Six Montreal firefighters fired in sweeping punishments for pension protest
Published Thursday, October 2, 2014 9:55AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, October 3, 2014 7:52AM EDT
Montreal has fired six firefighters and suspended two others as punishment for the pension reform protest held at City Hall on August 18, Executive Committee President Pierre Desrochers announced Thursday.
Sixty-three workers were targeted by discipline of up to six months suspension for their actions in the destructive rally which ransacked City Hall during a council session.
"They attacked democracy with acts of intimidation that cannot be considered acceptable in a free society," said Desrochers at a press conference.
He said that the administration studied videotape to judge the punishments. Many were given an a chance to explain their behaviour but declined, he said.
He would not release the names of those involved.
Ronald Martin, firefighters’ union president, says the decision is “heavy-handed” and is urging his members to be calm.
"I think it's exaggerated," said Martin.
"We're going to issue a grievance. We're going to take care of them, we're going to ensure the defence of our members."
The union is promising to file grievances with the fire department management to fight the firings.
Seven employees, mostly firefighters, were suspended for one week. Ten firefighters were suspended for two weeks. Twenty-two city employees were suspended for one month. Fifteen were suspended for three months and three employees - all firefighters - were suspended for six months.
On the same day as these firings were announced, the Quebec government backtracked slightly from its strong stance on pension reform.
Municipal Affairs Minister Pierre Moreau announced amendments to Bill 3.
They would allow existing pension funds not running a massive deficit, so just under half of the funds targeted by the bill, to remain unaffected by the bill until 2017, allowing for them to be restructured over that time.
On August 18, hundreds of firefighters and their supporters stormed into a Council meeting and pelt councillors with papers and water glasses.
They hung banners calling the mayor a thief, then left after an hour, while police stood by the entire time
Forty-four people are facing charges of assault and mischief for that incident, including firefighter's union president Ronald Martin.
They are all pleading not guilty. Their union will pay the legal fees for their defence, as the first cases go to court Thursday.
Thirty-nine employees, 30 of them firefighters, were suspended without pay in the weeks after the protest.
At the courthouse this morning, lawyers for 44 firefighters facing criminal charges entered not guilty pleas.
Daniel Rock represents most of those firefighters.
“It's not a good climate. These people face criminal charges they're honest citizens they're in a difficult position,” he said.
Those charged with mischief (Article 430 of the Canadian Criminal Code) are: Daniel Archambault, 39, Stephane Belanger, 46, Eugene Beriau, 33, Richard Boutin, 37, David Caldarone, 35, Sylvain Caya, 40, Bertrand Charrier, 32, Luc Denis, 43, Richard Gagnon, 37, Luc Gaumond, 36, Pierre Belanger, 39, Sylvain Boutet, 46, Stephane Brunet, 34, Dany Cardinale, 40, Martin Charlebois, 39, Stephan Coupal, 46, Sylvain Frechette, 43, Claude Gagnon, 53, Dominic Gohier, 36, Martin Grise, 44, Bertrand Janelle, 51, Claude Labrecque, 54, Jean Francois Lebel, 31, Daniel Lefebvre, 48, Vincent Lepine, 31, Ronald Martin, 57, Philippe Nagy Blanchette, 32, Pamela Caroline Paiz, 23, Sylvain Pitre, 49, Jocelyn Richer, 44, Francois Rosa, 45, Carl Truchon, 48, Franco Guitar, 48, Sylvain Joannette, 46, Rene Laverdiere, 48, Benoit Leclerc, 44, Jean Lemay, 53, Jean Pierre Leroux, 35, Enrico Michaud, 44, Pierre Ostiguy Jr., 41, Michel Parent, 54, martin Rheaume, 44, Francois Rochette, 34, Roberto Jo Rossi, 42.
Roberto Jo Rossi and Martin Grise were additionally charged with assault for a separate affair on August 28.
Municipal employees across Quebec are opposed to Bill 3, which would see large changes to retirement packages including forcing many employees to make larger contributions to their pension plans.
Desrochers said the city is still investigating several other protesters, including police officers who will be investigated by the police force.
As for the protesters still under investigation, the city is not ruling out even more dismissals.
“Each case will be reviewed on its own. And it might, it might not (lead to more dismissals), I don't know which ones are still under review and the gravity of those,” he said.