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QUEBEC CITY, Dec. 15—Quebecor has been found guilty of labour code violations in the conflict at Journal de Québec. Publication of the newspaper continued during the lockout thanks to at least a dozen scabs.

The Commission des relations du travail (CRT) has unequivocally ruled that Quebecor/Sun Media broke the law through a “simple substitution of workers,” adding that thanks to “family” support, “the corporation created an entire system to ensure that journalist output would continue.” “This whole structure,” writes CRT, “was put in place very quickly, as soon as the lockout began, to meet Journal production requirements and ensure publication of the paper throughout the conflict, despite the absence of unionized journalists.”

The Commission has officially identified 12 individuals and five businesses that contributed to the “system” put in place.

Quebecor unfair and illegal

Michel Poirier, Quebec director of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE-FTQ) and vice president of FTQ, is delighted with the CRT ruling but still indignant about the behavior of Quebecor management. “When Journal de Québec workers began publishing MédiaMatinQuébec, Quebecor accused us of unfairness. It’s kind of ironic to see that Quebecor has not only been unfair to its own employees but also acted illegally by hiring scabs to replace journalists, photographers, and carriers. Coming from Pierre Karl Péladeau, it’s pretty cheap, but not surprising.”

Army of scabs

Denis Bolduc, the spokesperson for Journal de Québec unionized employees, summarized the CRT ruling as follows: “Those who think Quebecor kept the paper going with the help of management staff only now have proof that that’s false! It actually requisitioned an army of scabs during the conflict. CRT named only 12 people, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There were more. We’ve caught a dozen—more than enough to make our case, in fact, Journal de Québec used several dozen scabs illegally.”

Bolduc believes the CRT ruling is crucial given the negotiations underway at Journal de Montréal, where journalists and other staff expect to be locked out shortly. “This ruling is a big help to our colleagues. Right before Christmas, it’s surely the best gift we can give them,” he said, taking the opportunity to thank all the union groups and CUPE for their support of the 252 Quebecor victims during this long 16 month conflict.

The concept of establishment

Attorney Yves Morin believes that the ruling handed down by commissioner Myriam Bédard marks a milestone in labour law by clarifying the concept of establishment, overturning the argument Quebecor made that it should be understood as a “brick and mortar” building. The commissioner writes that “the most appropriate, if not the only way to determine what constitutes the ‘establishment’ is to compare Journal operations before and after the lockout started: Is the same work being performed?” With regards to the individuals who replaced the unionized employees, the commissioner explains that they “were no more working ‘elsewhere’ than were Journal journalists and photographers before the conflict.”

The scabs named by CRT are Dominic Salgado, Bernard Plante, Geneviève Riel-Roberge, Hubert Lapointe, Marc-André Boivin, Reine May Crescence, Mélanie Tremblay, Antoine Leclair, Geneviève Larivière, Pierre Gauthier, Yann Perron, and Nathalie Bissonnette (as contractor). The five companies are Ferron Communications, Canoë, Agence Nomade, Keystone, and Côté Tonic Inc.

The Journal de Québec lockout has been the longest labour conflict ever at a French-language daily newspaper in Canada. In 13 years, from 1994 to 2007, Quebecor has ordered no fewer than 12 lockouts against its employees, all under the leadership of current CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. The full text of the ruling (in French) is available on the CRT website