The Quebec Federation of Labour has made an about-face, joining the chorus of calls for a public inquiry into the construction industry in Quebec.

Union management decided Wednesday an inquiry will be necessary to clear the names of its more than 100,000 workers.

The QFL, commonly referred to by its French acronym FTQ, is one of the largest unions in Quebec, and its subset FTQ-Construction has repeatedly come under fire in the past year.

In March, then-labour minister Sam Hamad met with the QFL leadership over concerns of intimidation and bullying on worksites where QFL representatives were present.

Jocelyn Dupuis, former president of the FTQ-Construction, was arrested in March over allegations of fraudulent expense claims and forgery.

At the time the union dismissed calls for a public inquiry into the industry, saying that police investigations would suffice, but has now changed its tune.

"Our affiliates are now requesting a public inquiry because the police inquiry is not bringing the results it should bring," said FTQ president Michel Arsenault at a news conference in Montreal.

After ousting Dupuis this spring, the FTQ is motivated to change its dynamic, as well as its position on an inquiry, said political analyst Jean Lapierre.

"They're trying to now clean the shop, and they thought by agreeing with the inquiry, this will help," he said.

Opposition applauds FTQ

In Quebec City, Quebec solidaire leader Amir Khadir praised the FTQ for its decision reversal.

"Courageously, they have stood up and decided to play a positive role," said Khadir.

Opposition leader Pauline Marois of the Parti Quebecois took the opportunity to pounce on Premier Jean Charest for his refusal to call an inquiry thus far.

"Jean Charest is completely isolated," said Marois. "I ask the question again – what is Mr. Charest afraid of?"

Lapierre said Charest's best move now is to deal with it before it gets uglier.

"If you could have a few people arrested right away, that would probably lower the pressure," said Lapierre. "If I were the premier, I would pray for the police to catch people."

Operation Hammer going strong

The Surete du Quebec has been investigating the construction industry for the past several years,

'Operation Hammer' began in October 2009, but in 2007 police were checking into allegations the Mafia had created a construction cartel that was driving up prices by 35 percent in the Montreal area.

Dozens of raids have been conducted under the Operation Hammer banner since then, and this week the SQ commander heading the file, Denis Morin, contacted Liberal MNA Vincent Auclair and asked for his co-operation to check into allegations that Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt had tried to make inappropriate campaign contributions to the provincial politician.

Last month the federal government decided to investigate the problem, and launched an $80,000 study into the possibility of the construction industry being infiltrated by organized crime.

Meanwhile the RCMP is checking into a $9 million government contract involving a Conservative Party fundraiser and a now-bankrupt Montreal construction company.