Canadian Contractor

John Bleasby   

Jo Clé stares down unions’ Marxist dogma in Quebec construction labor dispute

Canadian Contractor

Unions ‘heavies’ and a small contractor face off in war of words

Alliance Syndicale, an umbrella organization representing striking Quebec construction workers, rejected a last-minute deal from this past weekend and were legislated back to work in the wee hours of Tuesday morning by the provincial government. The alliance , however, vows to challenge the law in court.

The Quebec Construction Alliance (ACQ) representing business owners had made what they thought was a generous offer;  a four-day work week for salaried workers, and an industry-wide wage increase of 1.85 per cent the first year and two per cent over each the next several years. The unions declined to accept the employers’ request to make work hours and days more flexible so that any work lost during the week could be made up on weekends or with earlier start times and later finish times. They also rejected the wage offer as insufficient, saying it only matched the rate of inflation and was therefore stagnating real wage growth.

The issue of on-time work completion sought by employers is compounded by the traditional July 1st date when most leases and many occupancy contracts come due in Quebec, resulting in a hectic period of people moving from one residence to another. In August, the construction industry in Quebec also closes down for two weeks of province-wide vacation.

Unions turn up the heat with early 20th century labor rhetoric
The World Socialist Website, published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) sees the back-to-work legislation as just one more example of “a growing wave of worker struggles in Canada and internationally.” Furthermore, the website claims that “after years of austerity and contract concessions, there is growing militancy and opposition to big business and to capitalism among workers and young people…. workers must politically and organizationally break from the pro-capitalist trade unions.”


Fight Back, the Marxist Voice of Youth and Labor, echoed those sentiments in a post last week, calling the wage increase offer “contemptuous”. They urged workers to keep up the good fight and to defy any back-to-work legislation. Or, as their headlines expressed in early 20th century terms:

“An all-out attack by the bosses”
The striking workers are faced with immense pressure from the bourgeois media, management, and their allies”
Fight back against the attacks of the capitalists!”
Victory to the construction workers!”

Jo Clé, a contractor in Laval, Quebec has taken a defiant stand against the construction unions in Quebec
(photo: Jo Clé Facebook)

Meanwhile, one brave contractor dares to fight back
Not everyone are taking this call to strike lying down. Meet Jo Clé from Laval, Quebec. He’s speaking out on behalf of smaller contractors in the province who want to work. In fact, his entire crew wants to work, but the union is trying to force them to join the strike action. The sad part of this dispute is that because the unions have such a grip on 26 trades covering just about everything in construction, it’s not just large commercial and governmental projects that are halted. Even smaller residential contractors like Clé are impacted by the job action.

Clé describes his mission this way:
Exposing aberrations in the construction industry, the omnipresent bullying on construction sites, the fear regime set up by the CCQ and the RBQ, and excessive fines for working people.”

Things can get nasty when a contractor defies the union
Clé is continually posting videos on his Facebook page, getting thousands of views, and has been interviewed by a number of mainstream media. His basic argument is this; “My guys want to work, they need to work, I need to work! Stop trying to force us to join this strike!”

It’s a brave move on Clé’s part. Have a look at this video showing a gang of union ‘heavies’ harassing the workers on the job at a residential construction site near Montréal .

Also watch this one, filmed after police were called to protect a van owned by Laval, Quebec interior systems company, Bernard MNJ & associés inc., that was blocked and stickered by union strong-arms. Listen to the cat-calls in the audio and you’ll get an idea of what it’s like to defy the unions when they want things done their way.

Such levels of intimidation are not often seen in other parts of Canada. Union control, threats, and long-standing traditions of questionable bidding practices have made Quebec construction a challenging place to do business in this country, particularity for independent, entrepreneurial contractors.

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