with the Quebec labour relations board, the Commission des relations du travail du Québec (CRT).
Union President Marc-André Dufour says that the application was submitted this afternoon (Wednesday).
The application states that not only did the Labeaume administration proceed to layoffs, but “it appears that the City has used a private company to do the work of the blue-collar employees shown the door for a so-called lack of work. These layoffs can also be seen as “a retaliatory measure against employees, amounting to a lockout prohibited by the Code (111.0.26), in order to compel them to accept the City’s position on the privatization of municipal services”. The petition also states, “These measures deprive the citizens of Quebec City of services to which they have a right.”
In conclusion, the emergency application to the CRT requests that it “order the City to end the lockout” and “to reimburse the employees for their lost pay”.
At the time of this release, the CRT has announced that it will hear the representations of the parties in this case on Friday morning (April 19).
Given the legal nature of the process, the union representatives will limit themselves for now to the statements made in this release.
There are approximately 1,350 blue-collar workers in Quebec City. They have not exercised their right to strike in more than 25 years. They have been working without a contract since December 31, 2010.
Negotiations between the workers and Quebec City have lasted over a year. Thirteen rounds of negotiations between the parties have been held since February 2011, including four with a mediator appointed by the Minister of Labour.
Talks between the parties broke off abruptly on Thursday, April 12, when the workers discovered an internal memo from the City Manager predicting large-scale cuts.
While acknowledging the existence of this document, Mayor Labeaume downplayed it by saying that it was merely the work of “a civil servant,” and nothing more than a “working document”. However, on April 17 the City proceeded to lay off 162 support staff. That evening, more than 950 workers, voting by secret ballot, gave their union leaders a mandate to strike when deemed appropriate.
The union has not established a timetable for acting on this strike mandate. It should be noted that, for municipalities, the right to strike is governed by the Essential Services Act. The union must give a notice of seven working days before launching a strike.
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