Labour border war heats up.
The Ottawa Citizen – Thursday, March 20, 2003
By Dave Rogers
Group makes construction ‘free zone’ Quebec election issue; threatens ‘disgusting’ action
The president of an interprovincial construction association has threatened to take « disgusting action » within 15 days unless workers get promises of improved labour mobility from Quebec’s three provincial political parties.
Jocelyn Dumais, head of the Association for the Right to Work, said yesterday Quebec must ease its restrictions on Ontario construction workers so Quebec workers and contractors can have more opportunities at Ontario job sites.
Mr. Dumais said the association has given the Outaouais election candidates 15 days to explain how they would resolve the impasse.
The association will endorse the candidates who support its demand for a « free zone » for construction workers in the Outaouais and Témiscaming.
« But in 15 days, if we don’t get the proper answers from the candidates, we will proceed with some kind of action, » Mr. Dumais said. « I can’t say what it is yet, but most people will find it disgusting. »
In April 1999, Quebec construction workers temporarily blocked the bridges between Ottawa and Hull and demonstrated at the Hull Casino.
Mr. Dumais owns an Ottawa-based concrete company.
Mr. DumaiS said the Association for the Right to Work represents more than 2,000 non-union construction workers and contractors from Ontario and Quebec.
The issue of the right of construction workers to live in Quebec and work in Ontario — and vice versa — has been simmering for years. In 1999, Ontario passed Bill 17 to retaliate against Quebec construction laws. The bill requires proof of competency and the mandatory registration of all Quebec workers with the Ontario Job Protection Office, restricting their access to the Ontario market.
Quebec companies must post bonds to work in Ontario. The law prohibits Quebec construction firms from bidding on schools, hospitals and other provincially funded or Crown corporation jobs.
« We want to get rid of of Quebec regulations such as forced unionization, registration with the Quebec Construction Commission and the requirement that workers must have Grade 11 or proof of experience, » Mr. Dumais said.
Mr. Dumais said Quebec regulations and the requirement that all construction workers take a safety course means construction workers may have to wait six months to get a work permit. He said an Ontario contractor must pay the Quebec Housing Agency $1,500 to $2,000 for a contractor’s licence and prove he has been in business for at least five years in Ontario before starting work.
« We challenged the three political parties to tell us what they would do to resolve this matter, » Mr. Dumais said.
He said Action Démocratique candidate Berthe Miron « said people should get together to find a solution. »
The Parti Québécois’ Sylvie Simard said competency cards should stay. Liberal candidate Benoît Pelletier « recognized that the labour law must be modified as a sign of openness to our neighbours in Ontario, » said Mr. Dumais.
Mr. Pelletier said Quebec will have to ease restrictions on Ontario workers before Quebec construction workers will get the opportunity to work in Ontario.
« There is a signal that must come from Quebec to soften the regulations in construction, » Mr. Pelletier said. « I think that the Quebec Liberal party is ready to commit itself to diminish the regulations. »