Montreal

Union lobbying for rehiring of health and safety inspector on REM site

The inspector working noted an electrical issue to his employer and was told to call the province's workplace health and safety board. The next day, his union says, he was fired.

Firing sends dangerous message to construction workers, union says

The Quebec Building Trade Union has written to NouvLR to try to have Delorimier Lasalle, centre, reinstated. (Submitted by the Quebec Building Trade Union)

A health and safety inspector working on the REM light rail project was fired the day after noting an electrical issue to his employer, his union says.

The Quebec Building Trade Union says Delorimier Lasalle was just doing his job, and they want NouvLR, the consortium behind the project, to rehire him.

"It's pretty strange," said Michel Trépanier, president of the union. "It's the first time on a big job site that our safety representative is fired by his employer."

Trépanier said the NouvLR consortium hired Lasalle on the union's recommendation. In July, Lasalle brought a question about an electrical situation to his employer and was told to call the CNESST, the province's workplace health and safety board.

Trépanier said the day after Lasalle called the board, the union received a call from NouvLR. "They phoned us to tell us that they want to get rid of him because he is not fitting in the culture of the NouvLR philosophy," Trépanier said.

He said the firing sends a dangerous message to construction workers on REM job sites across the Montreal region.

"His mandate was to raise questions for the workers because a lot of people in construction are scared to raise questions about health and safety. He's hired for that," said Trépanier. "So just imagine the message that has been sent to the job site, for workers on NouvLR job site, if you raise a question, you're going to have consequences and you can get fired."

The CNESST says it did receive a call about a situation at the Canora work site on July 25. But for privacy reasons, the board could not say who contacted them.

Josée Dussault, a spokesperson for the CNESST, told CBC there are two sets of rail lines at the Canora site. The tracks on the west side are closed for the duration of the REM work and the electricity is turned off, she said. However, on the east side, the tracks are still in use by the EXO commuter trains, and the REM project only has access on weekends.

As a result of the call, Dussault said, the CNESST commissioned an inspector to make sure those protocols are "adequately in effect on the site for the security of all the workers."

In a written statement, Quebec's labour minister, Jean Boulet, said health and safety on construction sites is vital. "There is no compromise," he said. "Workers have forums where they can make themselves heard."

The Quebec Building Trade Union has written to NouvLR to try to have Lasalle reinstated. It is also considering legal action.

NouvLR responded to CBC's request for comment on Saturday. The company said it can't comment on a specific worker's file, and that EXO sites fall under federal jurisdiction. 

"The health and safety of our employees and workers is at the heart of NouvLR's values," the consortium said in a statement. 

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