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The group of 11

QUEBEC CITY, Que. - The battle for the pocketbooks of owner/operators in Quebec lurches onward as the Quebec legal firm Flynn, Rivard goes to court for 11 O/Os on Mar. 25.The group is demanding a revi...

QUEBEC CITY, Que. – The battle for the pocketbooks of owner/operators in Quebec lurches onward as the Quebec legal firm Flynn, Rivard goes to court for 11 O/Os on Mar. 25.

The group is demanding a review of the December 2001 Commission des transports (CTQ) decision that authorized three unions to be the voice of O/Os at the Forum of stakeholders in the general freight trucking industry.

In a soap opera-style tale with no end in sight, this group of independents is shelling out personal money out of their own pockets in an effort to prevent mandatory union membership for some 5,237 O/Os in Quebec.

Unions thought they were nearly in Richville when the CTQ named them the legitimate representatives of O/Os at the Forum. Word is that they even began telling O/Os they had better join a union fast or be denied the right to buy their plates in March.

The next step would have been for an O/O vote for or against mandatory membership. The unions tried to make an end run around the vote. That failed however, and the vague fine print in Law 135 on just how the vote would be done (one O/O, one vote versus the draconian three unions, three votes) was certain to delay a decision for who knows how long?

Then 11 gutsy operators came up with enough cash to exercise their right to demand the CTQ decision be reviewed in a court of law. Their Mar. 25 date with justice is critical, as the review is not automatic, rather an applicant must ask permission for the review to be held.

Transportation attorney Francois Rouette explains the strategy he will use on the 25th.

“If we get permission to make the review, the CTQ decision will be suspended,” he says.

That would mean the three unions – the Centrale des Syndicates democratique (CSD), the Association professionnelle des chauffers (FTQ) and the Syndicat national du transport routier (CSN) – have their chess pieces slid back one move to their old, not-yet-legitimate-representatives-of-the-province’s-O/Os status at the Forum.

Rouette will seek permission by arguing that, “…we are an interested party to the decision. The companies we represent were not partners to the (CTQ) decision,” but, he adds, “The decision directly affects their basic rights as routiers or O/Os. Because their names appeared on the list drafted by the decision, they were implicit partners to the decision.”

If this flies, Rouette will argue the CTQ decision made errors in law. He will argue three points: The first being, “No evidence as to the unions’ ‘representativeness’ was brought to the CTQ, beside the agreement that the unions entered into themselves.”

He is referring to the CTQ’s decision to allow the unions to tell it how many members they had, rather than auditing the union membership lists independently. Rouette insists this was a huge no-no.

“The law says that those that apply for recognition must demonstrate that they represent a certain number of O/Os … the CTQ can set the rules, but it must (enforce) rules. The CTQ did not apply its powers properly. The CTQ cannot say, ‘we will not ask you to make that demonstration,'” says Rouette.

His second point can be summed up with one line: The CTQ’s master list of 5,237 single-vehicle O/Os, “doesn’t mean a damn thing.”

Rouette adds, “I say that the list (of registered O/Os) itself is either incomplete or inaccurate. There are O/Os outside Quebec that are registered in Quebec. The list left out those people.”

Also, Rouette argues there are extra-provincial and Quebec-based extra-provincial O/Os registered with the CTQ and on the master list that the CTQ used to cipher out what percentage of the province’s O/Os the unions supposedly represent. And these folks legally cannot be affected by Law 135.

“A provincial transportation law cannot apply to an extra-provincial undertaking unless the federal government says so. The Minister of Transport and everyone else knew that they could not say that,” says Rouette.

Rouette believes that, “only 500-600 of those O/Os (in the CTQ register) would be subject to Law 135.”

The third point, says Rouette, is that, “The law says that the Commission (distributes) the voting rights on a pro rata basis. The decision is flawed because it awarded five votes per union.” According to Rouette, the votes should have been awarded based on the number and percentage of the total number of O/Os that each union represented.

The CSD had about 10 per cent of the O/Os on the master list; the FTQ 21.5 per cent; and the CSN 19.34 per cent. Thus the unions should not have been each awarded the same number of votes.

The union lists should have been the subject of intense scrutiny, and they were not.

“I have evidence of the fact that there are people on the list who do not drive their own vehicles,” says Rouette. “There are people not on the list who do drive their own trucks and people on the list who own more than one truck.”

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