Montreal demands $1.5M in damages from security guards and their union after burst pipe
Head of CUPE for Quebec says city grievance 'sets dangerous precedent'
The City of Montreal has filed a grievance with its blue-collar workers union, seeking $1.5 million in damages from the union and two of its members — security guards who the city alleges are responsible for a flooded building after failing to do their jobs properly.
The pair of security guards were on duty at a municipal building next door to city hall from February 13 to 15, one of the coldest weekends of the winter.
The building, 85 Notre-Dame Street East, houses a daycare, CPE du Petit Palais.
The city says a window in the daycare was left open, causing pipes to freeze and burst, and the resulting flood caused extensive damage, forcing out the daycare until repairs could be done.
Alarm not checked
In its grievance filed in late March, the city lays the blame squarely with the two security guards, Wang Anna Desanges and Alain Bellemare, for failing "to do their work with prudence and diligence and as directed."
The pair worked opposing 12-hour shifts.
The grievance alleges Desanges checked the daycare towards the end of her shift, at 5 p.m. Saturday. A few minutes later, at 5:22 p.m., an intrusion alarm linked to a window in the daycare sounded. However, the city says, rather than go back to see what triggered the alarm, Desanges simply disarmed it remotely.
Bellemare took over security duties from Desanges at 6:30 p.m., however, the city claims he never did his scheduled round of the daycare. Neither did Desanges, the next day.
Indeed, the city alleges, neither guard checked in on the daycare again until 4:23 a.m. on Monday morning, when a fire alarm sounded, "and it was noted that a window had been left open, that the pipes had frozen and the rooms had flooded with water."
The city estimates the cost of repairs to the building at $1 million, in addition to another $500,000 in damages to the daycare for the loss of its property and the cost of having to rent another space until repairs can be carried out.
The guards' union, the Syndicat des Cols bleus regroupés de Montréal, has not yet commented on the grievance. The union's former chief negotiator, Marc Ranger — now Quebec director for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) — said in his view, "it sets a dangerous precedent."