Transit agency employee fired after election to city council

Labour board rules political job risked a conflict of interest and credibility of agency

A Montreal city councillor’s work with the regional transit planning body was a conflict of interest with his position in city hall, a Quebec labour board has ruled.

Richard Bergeron, 52, worked as a researcher for the Metropolitan Transit Agency (MTA), which oversees public transit in the Montreal area. During his employment, he expressed displeasure with the MTA’s focus on commuter trains, arguing there should be a tramway network in the city.

The MTA has rules which stipulate its employees should be politically neutral and can only work for the MTA while employed with the agency. However, Bergeron ran for city council in Montreal’s Nov. 6, 2005 election and was elected as a councillor. The MTA offered him an unpaid leave of absence but he refused. He was then fired for “a conflict of interest and an incompatibility of functions” between his job and his position as a city councillor.

Bergeron filed a complaint with the Quebec labour board, arguing the jobs were compatible and his opinions on transit matters were professional, not personal.

However, the labour board agreed with the MTA, saying it had legitimate reasons for believing the commitments of his councillor position could impact his work with the agency or compromise its credibility. It noted he was only fired after refusing the opportunity to take an unpaid leave so he didn’t violate the agency’s rules.

Bergeron told the Montreal Gazette he would consider an appeal, though labour board rulings can only be appealed if an error of law is made.

Latest stories