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Quebec’s labor pains

MONTREAL, Que. - Two parties have taken up the fight against a Commission des transports (CTQ) decision forcing Quebec's owner/operators to pay dues to one of three sanctioned unions, which may or may...


MONTREAL, Que. – Two parties have taken up the fight against a Commission des transports (CTQ) decision forcing Quebec’s owner/operators to pay dues to one of three sanctioned unions, which may or may not represent about 2,670 members already.

While Truck News’ calls to the CTQ went unanswered, sources say one is reportedly a group of O/Os and the other a group of fleets.

One objection might be with respect to the legitimacy of the membership figures, especially in light of rumors union pressure tactics have been ripping through the provincial trucking community since the massive truck stoppage in June, 1998.

Many truckers were furious then about being summarily pulled over by union blockade organizers, one of whom was heard to holler after a truck refused to stop, “I’ve got your licence plate, buddy!”

At the same time, another union organizer grumbled to Truck News, “I wish we could go back to the good old days when you brought in people from out of town and broke some legs.”

How many so-called union members are simply O/Os who were asked to pay five dollars for a union card?

Being a cardholder is not the same as being a dues-paying member, yet Law 135 provides no firm guidance on this issue.

There were rumors that some O/Os reluctantly handed over the five bucks during some membership drives because they were under the correct assumption it was a lot cheaper than fixing a smashed radiator or broken windshield.

Should such O/Os have been considered in the CTQ calculations?

The unions were apparently allowed to prepare – without CTQ scrutiny – its own lists of union members. Their numbers exceeded by a mere 0.9 per cent the required 50 per cent of O/Os on the CTQ list. Under Law 135, the unions argue, membership is mandatory … and so dues must follow.

Another source says the list of all Quebec single-vehicle O/Os the CTQ used could be contested, perhaps on the basis it is incomplete. This is an important point, since the shorter the master list, the higher the percentage of the total the unions would appear to have captured.

The CTQ decision determined three unions are officially representatives of O/Os at the Forum on trucking; to qualify, a representing group has to have at least 10 per cent of the O/Os on the CTQ list as its members.

The Centrale des Syndicates democratique (CSD) slipped in just under the wire as a qualifying group with 527 members, giving it 10.6 per cent of the O/O population. It would have taken only a slight change in the figures for the CSD’s share to have dipped below the critical threshold resulting in expulsion from the Forum.

The Association professionnelle des chauffers (FTQ) claims 1,128 members, giving it 21.5 per cent of the O/O population. The Syndicat national du transport routier (CSN) claims 1,013 members, giving it 19.34 per cent of the names on the O/O list.

Based on the CTQ decision, the unions issued a joint argument that the 50.9 per cent membership figure satisfied the requirement of article 48.11.18 of Law 135.

The article provides that if more than 50 per cent of the O/Os on the CTQ list vote in favor, “either personally or through the certified group to which they belong,” all of Quebec’s O/Os must pay dues to one of the unions or lose their running rights. One source says there is confusion over the interpretation of 48.11.18, evidenced by the union claim membership can be equated with O/O votes. The flip side argues every O/O must vote for or against paying union dues individually and it may be such a problem only the courts can unravel the truth.

This section of Law 135 needs to be clarified, all agree.

But the true irony should all 5,237 O/Os on the CTQ list be forced to pay union dues, is that on Oct. 19, 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled forced membership is contrary to Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Since Law 135 came into force before the judgement, however, the specter of mandatory union dues will stand unless it’s successfully challenged in court.


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