The Quebec Federation of Labour says that, despite a difficult year owing to allegations of misconduct at the province’s corruption inquiry, it’s stronger than ever.
Better known by its French acronym FTQ, the labour union federation represents 600,000 Quebec workers.
New president Daniel Boyer said Sunday that his administration will be more vigilant about corruption. He also said he would enforce the FTQ’s code of ethics in the organization and the FTQ Solidarity Fund.
Boyer and secretary general Serge Cadieux said they would focus their efforts in 2014 on improving the Quebec Pension Plan and countering what it calls federal anti-union sentiment.
Boyer said the FTQ would work to rally support against the Harper government in the lead up to the 2015 federal election.
Late-2013 rife with allegations at FTQ
Boyer’s optimistic look to the future comes after a rocky year for the FTQ.
The organization lost its longtime president Michel Arsenault last fall over accusations that he knew about links between the FTQ and the Hells Angels.
Ken Pereira, a former employee of the FTQ’s construction wing turned whistleblower and star witness at the Charbonneau Commission, told the corruption inquiry in October that Arsenault was aware of these links, but did nothing to stop them.
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Pereira’s explosive testimony also drew a picture of how the Montreal Mafia and Hells Angels had infiltrated the FTQ, with a particular focus on Jocelyn Dupuis, the ex-director of the FTQ’s construction wing.
Pereira testified that Dupuis spent union money recklessly, filed false expense claims and didn’t work in the interest of the union’s members.
Dupuis himself spent a week in late October and early November testifying at the corruption inquiry. His first day of testimony focused on his relationship with the controversial former construction magnate Tony Accurso.
Coming year could be tough for FTQ
Charbonneau Commission hearings resume Jan. 13, and it’s expected that former FTQ president Arsenault will be called to testify.
Boyer, who was acclaimed as FTQ president in late November, said he knows the controversy may be far from over.
“You know that we were in the hot seat at the end of 2013 and that we will continue to be,” he said.
Still, labour relations expert Michel Grant said he doesn’t think the recent scandals will seriously hurt the FTQ because it fights popular battles.
“Unanimous opposition to the abolition by the Harper government of the tax credit, it came from management, from municipalities and from unions of course, so it shows the fund was really able to achieve its mission,” Grant said.