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In a major setback for Quebec City and Mayor Régis Labeaume, the Commission des relations du travail du Québec (CRT) has ruled that the 162 layoffs of April 17 constitute an illegal lockout.  The ruling could be costly for the Labeaume administration.  In addition to paying its outside counsel, the City must compensate the blue-collar workers that it ousted last week.

The president of the manual labourer’s union (CUPE 1638), Marc-André Dufour, is pleased with the CRT decision. “Now, I hope the mayor will not make the taxpayers foot the bill for his intimidation tactic, which failed miserably … if he can’t find a civil servant to take the blame.”

In her decision, Commissioner Anne Parent ordered the City of Quebec “to end the current illegal lockout and immediately call all auxiliary blue collar workers laid off on April 17 back to work on their usual schedule.”   She also directed the City to pay, within eight days, “compensation equivalent to wages lost because of the illegal layoffs, with interest.”

The full decision is posted on the CRT website:




There are approximately 1,350 blue-collar workers. 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 blue collars 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 blue-collar 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”.  Whatever the case, on April 17, the City still proceeded to lay off 162 support staff.  That evening, more than 950 blue-collar 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 juridical days before launching a strike.

With more than 110,000 members in Quebec, CUPE represents about 70% of the province’s municipal employees, or 29,400 members. CUPE is also present in the following sectors: health and social services, communications, education, energy, Quebec government corporations and public agencies, urban and air transport, the mixed sector, and universities. 

Robert Bellerose, CUPE Information, mobile: 514 247-9266 - rbellerose@scfp.qc.ca