Nfld. & Labrador

Union stands by its decision to picket at Terry French's home

The union that represents striking elevator construction workers in the province says it was 'appropriate' to picket former cabinet minister Terry French's house.
Union representative Ward Dicks unapologetic about pickets at Terry French's home. (Mark Crosby/CBC Halifax)

The union that represents striking elevator construction workers in the province says it was 'appropriate' to picket former cabinet minister Terry French's house.

French is no longer in politics, and is now the president of the Construction Labour Relations Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (CLRA).

"We took it to his home because we wanted to bring attention to our cause," says Ward Dicks, the business representative for the union.

Some of the picketers outside of Terry French home in CBS. (Courtesy: French Family)

French's association is in contract negotiations with Local 125A of the International Union of Elevator Constructors. Its members in this province have been on strike since last year.

Dicks says French and the CLRA are putting up roadblocks stopping the union from getting a new collective agreement. Dicks says picketing French's home was a tactic.

"We have to do whatever action we can do to try to get the CLRA to bend," said Dicks.

French has told CBC News that the pickets have at times delayed his wife from getting to work, and his daughter from getting to school.

Terry French says having the picketers outside of his house was unsettling for his family. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

"I live with my 74-year-old mother, my then 17-year-old daughter, and 10-year-old son," said French. He called the situation "unsettling."

The union has picketed at French's office.

When asked why the union had to go to his home and involve his family, Dicks said, "We weren't involving anybody. We were targeting Mr. French is what we were doing."

Dicks admits there were times when the pickets hampered the comings and goings of the family from their Conception Bay South home. 

"Earlier in February there was some slowdowns coming in and out of that driveway for a couple of days. After that, we did not impede Mr. French's family. They could come and go as they wished."

French went to court and was successful in getting an injunction to stop the picketing. (Courtesy: French Family)

French told CBC News that he thinks the picketing at his home might not have happened if the union leadership was in the province. He said the key negotiators for the union are from Boston and Halifax.

Dicks, who is based in Halifax, and has been on the picket line at French's home, doesn't buy that.

"The local members, in conjunction with myself, always decided where to set the picket lines up. And, myself, I am from Newfoundland. I'm from Conception Bay South. I grew up down the road from Terry French."

Didn't fight injunction

Last week, French and his family were granted a court injunction to stop the picketing at their home. The union agreed to abide by it, and didn't oppose it in court.

"Case law in Canada would say that we probably wouldn't have won that injunction, so we didn't fight the injunction," said Dicks.

So, if there is another labour dispute in the years to come, would the union picket someone else's house. Dicks says, "Yes."

"If it didn't impede their family, we probably would."


Glenn Payette


A veteran journalist with more than 30 years' experience, Glenn Payette is a videojournalist with CBC News in St. John's.