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Quebec City, Thursday, November 19, 2009 – The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) welcomed the recent decision handed down by the Honorable Justice Paul Vézina. The Court of Appeal has agreed to hear the appeal of union members contesting a Superior Court ruling on the hiring of replacement journalists and photographers during the 16 month Journal de Québec lockout in 2007–2008. “Commission des relations du travail” (CRT) had previously concluded that these workers were illegal. The Superior Court then overturned this part of the CRT’s decision.

The argument before the court

The CRT’s December 2008 decision on the Journal de Québec lockout is significant in that it clarifies the concept of “establishment.” In the case of the photographers and journalists, the CRT wrote that “the most appropriate, if not the only way to determine what constitutes the ‘establishment’ is to compare the Journal’s operations before and after the lockout started: Is the same work being performed?” As regards the individuals who replaced the unionized employees, the CRT concluded that they “were no more working ‘elsewhere’ than were Journal’s journalists and photographers before the conflict.”

In its September 11 ruling, the Superior Court struck down this part of the CRT’s decision regarding the concept of “establishment,” considering it unreasonable and instead preferring a “brick and mortar” vision of the workplace that is by definition more restrictive.

As regards Quebecor’s use of illegal workers, three decisions stand out in the conflict.

First, on August 23, 2007, four months after the lockout began and after complaints were filed by union members, the CRT issued an order requiring four individuals to stop working as replacements for locked-out Journal de Québec employees. This same order was issued against the Journal de Québec to get it to stop using their services. The decision is available online at http://scfp.qc.ca/librairies/sfv/telecharger.php?fichier=8093 (in French only).

Second, following 12 days of hearings, the CRT concluded on December 12, 2008, that Quebecor/Sun Media broke the law by using illegal workers to replace journalists, photographers, and a carrier (Yann Perron). The decision is available online at http://www.crt.gouv.qc.ca/decisions/2008/2008QCCRT0534.pdf (in French only).

In its September 11, 2009 ruling, the Superior Court overturned the CRT’s December 12, 2008 findings with regard to replacement journalists and photographers. The Court did not, however, overturn the CRT decision with regard to the illegal use of a carrier (Yann Perron) during the conflict. The Superior Court decision is available online at http://www.scfp.qc.ca/librairies/sfv/telecharger.php?fichier=17112 (in French only).

Apart from its 7,000 members in the Quebec communications sector, CUPE is also active in a number of other sectors, particularly health and social services, education, urban and air transportation, provincial corporations and public organizations, energy, and municipalities. With 600,000 members in Canada and more than 105,000 members in Québec, CUPE is the largest FTQ affiliate.

SOURCE: Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)