QUEBEC CITY, Que. - Never one to mince words, Daniel Brulotte blames Quebec Transport Minister Guy Chevrier personally for Law 135 and the death of his owner/operator association.In February, the Asso...
QUEBEC CITY, Que. – Never one to mince words, Daniel Brulotte blames Quebec Transport Minister Guy Chevrier personally for Law 135 and the death of his owner/operator association.
In February, the Association des Proprietaires de Camions Remorques Independants du Quebec (APCRIQ) slipped silently into oblivion.
“I told Chevrette he was putting his nose in people’s business and he has no right to do that,” fumes Brulotte. What Brulotte is referring to is the parts of Law 135 that could eventually force all one-truck O/Os to become members of a union or else have their operating permits revoked by the Commission des Transports du Quebec (CTQ).
The threat of possibly having to pay dues both to APCRIQ and a union was enough to scare drivers away as their membership dues came up for renewal.
“Ninety per cent were saying, ‘There is this rumor that we are going to be forced to join a union and we don’t want to pay at both ends,'” explains Brulotte.
A shrinking membership forced APCRIQ to close, 14 years after it was founded in 1987 with a mandate to lobby the Quebec government, represent members and improve buying power. APCRIQ has another meeting scheduled for early June, during which the directors will decide whether to re-activate the association or disband it for good.
Bill 135, which became law in June 2000, is supposed to improve dialogue among stakeholders in the trucking industry. But it also contains articles that could radically change the autonomy of O/Os, and siphon millions of dollars away from truckers into the waiting hands of the province’s unions.
What happened was Law 135 changed the definition of an O/O to a “freight mover” defined as, “…the owner of a single tractor truck registered in Quebec … whose principal business activity consists in driving that tractor truck.”
This sounds benign, but according to Brulotte, this turns every O/O into a carrier, too, with responsibilities, obligations and competition he may never have bargained for.
Brulotte insisted all along that an O/O should only be understood as a company with one truck, no customers and a long-term contract with a carrier, and be held in a separate category away from carriers – even those of the one-truck variety.
Law 135 seems tailor-made for unions to acquire all freight movers as captive members.
This is how it is possible: Law 135 mandates the creation of a permanent Forum, which is supposed to allow for communication and good working relations between all the players in Quebec’s trucking game.
A maximum of five groups of freight movers – and, yes, it has to be groups – can be represented in the Forum. The CTQ has to certify these five groups. In order to be certified a group must have at least 10 per cent of the province’s freight movers as members.
The CTQ prepared a list of all freight movers last fall, which, according to Brulotte, contains 4,500 names. Then, all of these owner/ops are supposed to vote (using the same controversial 50 per cent plus one criteria used in the 1995 separation referendum) on whether union membership must be mandatory.
There is a catch though.
Law 135 provides for either having every single truck owner vote, or, simply the groups representing them.
The effect of this article is that unions have, according to Brulotte, intensified their already aggressive membership drives. What he foresees is that if the unions have more than 50 per cent of the truckers on their membership rolls, they will simply vote for mandatory membership. Even though a majority of owner/operators may well oppose the idea.
According to Brulotte, the three unions – the Centrale des Syndicates Democratique (CSD), Confederation des Syndicats Nationaux (CSN) and Syndicat des Mtallos (FTQ)/Cooperative des Camionneurs (Metallos) – have been doctoring with the facts to drive panicked truckers into their ranks.
“All three unions had sent letters that you, under Law 135, have to join a union. This was all false,” says Brulotte. “They were trying to recruit as many people as possible in order to get enough members, to get that 10 per cent of the list.
“We sent a letter to the same list of 4,500 people, telling them the correct facts. It turned out to be a five-page letter, but it is much less likely to be read than a one-page letter promising to solve (everyone’s) problems.”
Brulotte even says that one member, who has never belonged to a union, got a call from the CTQ saying that he was listed as being with two unions.
According to Brulotte, a January meeting where the CTQ was to have announced which groups could represent Quebec’s owner/operators at the table was postponed at the request of the unions.
The former association head assumes that the postponement was requested because not all of the unions have hit the magic 10 per cent threshold.
APCRIQ held a board of directors meeting not long afterward.
“We ended up not having enough resources, money-wise, to fulfill, in an honest manner, our goals,” says Brulotte. He is candid about the fact that APCRIQ chose last year to withdraw as a candidate group for CTQ certification, a decision that, although consistent with APCRIQ’s condemnation of Law 135, surely sealed the association’s fate.
“I mentioned it many, many times that there is fuck all in Bill 135,” blasts Brulotte. “We felt that it was a waste of time.”
He insists the problem is the article that could force an entrepreneur to pay into a union.
“I am sure we could outlive Bill 135 without this article. Someone wanted it there. Whose purpose is it serving? That is the question,” he says.
“I’ve never seen politics stink as much as it has in the last six months.” n