Charbonneau Commission: 'Rambo' unapologetic about rule-breaking
Published Thursday, February 27, 2014 9:52AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 27, 2014 7:16PM EST
Bernard "Rambo" Gauthier wrapped up his testimony at the Charbonneau Commission Thursday.
Over the past two days the former soldier has explained how he took a no-holds-barred approach to securing work for his union local, arguing that securing work justified his tactics.
He said repeatedly that his men came first, and he would gladly ignore collective agreements or provincial laws if it interfered with getting work.
"If I get thrown out of my union, workers will simply join another union," said Gauthier, telling the commissioners that it could not stop people like him doing whatever was necessary to ensure local people got work.
Contractor: Rambo not needed to ensure fair treatment
Once Gauthier was finished, contractor Michel Pouliot took the stand to say that contrary to what the union representative had said, employers were very willing to hire local workers.
His company, Couillard construction, is a $100 million per year business with its own asphalt plant.
Pouliot said when he worked on Highway 138 in the nineties, 60 percent of his employees were from the North Shore because it made economic sense, even if the North Shore was "slightly above average" for underperforming workers.
He pointed out that when workers are brought in from across the province, it costs an employer an extra $125/day in housing.
Pouliot added that because of good experiences working for his company, many employees from the North Shore said they were willing to travel to work again, but were afraid to say so in public because of fear of reprisals.
He also said that Rambo liked to stir the pot and get potential employees angry before even starting a project.
"I got a few anonymous phone calls saying I wasn't welcome," said Pouliot.
Worksite problems persist today
Later on, Pouliot said that even though Gauthier is no longer representing his union on the North Shore, problems with employees remain.
Pouliot said he recently had to fire one employee for being incompetent, and that did not sit well with workers on the job site.
"Your equipment will start breaking down," Pouliot said he was warned.
Sure enough, several pieces of heavy machinery were damaged, badly enough to warrant an insurance claim.
Hydro Quebec, which had hired Pouliot's firm, ordered him to stay away from the construction site for three months in order not to aggravate workers.
Unions done, but what's next?
The commission spent a total of five months investigating various aspects of Quebec’s construction unions. And several patterns have emerged:
- The Quebec Federation of Labour, formally run by Michel Arsenault, provided little oversight on its affiliated unions.
- The QFL Construction union was run without opposition by Jocelyn Dupuis and Jean Lavallee for much of the last decade, and they used their positions to cut business deals with organized crime figures.
- And businessman Tony Accurso used his friendship with union leaders to secure a near-complete control on the QFL's $10-billion solidarity fund.
The commission is expected to recommend sweeping changes on how construction unions conduct their affairs.
And while the union chapter is supposed to be officially closed, there's no indication what topic the commission will focus on when it returns from a week-long hiatus.
But for many, it might be time for the commission to focus on allegations of corruption and illegal party financing at the provincial level
And that would bring the commission's most politically explosive chapter -- which may coincide with what many believe is a looming provincial election campaign.