June 26, 2018
Unacceptable Actions of Quebec
Crane Operators Back on the Job:
the Fight Continues
• Crane Operators Back on the Job: the Fight
• Stand in Support of the Crane Operators!
• Our Security Lies in the Defence of the
Rights of All!
• Might Makes Right
• Militant Demonstration of Crane Operators in
• Vocational Teachers Say Quebec Premier Must
Letter to the Editor
• The Crane Operators Are Right
• Support Locked-Out MANA Workers: SHAME --
Five Long Years
Unacceptable Actions of Quebec
Crane Operators Back on the Job:
the Fight Continues
Crane operators returned to
work on the morning of June 26, after
having refused to work for a week. They had walked off the job in
opposition to irresponsible regulatory changes made within the crane
operator trade by the Quebec Construction Commission and the Couillard
In a letter addressed to the members of the Crane
Operators' Union, issued on the evening of June 25, union director
As a result of the decision
rendered on June 21, 2018 by Judge
Alain Turcotte of the Administrative Labour Tribunal (TAT) ordering
crane operators back to work, we are required to abide by the decision.
I therefore urge you to return to work and to discontinue any strike or
However, it is obvious that
your local is not abandoning any of its
demands. In particular, the health, safety and integrity of workers and
the public remain a key demand in the various legal and administrative
procedures we have already undertaken.
The union's Director invites all members to a general
assembly on the evening of June 26.
Stand in Support of the Crane Operators!
Crane operators demonstrate in front of CNEEST offices in Montreal, May
5, 2018, demanding changes to regulations on
training be rescinded.
The struggle of Quebec crane
operators for their dignity and safety and
the safety of the public is just. The Quebec Construction Commission
and government must back down!
Crane operators in Quebec walked off the job
one week ago to oppose the irresponsible regulatory changes made to
their trade. The Quebec Construction Commission (CCQ) and the Couillard
government unilaterally imposed changes without the consent of those
who do the work and know the dangers involved in their trade. Since the
strike began and with the effort of their supporters to inform the
public of their just cause, more and more people, individuals and
organizations are denouncing the CCQ and government and expressing
support for the crane operators and their just demands.
Our workers security, not negotiable
Crane operators are concerned that the new regulations
governing certification of the competence of new crane operators are
grossly inadequate. Without the
agreement of those involved, the government and CCQ have abolished the
requirement that a
crane operator must complete the Diploma of Vocational Studies (DVS) to
operate a crane. To combat the alarming number of accidents injuring
both operators and the public, the DVS was established as a rigorous
training program of 870 hours delivered by
professional instructors. The DVS requirement effectively reduced
accidents in the sector.
The CCQ and government want to eliminate the
professional DVS as mandatory and replace it with a 150-hour
on-site training program delivered by employers. They have also
concocted an 80-hour course to operate boom trucks with a maximum
capacity of 30 tonnes. Following the course, which can be
completed in two weeks or less, a worker starts operating such a crane
on-site training. These unilateral changes come at the behest of the
big construction companies to facilitate a speedy increase in the
number of crane operators without considering the negative
consequences. Crane operators say No! to these changes that
lack any concern
for the safety of those who do the work and the public.
Workers demand a process be established, such as a
roundtable discussion including all stakeholders in the construction
sector, to review the current regulations calmly and establish new ones
that would enhance, not degrade, the safety standards for the crane
operators' trade within the changing conditions of the construction
are mounting in support of the crane operators and against the
heavy-handed dictate of the CCQ and government. Many want an immediate
end to the government's measures that criminalize the workers whose
actions are in defence of their rights, safety and the public.
In their hysteria to impose their dictate, the CCQ and
government have unleashed a flurry of repressive measures. The
Administrative Labour Tribunal on June 21 ordered crane operators
to return to work or face huge fines and possible imprisonment for
contempt of court. The next day, the Ministry of Transport sent a
formal notice to
the targeted unions warning them the government will claim damages as a
result of the Labour Tribunal decision declaring the
strike illegal. It said the damages will include company losses from
delays on construction projects due to the absence of crane operators.
These measures are unjust and repressive. The CCQ and
the government must change course. The unilateral imposition of
substandard regulations without the consent of those affected is not
acceptable in the modern world. The criminalization of workers standing
up for their rights must not pass. For the government to accuse crane
of waging an illegal strike in opposition to threats to the safety of
fellow workers and the public, and for Premier Couillard to jump in and
denounce the workers for violating the rule of law are the height of
hypocrisy and contempt for workers' rights.
Workers' Forum reiterates its support for the
courageous struggle of crane operators in Quebec and the struggle of
all construction workers for their rights.
No to the Criminalization of Crane
The CCQ and Government
Must Back Down!
Our Security Lies in the Defence of the Rights of All!
The Quebec Construction
Commission (CCQ), which
represents the private interests of the big construction companies,
along with the Quebec government have unilaterally changed the working
conditions of construction crane operators. They have done this without
consultations, negotiations or gaining the consent of crane operators
their union. In doing so, they have shown utter contempt for the safety
and rights of the workers and public. They have refused to listen to
the legitimate concerns and proposals of the workers to improve safety
on construction sites. By abolishing the compulsory government training
for new crane operators and deregulating oversight of crane
operator credentials, they are lowering the standards so as to increase
competition among workers for available work.
The end result is to pressure construction workers
generally, and crane operators specifically, to lower their claim on
the value they produce, their wages and benefits, and to compromise
their vigilance on safety standards, allowing construction companies to
engage in dangerous practices.
The attack of the CCQ and government on construction
workers directly threatens the health and safety of workers and the
public by loosening and lowering the standards of work on
job sites. Everyone knows that vocational training and upholding
standards at the workplace, or conversely their absence, have a direct
safety and working conditions.
A strong union defending workers on job sites and their
terms of employment is a necessity. This is of particular importance in
the construction sector where under-the-table work is widespread and
non-permanent job sites put workers under constant threat of not being
called back to work if they defend their rights.
No worker or union has approved or negotiated these
significant changes in the training conditions for new crane operators.
Is this not illegal? According to the government, only resistance to
such illegitimate actions is illegal. Before taking strike action,
crane operators and their unions did everything they could to explain
their point of view to
the CCQ, the Administrative Labour Tribunal, the Labour Standards, Pay
Equity and Workplace Health and Safety Board (CNEEST) and anyone else
government who would listen. They were told that under the "rule of
law," the government bodies do not have to listen to workers and their
concerns; they do not have to gain their consent. The "rule of law"
according to the government gives them the unilateral right to deny
workers their rights and a say even in actions that directly affect
their working conditions. This Couillard "rule of law" is in fact
police powers of the state to criminalize and crush workers and their
In opposition, crane
operators have come to understand
that only through making themselves absent from construction sites can
they be heard. No other way is effective in having a voice. By making
themselves absent they gained a voice that is now resonating throughout
Quebec and gaining more and more supporters who declare their cause
is just, a cause that concerns all the people. Many people are
declaring boldly that criminalizing workers who take a stand in defence
of their rights will only aggravate the situation and will not lead to
a just solution.
The government and CCQ must back down because their
goal of unilaterally lowering safety regulations and working conditions
on construction sites to benefit private interests is not an honourable
one and not one that accords with modern conditions. Nothing stops the
government from freezing the new regulations and
process of calm discussion in the fall after the Quebec election;
nothing that is except their intransigence to serve powerful private
Might Makes Right
commentary was written by Réjean Parent in his blog in the
Journal de Montréal, June 23. Parent was president of the
Centrale des syndicats du Québec from 2003 to 2012.
raising the eyebrows of employers and the government. Other than
reservations that may be expressed regarding the behaviour of these
workers, the situation reveals once again that our politicians and
state institutions are first and foremost in the service of the
financial oligarchs. Premier Couillard, true to his party's image over
the past 30 years, is quick to put the blame on workers when they
revolt, while caving in to big business when it threatens to relocate
if its demands are not met.
the present conflict was the government's deaf ear regarding the
concerns expressed by the representatives of the crane operators, on
the impacts on worker safety through the lowering of training
requirements. Rather than undertake serious discussion and work out how
to alleviate concerns, the government chose to respond to the
complaints of contractors and jeopardize workers' health.
expressing his intransigence or when he comments that: "It's a bit like
a final expression of the old Quebec, where groups would decide to hold
a larger group, or the society, or Quebec's economy hostage. Quebeckers
don't want any more of that. Those days are over." His is a rather
facile overuse of equating the refusal of workers to return to the
worksite for reasons of safety, with hostage taking. However, he
becomes more circumspect when dealing with companies such as Air
Canada, when they resort to blackmail by demanding that the Quebec
government put an end to legal action such as in the case of Aveos, if
it wanted the company to service part of its C Series fleet in Montreal.
by the Charest government, merrily slashed away at union
rights. Mr. Couillard continues in that vein by resorting to the
repressive state apparatus to force workers to kowtow to the
requirements of big business, at the risk of their lives. One would
also have thought that those days were over.
alarming to see
workers resigned to risking their safety under the constraint of legal
institutions led astray by a state in the service of a ruling class.
Militant Demonstration of
Crane Operators in Montreal
More than 300 crane
operators demonstrated outside
the Head Office of the Quebec Construction Commission (CCQ) in Montreal
on June 21. People of all ages, from students enrolled in
the 870-hour Diploma of Vocational Studies program to long-time
operators who have been fighting for over thirty years to make
the job safer, joined in the demonstration. Their signs focused on the
need for adequate professional training for current and future crane
operators. They vigorously denounced the deregulation of the trade and
the consequent downgrading of health and safety standards which impacts
not only crane operators but all construction workers and the
To illustrate their point the workers brought a
boom truck that they deployed with a load. As the booms were extended
and the load moved away from the truck, one of the boom truck's legs
was seen rising from the ground, creating an imbalance in the position
of the boom truck. A larger load, a greater distance of the load from
truck, and the boom truck could have overturned. It was the crane
operator, based on his professional training and experience in the
field, who maintained the balance. According to the crane operators,
the regulatory change which allows a worker to operate a boom truck
after taking an 80-hour course is dangerous and unacceptable.
On behalf of the Union of
Crane Operators, its director
Evans Dupuis greeted everyone and expressed the union's support for the
mobilization of the last few days that came from the grassroots, from
the crane operators themselves. "This conflict is a health and safety
conflict, as we have said from the beginning. This mobilization, it
from you," he said to applause.
He refuted many of the comments that the CCQ was
peddling in an attempt to justify its measures and to attack the crane
operators. "The CCQ says that it respected the process to change the
regulations, that it consulted crane experts. That's wrong. We were
never consulted. The experts in cranes, it's you!" he said. He quoted
by the CCQ in 2013 in a response to employers' associations which
wanted to remove mandatory vocational training so as to allow any
untrained journeyman to become a crane operator. The CCQ said that the
context was different for crane operators, that this request did not
reflect the concrete conditions of the trade of crane operator. And yet
that's what the CCQ is doing today, he said. He refuted the CCQ's claim
that the Labour Standards, Pay Equity and Workplace Health and Safety
Board (CNESST) was consulted and approved the regulatory changes. He
quoted e-mails from senior CCQ officials that show that they
were not consulted and did not approve the changes. In fact,
the CNESST is completely passive on this matter which directly concerns
its mandate of looking after the health and safety of the workers.
He reiterated the crane operators' demands: "The
government needs to reverse its position and withdraw the regulatory
project. The Crane Operators Collective has solutions that are better
than what was done before the regulatory change and better than the
regulatory change. We are ready to sit down with the CCQ, the CNESST,
government and the employers' associations. We could solve the problem
in a day."
This solution, he said, must include mandatory
vocational training for all crane operators in Quebec to ensure the
trade is as safe as possible for workers and the public.
Vocational Teachers Say Quebec Premier
Must Reverse Decision
The Autonomous Teachers' Federation (FAE) and the
Syndicat de l'Enseignement des Seigneuries (SES) representing
vocational training teachers are asking the Premier of Quebec, Philippe
Couillard, to cancel the regulatory changes that allow a non-graduate
who wishes to become a crane operator to qualify with significantly
than is currently required. Nothing justifies these changes which
compromises the safety on construction sites in Quebec, the vocational
teachers say. In a June 22 statement the FAE also calls on the
government to bring together the concerned groups, including the
teachers, for a round table discussion.
"The Liberal government is
solely responsible for the
current situation. Philippe Couillard must show courage and reverse
this decision, since it puts crane operators, their co-workers and the
public at risk. The training does not take place in a controlled
environment, but on real construction sites, which increases the risk
of accidents. Moreover,
this decision devalues both the current training and the competent
teachers who provide it. At the FAE, we are proud to represent the
vocational training teachers who, each day, through their expertise and
know-how, make a difference in health and safety and allow students to
learn their craft in a safe environment," said Sylvain Mallette,
of the FAE, and Benoît Giguère, president of the SES.
In the context of the dispute, the FAE and the SES
inform they will soon be submitting a complaint to the Québec
Ombudsman regarding the dangers inherent in the decision of the
Couillard government. This complaint will also remind the Ministry of
Education of its obligation to promote proper qualifications and
provide quality training,
The FAE brings together eight unions representing
nearly 38,000 teachers in preschool, elementary, high school,
prisons, vocational training, adult education, Peter Hall School staff,
and the Fournier Academic Center, as well as a thousand members of the
Association of Retired Persons of the Autonomous Teachers' Federation
The Crane Operators Are Right
What we see in the struggle of the crane operators is a
group of workers mobilizing themselves around such an important issue
as workers' health and safety. This is trade unionism with
such as health and safety. That is the most basic demand that can be.
What I find a little disconcerting is that the media,
through their criticism, seem to underestimate the movement. However,
no demand can be more important than this. We only have to look to the
battles that the unions waged for years to prevent those workers from
being killed by cranes due to a lack of training or because of
being properly adapted to the required work. In the past,
loads were hoisted by any kind of device, come what may. Today, workers
are trained and equipped with lifting devices corresponding to the load
to be lifted. Certain devices are required for certain types of loads,
along with specific training.
I am proud of the movement. It shows courage, because
the trade union movement is being criticized by all governments, which
promote all kinds of ideas within the population, such as that the
unions do not serve any purpose and are too costly. However, statistics
show that more and more workers are being killed on worksites. Why?
Because the door has been opened to all-pervasive subcontracting, which
translates into a lack of training and skills. That's what's happening.
They are not being paid, not being trained. Those workers are right.
They do not want the situation to end up that way. Kudos to them!
Support Locked-Out MANA Workers:
SHAME -- Five Long Years
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