Whatever Rambo wants, Rambo gets: corruption inquiry
Published Monday, February 24, 2014 10:28AM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 24, 2014 8:41PM EST
Whatever Rambo wants, Rambo gets.
An investigator from the Quebec Construction Commission (CCQ) said it was that simple for any contractor who wanted to work in the area where Bernard "Rambo" Gauthier felt he had sway.
Jean-Francois Sabourin, an investigator for the Quebec construction commission, told the inquiry on Monday that Gauthier, an organizer for the FTQ-Construction union in and around Quebec, liked to throw his weight around in order to get better worker conditions for his union members.
Sabourin, however, said that even within his union, Gauthier would play favourites and ensure that hardliners who were willing to put on a show of strength would get work.
The investigator said there were very few actions that Gauthier would not take as long as he and his fellow union members were paid -- whether they worked or not.
Sabourin also said Gauthier was very concerned with territory, telling contractors "I don't give a damn" about provincial rules allowing people to work anywhere they wanted.
Several witnesses have already told the Charbonneau Commission that Gauthier and his crew would threaten any workers who came from outside the North Shore, or employers who brought in outside workers.
Sabourin said Hydro Quebec was willing to give in to Gauthier's demands because he could easily ensure work on a job site went very slowly.
"Some employers told me that even Hydro Quebec was afraid of the actions of Bernard Gauthier. They were afraid of slowdowns," said Sabourin.
At the time the head of security for the utility was Pierre Laprise, who testified Monday afternoon.
FTQ-construction workers witnessed the supervisor picking up a tool, Laprise testified. The next morning, 30 workers were at his doorstep.
“They were ready to intimidate us,” Laprise testified. Work eventually got off the ground. Laprise only hired locals, as requested by FTQ-Construction, and when he did bring in one outsider, he made sure it was an FTQ-Construction worker, but that didn’t prove sufficient, he said.
“He wasn’t allowed to talk, and no one would talk to him,” said Laprise, explaining that after two weeks, the worker quit his job – with a parting message from his colleagues.
“About 30 construction guys surrounded him, and told him he was lucky he was still breathing,” said Laprise.
In another example of the actions taken, Sabourin described how one site supervisor tried to get Gauthier removed from a job site on the La Romaine River.
Workers went on a wildcat strike, costing the contractor $273,000, and a few days later someone poured sand into a compressor.
This is not to say that Gauthier's actions were entirely without consequence, Sabourin testified.
Sabourin said Gauthier was once fined $8,000 for a work stoppage on the North Shore, while other union workers were fined $75.
Their union, the FTQ-Construction, paid the fines.
Gauthier has been subpoenaed to appear before the Charbonneau Commission Tuesday.