Thursday was day eleven at a Quebec labour tribunal hearing of what a Montreal man is calling a four-year pursuit of justice.
Bienné Blémur says he wants his union to be held accountable for failing to protect him from racism and harassment he claims he endured while working as a head rigger at Parc Jean-Drapeau. He alleges he was the subject of racial slurs and other kinds of discrimination, and the hearing is a result of claims Blémur makes against his union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).
“That the union didn’t do their full duty to fully represent him to the best of their capacity,” explains lawyer Mathieu Laplante-Goulet who’s representing Blémur.
Laplante-Goulet said the union contravened section 47.2 of the Quebec Labour Code which states, “a certified association shall not act in bad faith or in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner or show serious negligence in respect of employees comprised in a bargaining unit represented by it, whether or not they are members.”
According to Blémur things began to get bad in 2016 when a colleague called him the N-word and told him to be careful after he accidentally struck that person with a pole while working.
Fo Niemi, executive director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations, said his organization helped Blémur, and in 2017 the employer and the union reached a settlement agreement with the employee. Niemi said the agreement included a requirement for employees to get sensitivity training and that Blémur not work with the people who he claims harassed him.
“Unfortunately after the settlement agreement was signed and even ratified by the superior court,” Niemi pointed out, “many of those conditions were not applied.”
Blémur said he complained again to the employer and the union, but wasn’t satisfied with the outcome, so he hired a lawyer and took the matter to the labour tribunal.
Niemi added the union should have provided the training and ensured that Blémur not come into contact with the alleged harassers.
The hearings started in December. Thursday’s session was to hear from the union’s witnesses.
Lawyers for the union declined to comment since the case is before the court.
Blémur claimed that he hasn’t worked at the job since 2018 because he doesn’t feel safe returning.
“I’m officially a patient attendant since October, after I received training,” he told Global News.
His lawyer said his client is seeking damages as well as a ruling that the union did not represent him in such grievances.
Hearings are expected to continue for at least three more days.