Hearings began today (finally a reason to watch the National Assembly channel!) into Quebec’s labour laws, specifically the provisions against strikebreakers (scabs). They are prompted by the enduring two-year-old lockout at the Journal de Montréal, and the union’s argument that laws forbidding the use of replacement workers during a labour conflict need to be updated because they only apply to workers who physically enter the employer’s workspace.
An example to illustrate this is a company called Côté Tonic in Quebec City, which has been doing copy editing and page layout work for the Journal de Montréal during its lockout. Stories in Rue Frontenac and La Presse show that the small company did production work during the Journal de Québec lockout and had to fire people after that was resolved, but learned about an impending lockout at the Journal de Montréal before it was launched and even before the end of the labour contract for Journal de Montréal workers.
This information comes out now for a somewhat ironic reason: an employee who was laid off when she took maternity leave complained she was fired illegally. Her complaint was rejected because it was determined that the layoff happened after the Journal asked the company to reduce its workforce. But because labour relations board decisions are public, the dirty laundry comes out into the open.
The union representing locked-out workers claims there are all sorts of fly-by-night operations doing their work in secret, from customer service to page layout to accounting. But they’ve had difficulty gaining evidence about how they work, and under the current law there’s nothing they can do about it anyway.
Also worth reading:
- La Presse’s Martin Croteau looks at both sides of the argument about whether the anti-scab law needs to be updated
- Paul Journet has a recap of Tuesday’s hearings, including Pierre Karl Péladeau’s testimony
- Rue Frontenac’s Yves Chartrand and La Presse’s Journet on the Journal de Québec union’s testimony, including their worry that Quebecor could be planning a second lockout there
- Rue Frontenac’s Mathieu Boivin on union boss Raynald Leblanc’s testimony
- Rue Frontenac’s Charles Poulin on the demonstration the union made by producing this week’s paper by remote.
- The FPJQ’s presentation to the commission, which focuses on its desire for a separate inquiry into the concentration of media in Quebec (Radio-Canada has a summary)
- Chartrand on the second day of testimony, and statements that the commission will recommend changes to the law
- Steve Proulx on the need to update the law to make all strikebreakers illegal regardless of location
- Union president Raynald Leblanc interviewed by TV5 in France (where the concept of “lockout” doesn’t exist because it’s illegal)