Quebec construction unions lose power to assign jobs

Unions threaten job action after the passing of Bill 33

A bill redesigning how construction jobs are assigned in Quebec is now law in the province.

With the passing of Bill 33, construction unions no longer have the ability to decide who may work on construction projects in Quebec. The Quebec Construction Commission will be in charge of assigning workers based on demands from employers. It also forces unions to share financial information with the public for outside audits and public scrutiny.

However, two of the province's two biggest construction unions — the Quebec Federation of Labour (QFL) and the Conseil provincial du Quebec des metiers de la construction, known as l'International — have adamantly opposed the bill, calling it unnecessary.

The International says it could create worker shortages by moving members to other provinces, while the QFL is threatening to boycott the transitional committee that will oversee the implementation of the new job-placement system.

"The bill is unfair, unjustified and wrong," the QFL said in a statement. "If the minister doesn't show any openness, she'll be stuck with her law.”

Labour Minister Lise Theriault says she moved ahead with the law so that workers had the right to choose the union they want to be a member of and to work where they want.

"Right now, on construction sites, some workers, because they don't have the good union colour, they don't work. It's not logical in Quebec in 2011," Theriault said in a press conference. "This is truly a historical day for construction workers."

Theriault also said she isn’t worried that many of the workers will leave Quebec, noting that often workers won't even go to remote Quebec regions for work.

In October 2011, about 200 construction sites were affected by a two-day wild-cat strike. The workers illegally walked off the job to protest Bill 33. More than 150 complaints of intimidation were filed by workers, contractors, and project managers to the Quebec Labour Board.

The government and the construction industry have one year to implement Bill 33.

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